17 Previous-Long-established Flowers for a Backyard with Classic Appeal

When we talk about vintage, we mean things that were made, or, in the case of flowers, cultivated, at least 20-100 years ago. Many flowering plants have been in cultivation for hundreds and even thousands of years.

The nostalgic feeling we get from a plant often stems from our personal connection to it. Did you pick it as a child? Was it in your grandparents’ garden? Did you see it blooming along a trail in one of your favorite places? What feels vintage and evokes nostalgia can differ from one person to another. But some plants have become linked with important times and places of the past on a larger scale. With these, we can’t help but feel a familiarity that exudes a vintage vibe. 

Often, the flowers we recognize and associate with times past have rich symbolism, legend, and lore assigned to them over time. Many commonly considered old-fashioned flowers became popular during the Victorian Era. Others were significant in ancient Asian culture. Here are 17 types of flowering plants to add to your garden for a nostalgic, vintage vibe.

Old Garden Rose

The fragrant blooms of vintage garden roses evoke a sense of Victorian romance.

Old garden roses are the quintessential flower for vintage vibes. Their large, heavily fragrant blooms will whisk you back to the Victorian Era. Then, the giving of these flowers symbolized a supreme expression of love. You will wish you had a formal parlor to display a bouquet of beautiful roses. 

As roses go, these are some of the easiest to care for and the most resistant to pests and diseases. Give your rose bush a sunny space with well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Water your roses infrequently but deeply. They are heavy feeders, so don’t forget the fertilizer. 

Bearded Iris

A breathtaking close-up of a bearded iris in full bloom, showcasing a kaleidoscope of colors. Light orange petals with delicate purple hues at the base unfurl, revealing intricate veins and a contrasting heart of blue-tipped, red-based stamen. Blades of green grass peek through in the background.Ancient irises flourish in vintage gardens, while modern bearded varieties flaunt bold, ruffled blooms.

Irises have been in cultivation for more than 3,000 years, making them a very vintage member of the garden. The older varieties have smaller and less flashy flowers. There is something about a modern bearded iris that belongs in an old-fashioned flower garden. Their boldly colored and heavily ruffled flowers are great for cutting or enjoying outdoors. 

Bearded irises have a delicate appearance, but they are quite sturdy regarding heat and cold tolerance. Milder temperatures are ideal for flowering, but these plants are native to climates that commonly reach up to 95°F (35°C) in summer. In cool climates, make sure your irises get plenty of sun. In warmer climates, a bit of afternoon shade will prolong your blooms.


A captivating close-up of two vibrant pink peonies, their blooms bursting open in a cascade of soft, layered petals. Sunlight bathes the flowers, casting delicate shadows that dance across their velvety surface.Chinese peonies have large, complex blooms and more than 6,500 cultivars that represent different virtues.

Speaking of flowers popular with ancient civilizations, the cultivation of peonies in China stretches back nearly 2,000 years. This makes them highly recognizable as garden flowers. Their large, intricately petaled blooms are spectacular. With more than 6,500 cultivars, I dare you to try to choose just one for your vintage garden. 

During the Victorian Era, interestingly, peonies represented shyness and shame. In Asia, however, their symbolism is linked to positive traits like bravery, honesty, and prosperity.

Give your peonies fertile, well-drained soil, and at least 6 hours of sun, daily. Make sure to cut these shrubs back in winter to maintain their bushy appearance and keep them blooming big. 


A close-up captures a vibrant red dahlia in full bloom. Its velvety petals, like luxurious crimson waves, unfurl around a bright yellow center. The background melts into a soft blur, drawing all attention to the flower's majestic presence.Vintage dahlias are making a garden comeback.

Dahlias are seeing a major resurgence, especially in cutting gardens. You might be surprised to learn that these flowers are native to Mexico. They are only perennial in warm climates. Still, they enjoyed plenty of popularity in Europe over the past two centuries.

Dahlia’s are easy to grow but often require support as their stems are hollow and their flowers can be heavy. With some varieties producing dinner plate-sized blooms, these are some of the most spectacular flowers around. Dahlias prefer full sun and well-drained soil, but they are not drought tolerant, so keep them watered in hot, dry weather. Similarly, those in warmer zones appreciate afternoon shade.


A close-up reveals the delicate details of a soft pink stock flower, its ruffled petals blurred at the edges. Behind it, a hazy dance of similar blooms fills the frame, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.Stocks provide enticing flowers with therapeutic qualities that represent affection.

Another trendy Victorian flower, stock flowers have long been cultivated. They are loved not only for their beautiful, fragrant stalks of blooms but for their medicinal properties as well. A bouquet of these flowers symbolizes sincere and profound affection toward the recipient. Stocks were grown in Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. 

Stock flowers are edible. The plant is a member of the Brassica family, along with broccoli and Brussels sprouts. In warm climates, flowers will last longer with afternoon shade. However, they need significant morning sun to produce those flowers. They like fertile soil and plenty of moisture to look and perform their best. 


A vibrant pink common hollyhock in full bloom. Delicate lines radiate from the star-like, yellow center, drawing the eye outwards to the velvety pink petals. Their color deepens at the heart, then gracefully softens towards the edges, alluding to a summer sunset.Hollyhocks are found in English cottage gardens and were originally used to cover up outhouses.

Hollyhocks have long been a staple in English cottage gardens. They are said to bring wealth and prosperity to the gardener and household. They are also a symbol of growth, rebirth, and fertility. Another interesting historic use of the plants was to grow them in front of outhouses. This was because their height helped to disguise the building. This was so prevalent that they became synonymous with outhouses as a means of location. 

Hollyhocks take two years to bloom. They produce a low mound of leaves their first year, followed by a talk stalk with large blooms in the second summer. They prefer moist, fertile soil and full sun. Because of their height, it is a good idea to locate your hollyhocks where they will have protection from strong winds.

Sweet Pea

A close-up showcases five vibrant purple sweet pea blossoms. Their ruffled petals, reminiscent of flouncy skirts, add a playful touch. Lush green foliage peeks through, creating a vibrant summer scene.Scottish horticulturists popularized sweet peas in the UK.

Sweet pea plants were first cultivated by a Sicilian monk named Francis Cupani in the 1690s. They became very popular in the UK after Cupani shared some of his seeds with fellow gardeners. This landed them in the hands of a famous Scottish horticulturist. 

Sweet peas make excellent cut flowers with long, slender stems and flouncy, ruffled, sweet-smelling flowers. They are cool-weather plants, so plant seeds in fall in warmer climates. Plant them in early spring in cooler climates to prolong their blooming season. If you give their roots some shade, they will flower into the summer months in some cases. 


A cluster of peach delphinium flowers in full bloom. Their soft, delicate petals, with subtle veins and hints of color variations, fill the frame. Blurred green stems and a hint of a flourishing garden peek through in the background.
Delphiniums are tall, blue flower stalks that require moist soil and sunlight.

This old-fashioned flower dates back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that they were magical. In Medieval England, the root of the plant was used to make a love potion of sorts. This was quite dangerous, as the plant is poisonous. Aside from its interesting lore, delphiniums are a vintage garden staple. They have tall, elegant flower spikes and brilliant blue flowers.

Full morning sun with some afternoon shade is the ideal exposure for your delphiniums. These are not drought-tolerant plants and require regular watering to keep them standing tall. Mix some well-rotted compost or manure into the soil before planting delphiniums. They are heavy feeders and need nutrient-rich soil.


A full frame photo of vibrant pink and purple foxgloves, their tall stalks adorned with bell-shaped flowers, stand proudly against a weathered stone wall. A variety of green leaves and brown stems peek through, adding depth to the scene.Gardens in England and America were adorned with foxgloves, which had beautiful bell-shaped flowers.

Another flower with a superstitious history, foxgloves found their way into English gardens during the 1400s and American gardens in the 1700s. In Scotland, people scattered the flowers in children’s beds to protect against witches. Foxgloves are tall with enchanting little bell-shaped flowers. The blooms hang downward and look like they could be hats for a garden fairy. 

Foxgloves are not picky about soil types, although they will benefit from adding organic fertilizer when planted. They like soil that retains some moisture but drains well so that they don’t have wet feet. They will grow and flower in full sun or partial shade.

Bishop’s Lace

A close-up of delicate white Daucus carota flowers, also known as Queen Anne's lace, with five petals clustered around slender green stems. Feathery green leaves peek in at the edges, framing the intricate bloom.
Use Bishop’s Lace to add delicate, lacy flowers on tall stems to your vintage garden.

Also known as False Queen Anne’s lace, Bishop’s lace, or ammi, is a perfect addition to the vintage garden. The lacy flowers on this plant grow atop tall, thin stems that bob and move in a breeze. Most commonly seen in white, this plant can also produce flowers in shades of pink and brown. A bouquet of Bishop’s lace makes an incredibly beautiful floral arrangement

Bishop’s lace is an annual old-fashioned flower that will grow in almost any climate. Sow your seeds in spring for summer blooms. Plant your seeds in a space where they will get plenty of sunlight. Bishop’s lace can grow in poor soil types, and it is heat and drought-tolerant. 


A delicate white snapdragon, its green tips tightly closed in anticipation of bloom. The flower basks in the morning light, nestled within a vibrant flower bed, with a lush green forest standing tall in the background.Snapdragons evoke childhood nostalgia for many.

No flower takes me back to my childhood quite the way that a snapdragon can. I’ve always been fascinated by the interesting shape of their blooms. Legend has it they help to ward off aging, so I will probably be planting snapdragons for the rest of my life! As wildflowers, these plants originate in the Mediterranean region. They’ve been popular garden plants for a very long time. 

Snapdragons are cool-weather bloomers, although some hybrid varieties are more heat tolerant. These will continue to bloom in summer. They are exceptionally cold tolerant so you can plant them very early in the season. You can even plant them before your last expected frost. I’ve seen my snapdragons stand up to temperatures as low as 26°F (-3°C) when most other flowering plants go dormant. 


A close-up reveals several pansies, their velvety white petals edged in vibrant purple, surrounding bright yellow centers. Hints of green foliage peek through the blurred background, suggesting the pansies are still flourishing on their plant.Pansies are a symbol of remembrance and grow best in cool weather.

Pansies are delightful, edible, old-fashioned flowers with a ton of vintage charm. Related to violets, the name comes from the French word for thought. These flowers have been long regarded as a symbol of remembrance. They made their way into English gardens in the 15th century. From there, they captured the hearts of gardeners the world over. 

Pansies bloom in cool weather and may go dormant in summer. If you want to prolong your pansy blooms, give them some protection from the afternoon sun. Rich, moist, but well-drained soil will keep your pansies perky. The more you cut the flowers, the more they will produce.


A rustic wooden box overflowing with a cascade of colorful petunia blooms. Trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, and yellow burst from the container, their delicate petals reaching toward the unseen sunlight.Petunias have delicate, spicy-scented blooms that make them reminiscent of a grandmother’s porch.

Petunias are native to South America and found their way north and east sometime in the early 1800s. They’ve always looked to me like they belong in colorful containers on my grandmother’s front porch. So for me, they belong in a vintage garden. Their delicate, spicy-scented flowers only open for a brief time. They typically produce a lot of flowers and stay in bloom for a long time.

Petunias like hot weather and can’t survive freezing temperatures. They don’t mind the summer heat and are fairly drought-tolerant. Give your petunias an application of balanced fertilizer once monthly to keep them blooming. Pruning your petunia will help it to branch and make the foliage appear denser. It will also cause the plant to produce more flowers. 

Starflower Scabiosa

A close-up showcases three starflower scabiosa in a dance of bloom. Two boast vibrant purple, round heads, their stamen proudly displayed. The middle flower, a shy newcomer, peeks out, its green center hinting at its future splendor.
Introduce Starflower to your cutting garden for its unique seed pods and blue blooms.

This is a fun flower that I am adding to my cutting garden this year. It’s not necessarily the flowers that are so interesting. They are small and blue. But, the seed pods left behind make starflower scabiosa so unique and fitting for a vintage garden. The ornamental seed heads are large and papery spheres made up of small cuplike bracts. 

Starflower scabiosa is great for the cutting garden and makes a really wonderful dried flower, too. Sow your seeds in spring and enjoy the blooms from summer into fall. It is easy to grow and likes full sun and average moisture. You will love the way these flowers look in fall with only seed pods left on the plant.

Bachelor’s Button

cornflower blue bachelor's buttons bring rare and beautiful color to the garden bed. These vintage flowers shine in a rare shade of rich blue.

This vintage flower gained its name from a Victorian Era practice of single men wearing the blue blooms in their buttonholes. They did so to signify that they were available. They soon became a popular flower for wedding boutonnieres. Bachelor’s Button has been grown in gardens in the United States since the 1600s.

I find these plants nearly invincible. They transplant exceptionally well and can grow in most conditions. They will look their best in full sun but will still flower in partial shade. It will just take a bit longer. If you deadhead your Bachelor’s Button flowers, the plant will continue to bloom through the summer as long as you keep it hydrated. 


A radiant cluster of forget-me-nots fills the frame, their bright blue petals contrasting with the warm June sunlight. One flower stands out in the foreground, its five delicate petals unfurling around a golden center. Lush green foliage blurs in the background, adding depth to the scene.This charming blue flower symbolizes remembrance.

Forget-me-nots are such sweet little plants that have a delightfully vintage appearance. Their legend tells of a knight who died trying to collect these pretty blue flowers for his love. The flowers have become symbols for many things, and most are designated as memorials. They are small mounding plants with clusters of flowers that are pink initially, and change to blue as they age.

Start your seeds in fall in warmer climates and indoors over the winter in cooler climates. These plants need a significant amount of moisture. As a result, they typically grow best in partial shade but will grow in full sun in cooler climates. The Alpine Forget-me-not, Eritrichium nanum, is the state flower of Alaska.


Lush clusters of pink and lavender blue hydrangeas nestle together, their delicate petals forming a breathtaking summer symphony. Lush green foliage peeks through, adding depth and freshness to the vibrant scene.Garden spaces are enhanced by hydrangeas, which thrive in damp soil and morning sun.

Hydrangeas are some of the oldest cultivated flowering plants. They date back centuries in Asia and were brought to Europe in the late 1700s. They have been popular garden plants ever since. Interestingly, their name became synonymous with bragging and boasting during the Victorian Era. 

If you have a spot that gets morning sun and dappled light in the afternoon, you have a perfect place to plant a hydrangea. These plants need a lot of water, as is evidenced in their name. Their large clusters of pink, white, blue, or green flowers are wonderful in cut flower arrangements or as dried flowers. 

Final Thoughts

Fill your garden with these long-beloved, old-fashioned flowers to create a nostalgic, vintage atmosphere. By planting flowers that have a rich, symbolic, and storied past, we can carry on those associations. We can keep these plants popular and available for the next generation. These plants may have a reputation as being old-fashioned, but that merely means that we are not the first to enjoy their beautiful flowers in the garden.

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