Are you looking to create an attractive floral display or attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators into your outdoor space? If so, you can’t go far wrong with wildflowers. These charming flowers produce plenty of colors and have an endearing natural quality that draws the eye.
What Are Wildflowers?
As you’d probably guess, wildflowers are species of flower that you’d find growing naturally in the wild. In the UK you can usually find them growing in woodlands, meadows, grasslands and hillsides.
The definition of wildflowers may contrast with the idea of purposefully planting wildflower seeds. However, ‘wildflower’ is also often used to describe native flowers. A native wildflower is used to its environment and will grow happily in the ground with minimal assistance.
Why Plant Wildflowers?
Wildflower habitats have been decimated in recent years. Some have been paved for roads and housing, while others have been landscaped into perfectly manicured lawns and play areas.
Wildflowers provide valuable nectar and an attractive habitat for bees, butterflies, insects and small mammals. They help increase biodiversity and are great for the ecosystem. According to WWF, one acre of wildflower meadow can contain up to 3 million flowers and provide enough nectar to support 96,000 honey bees in just one day. However, since 1970 41% of UK wildflower species have declined.
As well as helping bees and other pollinators do their job, wild flower meadows have plenty of benefits.
- They are perfect for encouraging biodiversity and attracting insects, birds and small mammals into the area.
- Wildflower root systems make soil stable and able to hold rainwater, which reduces the risk of flooding.
- The complex root system ensures nutrients don’t get washed into rivers, where it can lead to an increase in algae and affect marine life.
- Native wildflowers flower at precisely the right time for native wildlife.
- Wildflower meadows absorb carbon at a similar rate to woodland, helping to reduce climate change.
- They look pretty!
How to Choose Wildflowers
When choosing the species of wildflower that are perfect for your garden or outdoor space, there are a couple of things to consider.
Wildflowers grow well in poor-quality soil, so the perfect patch doesn’t have to have masses of nutrients. Native plants have evolved naturally and will cope with the soil type native to that environment. Wildflowers can thrive in poor-quality soils and aren’t overly demanding when it comes to watering. You can plant and neglect them to a certain extent. Avoid using compost or fertiliser to try and help them along.
Many wildflowers grow best in full sun or partial shade. Before sowing your wildflower meadow think about how much light the flowers will receive. If the spot you have in mind is more shaded, consider sowing flowers that grow wild in hedgerows and woodland areas.
When is the Best Time to Sow Wildflower Seeds?
Ideally, sow wildflower seeds in autumn, but they can thrive when planted in spring – it’ll just take a bit longer to see the results.
Autumn planted seed mix will begin to bloom in spring. If you sow the seeds in spring you may see some flowers appear in summer, but the full effect won’t kick in until the following spring.
Whether you decide to sow your wildflower meadow in autumn or spring check the weather forecast first. If there is a chance of early or late frost, hold off planting until you get a few days of warmer weather. A rain shower or two to water in the seeds is no bad thing!
In the first year, mow the meadow in midsummer. Leave the clippings for a couple of days to get as many seeds as possible back into the ground. In subsequent years, hold off mowing between April and September to allow all species time to flourish.
Do Wildflower Seeds Come Back Every Year?
Yes! If you’re looking for blooms that don’t need to be replanted every year, wildflowers are perfect. Like most varieties of garden plants, wildflowers can split into two types; annual and perennial.
Sometimes referred to as ‘cornfield annuals’, annual wildflowers only flower for one season before dying off. However, if the soil around the plant is kept bare, the seeds will fall and germinate the following year. Alternatively, you can gather the seeds and plant them in autumn.
Annuals are popular as they are quick to germinate and grow. Depending on the variety, annuals will take around 8-12 weeks to bloom after sowing.
Perennials are slower to establish and may not flower in their first summer. You’ll often notice perennials look better in their second and subsequent years when they’ll need very little maintenance to produce an impressive show.
Perennials will go into a dormant phase in autumn when they should be cut back. When the warmer weather returns in spring, the plants will grow back in the same place.
Where to Plant Wildflowers
One of the great things about wildflowers is that you can plant them almost anywhere. You can turn your lawn into an attractive meadow or create low-maintenance borders around the edges. Alternatively, sow wildflower seeds in raised beds, patio pots and window boxes for a whimsical display of flowers.
The larger the area, the more beneficial the flowers will be to local wildlife. However, even a little planting will help pollinators and look brilliant. The important thing is to make sure the spot you’ve chosen gets plenty of natural sunlight.
Planting wildflowers is hugely beneficial to local wildlife and the environment. But more than that, they are pretty to look at, easy to care for and create a stunning rainbow of blooms in mixed shades of pink, purple, red, yellow, and blue.
Whatever your motivation for planting a wildflower seed mix, check out our range at Gardeners Dream.