How to create a wildflower meadow in the garden

How to grow a wildflower meadow in the garden

Maybe it’s time to bring a touch of the wild to your garden.

Ornamental wildflower meadows create spectacular colour and make a diverse environment that will be loved my birds and insects. They are perfect for bringing new life to an unused part of the garden.

Flowering meadow patches and borders are also low maintenance and cheap to produce; the seeds germinate quickly and can fill an empty plot in just a few months.

It’s best to sow in spring, but you can sow in autumn if you have light, sandy soils that aren’t prone to waterlogging.

Choosing the spot

How to grow a wildflower meadow in the garden

Surprisingly, perennial wildflowers like the hard life. They require impoverished soil, because if it is too rich you will get mostly leaves and few flowers. So it’s best to grow a wildflower meadow in a spot you don’t usually cultivate, or one you haven’t used for a while.

However, if you have richer soil you can grow an annual flower meadow using cornfield flowers. This is the best option if you want to convert an existing bed with good soil.

Choosing the seeds

Cornflower meadow - how to grow a wildflower patch

You can buy ready-made wildflower meadow mixes for different soil types and situations. It’s worth looking for a mix of annual and perennial to prolong flowering time. Seed mixes also are available in different colour combinations.

Or you can also buy the seeds separately and mix them yourself. If you do, try adding some sand so you can see clearly where you are sowing as you go. The seeds can be quite small!

Seed mixes vary, so check the coverage on the packet. However as a rough guide, you need 1g per square metre of pure wildflower seeds and 5g per square metre of grass and wildflower meadow seeds.

Before sowing

How to grow a wildflower meadow in the garden

Give your spare space a good weeding before sowing anything, as weeds will compete for light, space and food. Once you’ve removed everything, dig over the soil and firm it back down before raking it smooth.

Scatter your wildflower meadow seeds by hand. Rake in lightly and water thoroughly. If you’re particularly worried about birds eating them all, put some netting over the soil.

Make sure the soil remains moist and warm while they’re germinating. The key thing is to make sure they don’t dry out. A single blisteringly hot weekend will stop them in their tracks. And watch out for weeds coming back too.

Maintenance

How to grow a wildflower meadow in the garden

Deadhead the flowers as they grow to prolong flowering. Leave the plants to self-seed at the end of the growing season – they should come back up next year.

Clear away the old plants in spring to let the new ones get light. Again, keep on top of weeds to stop them taking over.

You may need to sow more seeds for the first few years, but after that they should come back every year with no extra work from you.

Convert a lawn to a wildflower meadow

How to grow a colourful wildflower meadow in the garden

This takes patience but it can be done. A meadow is much easier to maintain than a traditional grass lawn.

Stop applying fertiliser and spend the first year mowing the grass every week to weaken it. Then sow wildflower seeds over the top of very short grass in autumn.

It may take some time for seeds to establish in the grass, so you can always introduce stronger plug plants too.

I’d also recommend using Yellow Rattle. It’s a striking-looking wildflower takes over grass plants and kills them off.

How to cheat

grass-meadowflowers-in-lawn

If you want a more instant effect, and you’re willing to spend a few bob, try laying wildflower turf. It is a pre-sown roll of grass and wildflowers that can be laid on any bare soil. It’s not cheap, but it is effective.

Want more garden inspiration? Check these out:

2017-03-30T14:02:28+00:00

24 Comments

  1. Page A Campbell July 9, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    This sounds just what I would like to do. My concern is that, while it gets morning sun, there are a lot of trees around the area so not in full sun. Will wildflowers bloom if they don’t have lots of sun?

    Thanks for the help and the suggestions.
    Page

    • David July 9, 2015 at 11:03 am - Reply

      Hi Page, Most wildflowers like full sun, but you can buy mixes that are better suited to shade. It’s better to do this than to try and make sun-loving plants survive in the shade – even experienced gardeners can’t force plants in conditions they don’t like! David

  2. Patti July 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    grear ideas. But a caution: if you buy seeds make sure you aren’t planting ones that are considered non-native invasive species.
    Also, do you have any advice for someone who wants to grow a meadow but has ‘yard police’ in her community? We have a city department dedicated to busting homeowners who are growing what they consider ‘weeds.’ I’ve already gone a couple of rounds with them trying to defend my native wild flowers.

    • David July 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Patti, I’ve never heard of people objecting to wildflowers before! I know some species like poppies can be considered pests if you grow them near agricultural land, because they can get into crop fields. But I’ve never heard of the council or city departments getting involved. Try showing them seed packets that show they are native varieties, or write to them before you sow anything to explain what you’re doing and how you will control seed spread.

    • Karen July 14, 2015 at 5:18 pm - Reply

      One of the reasons that non-natives can cause an issue is that they have potential to disrupt the environment. When you introduce or increase a species of flower you increase the likelihood of the insects that feed off that plant. One resident’s garden isn’t likely to make an impact but if many people in the area follow suit there could be a problem. Also, some wildflowers like blue flax can be quite invasive. They have huge seed pods and they look terrible when the flowers die.

  3. Mary Ann Sley July 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    hello David,

    I’m in new construction at the beach w/ sandy, poor soil. Grass seed was blown in w/ hay overlay. Something “green” is coming up, however, I would love to convert to a meadow! Will wild flowers survive in this soil environment ; direct sun almost all day. no trees.
    Thanks,
    Mary Ann

    • David July 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Hi Mary Ann. Wildflowers love poor soil and strong sunlight – they naturally grow in uncultivated fields and along road verges. Try a hardy mix if the site is exposed to strong coastal winds, as some annual mixes can be more tender.

  4. florida1 July 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    I keep hearing advice about ”checking for Weeds coming up instead of Flower leaves”; this is frustrating as maybe one doesn’t know the Difference between a Weed and a Flower leaves…1

    • David July 9, 2015 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      I know. The best thing to do is to wait until it flowers. If it is a weed, be sure to pull it up before it sets seed. Once the meadow is established, the flowers should crowd out any weeds.

  5. Jeani July 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    The first photo has a knapweed growing in it! I just want to pull it! It is a terrible weed around here!

  6. Nanette July 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    cn I grow wildflower successfully in a pot? I live upstairs in an apartment in So Cali!

  7. Chuck July 20, 2015 at 2:10 am - Reply

    I have a small patch of wild flowers going in my flower bed. I have grown them before to attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

  8. Martha July 25, 2015 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    What critters eat the wild flowers? chipmunks, squirrels, deer.?

  9. Paul August 25, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    I David, I am hoping to grow a wildflower meadow in garden. The area is soil at the moment. I would like to know what kind of time frame it takes to establish a meadow from seed? Thank you

    • David September 10, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Paul, most wildflower seeds are annuals, so they should grow and flower in one year. Sow in spring for flowers that summer, or in autumn for flowers at an earlier time that following summer. Always double check on the seed packets.

  10. Alex Lane October 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the help. I am planning to plant my first garden in spring and want it to fit the area, so I am hoping to use some wildflower seed mixes. I would not have thought to put a net over the soil to protect the seed from birds. That was one of my parents’ biggest problems when they tried it. I will be sure to prepare for that.

  11. Zoe January 6, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    I’m planing to make a wild flower meadow on an old gravel pit quarry so the land is extremely stoney with very little soil do you think it will take off? Also there are lots of brambles and stinging nettles, I’ve heard the wild flowers normally take over the weeds in the end but will they be stronger then the nettles? Any advise muchly appreciated. Tia

    • David January 27, 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Hi Zoe, Wildflowers will grow on poor soil but they struggle to take over established weeds. It’s best to remove the weeds and start on bare ground.

  12. Grace April 10, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Thanks for the idea, we want to create a contemplative garden, I have statue of mother Mary I found and a bird bath, so far so good. I love the picture you have of the the white daises and purple flower color combination I really think I want to do something just like that it is so pretty I like the simplicity and beauty of it. I have always dreamt of having our breakfast nook looking into a dreamy wildflower garden. I think you’ve helped with the hardest part the colors, and flower combinations .

    I think the reason for the city or county becoming gardening monitors is because non native plants can cause havoc. The best known example , when a man brought to America a lovey bright yellow flower brought a plant that he liked .Today, is known as a noxious weed known it is not other, than Scotch Broom it not only triggers allergic has become an invasive species throughout the Pacific Northwest, where it competes with native plants and forms dense stands that are difficult to manage and remove. It has cost the timber industry here 40 million dollar loss in revenue. I actually think we should just leave the forest alone since we are running out of trees . But that is an example of what one plant has caused a staggering thought. . . Here there are stiff penalties here for stepping to far out there! Perhaps, that is why the city or county becomes involved, because to the Scotch Broom story.

    Wishing all a beautiful flower garden!

  13. Nancy Dileo May 9, 2016 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Hello I purchase many seeds this spring due to strange weather in NE yet to plant but my landscaper put down sweet peet mulch in my garden before I could plant do I move mulch and plant or put seeds in mulch.
    Thank you

    • Tyler June 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      It would be a gamble to plant in the mulch. Safer to remove it, or to at least clear spaces around each plant until it is established and then move the mulch closer. Another option would be to grow plants in pots until they are established and then move them into the garden, but it depends on how much you are planting!

  14. Sarah May 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the article. I live in the US and don’t see “yellow rattle” a the places I normally buy wildflower seeds. Do you know of an alternative flower you could recommend, that does the same thing, as far as reducing grasses? I live in the Southeastern United States, in a hot and humid (but not tropical) climate. Thank you for any help you could give.

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