Planning on planting wildflowers in your garden?
We don’t blame you! Wildflower meadows are a beautiful alternative to lawns and borders, and can provide a display for many months. Wildflowers are also a vital food source for bees and pollinators and provide a year-round habitat for local wildlife. But, while they don’t take as much maintenance as lawns and other plants, sowing the seeds at the right time and preparation is key to growth.
In this article, we discuss the best time to plant wildflowers from seed, plug plants or wildflower turf and how fast wildflowers grow from seed.
When laying wildflower turf, sowing wildflower seed or growing wildflowers it’s always best to keep things simple and copy Mother Nature.
- Sow wildflower seed in late summer or autumn as this is the best time of year
- Plug plants like to be planted out in autumn or spring
- Wildflower turf can be installed at any time of year
- For flowers in the first summer, establish plants before April
- Autumn planting/sowing creates stronger plants and a better floral display
- Watch out for weeds! Wildflower turf will prevent annual weed seeds from germinating
Growing wildflowers from seed
There’s no doubt about it, growing wildflowers from seed seems like the most cost-effective option. It’s also (in theory) easy to do. So, all you really need to know about how to plant wildflowers is to simply prepare the ground, sprinkle on the seeds and keep them moist.
While you can’t pinpoint the exact right moment, the best time to sow wildflower seeds is usually in autumn as this will give you the earliest display of flowers.
For best results, don’t spread the seeds too generously. 2-3 grams per square metre is plenty. Then please remember that each tiny wildflower seed has the potential to grow into a big plant. And big plants need room to spread their roots.
Make sure the seeds have good contact with the soil but don’t bury them. Most wildflower seeds need light to stimulate growth.
If you are wondering how long wildflowers take to grow once the seeds have been sown, expect wildflower seeds to behave very differently from the seeds of cultivated plants. They make take a long time to germinate (up to 2 years for some species).
If you are sowing annual wildflowers like cornflowers, common poppies and corn marigolds you will need to re-sow them every year. But, for a longer-lasting wildflower meadow, choose perennial species like oxeye daisy, clover, mallow and campion.
Wildflower seed can be sown in autumn or in springtime. So, for the strongest plants and most vibrant summer display aim to sow your seeds between September and November. In nature, the seeds of wildflowers are naturally dispersed when summer flowering finishes. They fall onto the ground and start to germinate when the autumn rains come along.
Products that can help…
Growing wildflower plug plants
Plug plants are a great way to introduce wildflowers into a lawn or an existing herbaceous border. Always buy from a reputable grower. One of my favourites is British Wild Flowers from Norfolk – they despatch healthy plants at the best time of year for planting. Normally autumn time but some can also be planted in spring.
No need to keep your plug plants in the greenhouse (unless the grower tells you differently) instead, put them straight into the ground. Keep them well watered until you are confident that they have established.
If you are planting into a lawn, clear a nice space for each plant so that the grass doesn’t out-compete them.
Creating a wildflower area from turf
The great thing about wildflower turf is that it can be installed at any time of year. However, if you are in no particular hurry, I would always advise establishing wildflower turf in autumn if you can.
If your wildflowers are planted in autumn, they will spend the winter developing super-strong roots. Come the spring, those roots will ensure that the plants have all the water and nourishment they need to produce vibrant flowers with lots of nectar for the bees.