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How to Make a Wildflower Meadow

Updated on April 11, 2013

Turn Part of your Garden into a Haven for Wildflowers and Wildlife

Planting a mini wildflower meadow in your garden not only helps to wildlife and the environment, but helps to save our native wildflowers, too! With fears over declining bee numbers and gardens disappearing under layers of tarmac, it's more vital than ever to do our bit in our own backyard.

However, planting a wildflower meadow means more than simply sprinkling a wildflower seed mix into your lawn! There is some groundwork to be done first, however once established, you can enjoy your meadow in relative ease, with just one cut back a year necessary.

Whether you wish to create a miniature meadow in part of your garden, or completely turn a large open space over to nature, read on to find out how to make a wildflower meadow, which wildflowers and seed mixes are best, and how to prepare, maintain and care for your meadow.

Photo Credit: Wheeldon Copse Wildflower Meadow via Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

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Why Plant a Wildflower Meadow?

Purely and simply, because our native wildflowers have disappeared from the land, replaced with intensive modern farming that leaves no room for natural wildflowers among the cornfields, and consequently, our wildlife is declining at a rapid rate. Most importantly, pollinators such as bees are declining in huge numbers, and this could cause disaster not only for the biodiversity of nature, but for us, too, because without pollinators, our life source (trees, plants, food) disappear too.

I live in England, where we have already lost 23 species of bee since 1800. British hoverflies and moths have declined at an alarming rate, and many of our beautiful native wildflowers are becoming endangered or are already extinct.

Photo Credit: Bee and Flower via Wikimedia Commons

Image in the Public Domain

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I have always been a fan of the cottage garden look anyway, so to me, a wild garden is heaven. The more of it I give over to nature, the better! But even if you prefer a relatively neat garden, please, please, please consider giving at least a small portion of it to nature. You will be helping wildlife on so many levels! Even the smallest patch can grow a stunning variety of flowers and become home to a heaving ecosystem of vital life.

Since letting parts of our garden go wild, we have been blessed with a plethora of insects, birds and other wildlife. My two-year-old daughter and I love foraging amongst the garden undergrowth to find the creatures lurking within... we have bountiful numbers of aphid-chomping ladybirds every year, an increased variety of moths and butterflies, and in addition to our usual garden birds, we are now welcoming newcomers such as bullfinches, the occasional woodcock, and even a pair of shy jays! And as for the bees, we have always had plenty of small bees attracted to the lavender and other cottage garden plants, but now we have finally started seeing an increase in the bumblebees again, which is wonderful news! It truly is worth going the wild route, for the sake of our beautiful biodiversity. I would far rather have a bit of a jungle at the bottom of the garden, where hidden fairy statues peep out from secret places, than a neatly manicured lawn devoid of any life. If you're lucky, you might spot a fox cub at the bottom of the garden, too!

How to Create a Wildflower Meadow

Preparing your Garden for a Wildflower Meadow - Getting Started

Once you have chosen how large an area to turn over to meadow, and where, you will need to prepare the ground before you can successfully sow your wildflowers. Depending on your garden, you may need up to 2 years to prevent previous growth returning, before you sow.

Photo Credit: Preparing Soil via Wikimedia Commons

Image in the Public Domain

  • The good news is, if you have poor soil, a perennial wildflower meadow will thrive! You want to bring the nutrient level down as much as you possibly can, to prevent grasses growing back and taking over the plot, instead allowing for the wildflowers to grow. Alternatively, if you wish to plant an annual meadow (ideal for planting in an existing border), then rich soil is required.
  • If your lawn is not very fertile, you won't need to do much. If it is, however, you will need to bring the nutrient level down by mowing the lawn regularly to keep it short, and not using any fertilisers, weed killers or feeds. Ensure you remove all grass cuttings when you mow. If your soils is very rich, consider removing the topsoil and sowing directly into rotovated sub-soil.
  • You will need to clear the ground of current growth. Remove all the coarse-leaved grasses and ensure you keep on removing them, along with any vigorously growing weeds, such as thistles.
  • When ready, you should rotovate the area and rake over.
  • Allow at least 4-6 weeks for the soil to settle and to see if any regrowth of weeds occurs.

Best Book on How to Make a Wildflower Meadow

Making Wildflower Meadows
Making Wildflower Meadows

Author Pam spent many years in her wonderful garden, Sticky Wicket in Dorset, researching and creating wildflower meadows. In this wonderful book, Pam shares her passion and her extensive meadow-making experience to inspire others to also create mini meadows in their own gardens.

She explains how to create and care for a variety of meadows, be they wet, dry, natural or created, along with the how, when and what of creating and maintaining these beautiful natural additions to the garden.

 
Image copyright of the author
Image copyright of the author

Which Plants are Best for a Wildflower Meadow?

The best flowers for your meadow are those which are native and suited to your area. Contact your local garden centres, plant societies and other organisations to do your research, and if you have any areas of wildflowers in the area already, ask the landowners if you can gather seeds from them.

You can also buy wildflower seed mixes or mats from garden centres and online (more on these near the end of the page). These are often themed, such as mixes to attract butterflies and bees, or garden birds. However, do your research and find out which mixes will be the best for you and your garden.

You also want to look for long-performing flowers that will be in bloom for several months, so that you get the most life out of your meadow as possible,

Photo Credit: Starflowers image copyright of the author

My Five Must-Have Wildflower Meadow Plants - Native British Wildflowers

These are my top five plants for growing a perennial wildflower meadow here in England. Of course, it's all down to personal taste, although Yellow Rattle or a similar plant is a must for the reasons listed below. A little delve into the natural history of your own area will provide plenty of ideas for you wherever you live in the world.

CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW

  1. Yellow Rattle

    This is an absolute essential in your wildflower mix as it is a hemiparasite, which weakens the surrounding grass and allows more delicate wildflowers to thrive with less competition

  2. Betony

    The intense magenta colour of these flowers go on for months, lasting from early summer well into autumn. They are packed with nectar and consequently superb for bees and other insects.

  3. Meadow Cranes-bill

    This is on my list mainly because I adore cranes-bills - they are one of my favourite plants - but also because it is a superb attractant for insects, including bees, and flowers for ages.

  4. Greater Knapweed

    A superb source of nectar for insects and loved by butterflies, this is also a beautiful and showy plant that will add interest to your meadow.

  5. Tufted Vetch

    This long-lasting flower is a superb bee-attractant, and its lovely purple flowers are plentiful and add wonderful colour to the meadow.

Self seeded poppies - image copyright of the author
Self seeded poppies - image copyright of the author

Growing an Annual Wildflower Meadow

Soil too Rich for a Meadow to Thrive?

If your soil is just too rich and fertile to grow a perennial wildflower meadow, you can try growing an annual one instead, using a mix of flowers found in cornfields.

This type of meadow is very colourful and pleasing to the eye, and an ideal format for an existing border.

Seed to sow for an annual cornfield mix can include:

Corncockle * Corn Poppies * Cornflowers *

Corn Marigolds * Wheat * Barley

Photo Credit: Self seeded poppy - image copyright of the author

Would you Grow a Wildflower Meadow?

Would you be willing to turn part of your garden over to nature?

See results

Planting your Wildflower Meadow - When to Sow

Photo Credit: English Wildflowers via Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

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  • If you are sowing a perennial wildflower meadow, sow either in March/April, or in September. If you have heavy soil, then the former is better as seeds may rot in waterlogged soil over winter. Lighter soils can get away with autumn planting, although some may not germinate until the following spring.
  • If you are sowing an annual cornflower meadow, then again, plant either in spring or autumn. The former will favour corncockle, while the latter will be better for poppies.
  • Direct sow seed into the soil, but be aware that perennials may not flower much for a couple of years, until established. As a general rule, pure wildflower seed should be sown at 1g per square metre, and wildflower and grass mixes at 5g per square metre.
  • You can mix the seed with silver sand to scatter more easily and evenly. Lightly rake in the seed, water well, and leave to grow naturally. Cover the area with netting if birds are an issue.
  • You can also plant wildflowers as plug plants, preferably in autumn, which can lead to well-established plants.

How to Start a Wildflower Area

Cornfield Annual Native Wildflower Mix 100gVIEW DETAILS

Cornflower - Wildflower 150 SeedsVIEW DETAILS

100% Wildflower Basic Meadow Seed 100g. Native UK seedVIEW DETAILS

7,000 Seeds, Wildflower Mixture "Bird & Butterfly" (16 Species)VIEW DETAILS

Grass & Wildflower Seed Meadow Mix 100g. Native Uk SeedVIEW DETAILS

4 Pks Seeds - Bluebell, Chamomile, Cornflower, PoppyVIEW DETAILS

There is also a wonderful range of seeds available in the US too:

How to Choose Plants for Bees - Sarah Raven on the Best Pollinators

I have been interested in planting wildflowers in the garden for many years, being a keen organic and wildlife gardener. However my interest in wildflower meadows was rekindled recently thanks to the series of programmes made by one of my favourite gardeners, Sarah Raven - Bees, Butterflies and Blooms.

The link above provides more information on the show and where to watch it. You can also watch Sarah in the clip below, finding out how to choose the best pollinator plants for bees to visit. Even if you are not able to grow a mini meadow, you can still help the bee population by planting a diverse range of the right kind of flowers.

Maintaining and Caring for your Wildflower Meadow - Enjoying your Wildlife Haven

Photo Credit: Woman using a Scythe via Wikimedia Commons

Image in the Public Domain

  • Once your meadow is established, you will only need to cut it once or twice a year, at the end of the summer when all the flowers have had their chance to set seed. This will be at the end of August, or if you have planted species such as Agrimony or Betony, leave until September, to allow them to take hold within the meadow. You may also need to cut it in spring.
  • New meadows and established meadows will need different amounts of maintenance, and timing will vary depending on whether you have a spring or summer flowering meadow. This RHS guide to wildflower meadow maintenance explains the basics.
  • Small meadows can be maintained using a strimmer or a good old fashioned scythe.
  • Larger meadows should be cut with a power scythe, as it will need to be cut to around 1cm.
  • When cutting perennial meadows, remember to rake up and remove all the debris to prevent nutrients entering back into the soil.

Wildflower Meadow Inspiration - One final beautiful portrait of wildflowers to enjoy before you go!

Would you Love a Wildflower Meadow in your Garden? - Leave your Comments and Feedback here!

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    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 4 years ago

      I turned the piece of lawn we had behind our house (in the alley) into a wildflower garden - sure is better than trying to mow grass there.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 5 years ago

      I so love this! Yes, I want this in my yard! Blessed.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Yes I would. I really enjoy wildflowers. Blessed

    • bbsoulful2 profile image

      bbsoulful2 5 years ago

      Our house is an 1896 American Foursquare in an urban area, but we have a huge city lot for a yard., We planted an 8 x 20 foot border at the back, and scattered wildflower seeds over it each fall. It has been amazing to see the butterflies in our yard since then! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • BorderCollie LM profile image

      BorderCollie LM 5 years ago

      That looks so beautiful. I wish we had more room in our yard to do this

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      Yes, why not, as long as they can contribute to beautify my garden. Wildflower Meadow can be beautiful as well.

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 5 years ago

      I always loved planting wildflowers - even when I buy a bouquet - I prefer the wildflower look. If I had the space - I would definitely plant a wildflower field.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      I've just this summer converted a patch of grass near our brook into a wildflower garden. It's not big enough to call a true meadow, but it's dedicated to native New England wildflowers and so far is doing nicely. Today I started another, closer to the house and next to a vacant lot. I'm hoping it will innocently spread into that barren lot ... wonderful lens!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      A beautifully done Lens, kudos; and thanks for all the great info.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 5 years ago from Scotland

      I have one by accident in our new home....lol, have found some very pretty wild flowers though and I am going to try to keep them somehow!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      I have been dreaming of planting a small-scale wildflower meadow for a while now but do not know where to start. I have a couple of store-bought seeds which are waiting to be spread. Thanks for the tips and info which were very useful.

      Blessed. ****

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Wildflowers are so pretty. Thanks for publishing this delightful and informative article. ~~Blessed~~

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 5 years ago

      Absolutely brilliant. We have a large meadow where I live in Upper Saxondale Notts. UK and we were advised to plant Yellow Rattle to suppress coarse grasses. It really worked. I've just collected over 80 British Wildflower photos too with my iPhone. I did this to revisit a school biology project I did when I was 11 years old. One of my favourites is the Bee Orchid.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 5 years ago

      This is useful. I tried creating a wildflower meadow once, but every year it became less flowery. I guess the problem was that we didn't cut it back at all.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      You are so right about maintaining a place for the bees. Who would want to think of what would happen without them. Wonderful lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I absolutely love the idea of wildflowers in my garden! I've always liked the kinds of gardens better where plants are allowed to run wild and where everything is a bit chaotic. If only I could convince my parents... :-) Thanks for this lens and the great idea! If I ever have my own garden, I'll definitely let Nature have it.

    • themeaparty profile image

      themeaparty 5 years ago

      This totally works. If you plant it, they will come. :p

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      I would certainly love one! I already grow many native wildflowers and would love to grow even more. Thanks for the information. :)

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      Took another fly back in to bless this lens :) I had it bookmarked for reference! ~blessed~

    • Im Horse Crazy profile image

      Im Horse Crazy 5 years ago

      I love these wildflower meadows!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Three years ago I scattered a few dollars worth of wildflower seeds in the very small garden space in back of our house. The flowers still keep growing. It's wild and it's beautiful.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I've always thought it was nice that the English call their yard their garden. I'd love to have a wildflower meadow. So pretty!

    • profile image

      Childbirth_Educator 5 years ago

      I'd rather have a meadow than cut grass any day.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 5 years ago

      I have a section of my yard dedicated to wild flowers and they bloom faithfully every year. I like them because they are hardy, handle drought conditions as well as wet ones..a great addition to every garden!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Funny seeing this, we went up north last year and did a tour of all the wildflowers areas. They are so beautiful. When we came back I bought some seeds and still waiting hopefully for them to come up. I bought mainly the Paper flowers and a few others that do not need attention.

      I used to have these paper flowers growing all down my driveway in the other house then for some reason they didn't come up anymore. So here's hoping these will come up soon. Thanks for a great lens

    • profile image

      Gail47 5 years ago

      Wildflowers are so beautiful! We actually have wildflowers around the pond that is behind our home. Love looking at them when I want to relax.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      I would love it if my entire yard were a wildflower garden. Of course, I doubt my landlord would appreciate it, ha! I love wildflowers and butterflies.

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      I love the look of wild flowers. They are more delicate than cultivated ones. We always allow some to grow in our garden.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      We left a border of natural flowers, shrubs and trees around two sides of our lot. It works out well -- minimum care. It attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Great lens. I wish more people would do it.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 5 years ago from Northern California

      We still have California Poppies that come up from when I planted them a few years ago. Would love to have enough space to have a wildflower meadow. May have to settle for a Wildflower planter.

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! Much of our property is wild and uncultivated, and I'd like to have more wildflowers growing.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I think you have a winner here! Lovely page with lots of information, very colorful and appealing.

    • profile image

      Going-Cheep-The-Bird-Shop 5 years ago

      love it! great info on creating a wildflower meadow