The next time you drive by a meadow, think about this: Wildflower meadows and gardens are precious habitats for more than just pollinators.
According to The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, the plants, floral resources, and soil provide nesting sites, food, and a safe reproductive environment for moths, butterflies, birds, bats, small mammals, and even some amphibians that make their way to these zones.
And since pollinators need more help than ever, you can establish wildflowers on your property come planting time. Even if you only have a small area, there’s a lot you can do with adequate soil preparation, the right wildflower seed mix for native species you hope to support, and a planting process designed for the planting season.
Use this ultimate guide to wildflower planting to grow a thriving garden every season.
Why Plant a Wildflower Garden?
Wildflower seeds have been a popular choice among gardeners for quite some time. But, not all wildflower plants are the same, and different wildflowers take different periods of time to grow.
Some can be planted in fall or winter, while others require spring planting. Generally, wildflower gardens are a great way to delight in the beauty of nature without actually having much effort put into them.
Many gardeners opt for wildflower seed mixes because they’re hearty and not very fussy — they’ll grow just about anywhere, so you won't have any troubles with site selection for your garden.
Once they're established, you only need to deadhead or thin plants occasionally. That’s why wildflowers are low-maintenance and have a high coverage rate. It’s also simple enough for kids to plant and care for wildflower seed mix with minimal supervision!
Flowers like these attract pollinators which means more fruit crops and pest control because many wild insects feed on such pests. However, some people prefer cultivated flowers more than wild ones.
Cultivated flowers are generally used for landscaping and beautifying homes, but they often contain pesticides that harm the pollinators that rely on them. However, with a few varieties of wildflowers, your garden can transform into a bee's paradise and isn't as attractive to pests.
What to Know Before Planting Wildflowers
Wildflowers make excellent additions to your garden for their diverse colors and textures. However, planting them can be tricky, but this section will give you a few pointers on how to do it right!
When Should I Plant Wildflower Seed Mix?
The best time of year for planting wildflower seeds depends on your region and the wildflower species you want to grow. You can plant in late summer or early fall. This provides a later-blooming garden that will provide color into the cooler months.
Where Should I Plant Wildflowers?
You can’t just plant wildflowers wherever you want and expect incredible results. Here’s how you can scope out a good planting zone:
- Find out how much sun the area gets per day.
- Consider your soil type and water availability before planting.
- Make sure there is enough room for the plants to grow in height and width.
When choosing a location for your wildflowers, try to find a spot that will get at least six hours of sun per day. If it’s too shady, the flowers might not grow and bloom as much as you want!
It is also important to consider soil type when planting wildflowers because different types can affect how well they grow over time. For best results, you’ll want to plant them in rich, well-draining soil. If you don’t have access to this type of soil, consider planting wildflowers that can grow despite these conditions (i.e., drought-resistant plants). Native wildflowers are often better adapted to local soil conditions than non-natives.
Wildflowers can usually grow closer together than other types of flowers. Still, you don’t want the flowers to be too close together, or they will start competing for nutrients.
Also, you should avoid planting wildflowers in a garden with vegetables because some veggies can create unfriendly soil environments that could impact your flowers.
How to Plant Your Wildflower Garden
Step #1. Choose Your Wildflower Seed Mixes
There is no right or wrong way to mix up your wildflowers, but the mixes you choose will make a difference in your garden. Here are a few tips to help you plant your wildflowers:
- Try not to put any of one type of flower in more than three areas (or you won't have variety)
- Make sure there isn't anything listed on your state’s noxious weed list in your blend.
- Add some taller plants towards the back, so large flowering ones don't smother them out over time
- Consider adding supports for taller flowers so they stay upright through rainstorms/windy days.
Step #2. Pick and Plan Your Wildflower Planting Area
The first step to growing a wildflower garden is picking out the perfect spot. Choose an area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight.
Give your planting site time for wildflower seeds and plants to grow before you rush in and start tending it. They'll need at least four months to germinate and flourish.
Finally, plan out where each flower will go by sketching on paper what type and how many are needed so there are no surprises down the road when everything starts coming up together.
Perennials like lupine and columbine will thrive in the shade, so plan on planting them alongside other flowers that do well in the shade. It is recommended to group wildflowers with the same sunlight needs together.
Step #3. Site Preparation and Soil Preparation
Prepare the soil by giving it a good mix with compost or manure (or both). This will ensure that there are enough nutrients in the soil, so plants grow well without needing fertilizer through the year. Remove rocks, branches, and other landscaping materials such as garden clippings or mulch that are not compostable.
Address issues like weeds before adding anything else. Otherwise, they’re challenging to remove once your vegetation takes root. Rake all debris off carefully, removing rocks and old roots from the wildflower area that you’ll plant.
Add a couple of inches of mulch on top to prevent weeds, maintain moisture levels in the soil, discourage pests, and keep down any extreme winter temperatures that may prevail during your region’s growing season.
Step #4. Planting Your Wildflower Seeds Into the Soil
Make sure to weed the area before planting your wildflower seeds into the soil. If you have other plants close by in your planting site or yard that are flowering brightly, add some of their wildflower seeds to the mix. This helps to maintain a natural succession going forward.
Plant wildflower seeds at a maximum of one-eighth inch (1/8″) deep with five feet between each plant (you can also buy one packet of wildflower seed mix and scatter it by hand in an area). When you spread by hand, you can press the seed into the soil by stepping on it or rolling it in.
Use mulch to help retain moisture and prevent soil erosion, especially if you’re planting on a slope or hill. For optimal results, keep the seeds and soil consistently damp throughout the entire germination period, but avoid over-saturating them.
Wildflower seeds are quite affordable, so you can plant them in groups spanning a few long rows for a splash of color and variety. You can also try planting them as close together as two inches apart to make a busier, more bustling scene in your garden.
Step #5. Watering Your Wildflower Meadow
Keeping your wildflowers thriving comes down to following a few simple tips.
The best way to water your wildflowers is with a hose or watering can. Apply an even amount of moisture and avoid letting them stand in the rain for too long as they may be uprooted by flooding.
When watering, begin at the plant’s base. Aim moisture as close to the roots as possible without disturbing them too much.
In terms of frequency, your wildflower seeds will need watering at least once every three days. Like all other types of flowers, overwatering can cause wilting and root rot, so if there’s rain in the forecast, you can skip a day.
Keep the soil moist for at least two weeks after planting, ideally doing so daily. If you rely on drip irrigation, you won’t need to water as frequently or as much. But, again, seedlings can rot if they sit too long in waterlogged soil.
Best Practices for Maintaining Wildflower Meadows
Maintaining your wildflower garden can be a lot of fun. While the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals is not encouraged to preserve wildlife diversity, there are some steps you should take that will help ensure a successful season for wildflowers like foxglove or columbine.
Tip #1. Shearing
You can shear back your plants to keep them healthy and evened out. In addition, this will maintain a more aesthetically pleasing garden, so you don't have to worry about one plant taking over the other in large numbers.
Tip #2. Weeding
Weed seeds grow fast and frequently overtake an entire yard which becomes too difficult — even impossible — to control without professional help. If left unchecked, invasive weed species can propagate quickly and broadly, making it difficult to uproot once they’ve established.
Look at de-weeding activities before planting and pay specific attention to the more common invasive plants. These include dandelions and purslane, which are particularly tricky to manage as they return year after year.
Tip #3. Adding Soil and Compost
Keep an eye on the soil and add compost as needed to maintain a healthy balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Too much or too little of these nutrients in the soil can create an unsupportive or even toxic environment, leaving them stunted, wilting, or presenting with dark brown patches. Adding compost will make up for that imbalance and encourage plant growth naturally.
Tip #4. Mulching
Mulching creates a barrier that prevents seedlings from drying out. It also keeps moisture in the soil, reduces weeds, and prevents other pests like slugs or snails from taking up residence in your garden.
If you don't want to use mulch, try using straw instead — it's just as effective at preventing weeds and pests, and it can be more economical on the pocket.
Tip #5. Pruning Dead Plants
Remove dead flowers from perennials so they can continue blooming throughout the season. Make sure to pull or dig out anything that should not be in the garden. Besides weeds, this includes grasses, which are especially effective at spreading and taking over a garden.
Finally, cut back annuals after their first bloom cycle has ended to encourage new growth next year.
Wildflower Gardening FAQ
How Much Space Will a Wildflower Garden Take Up in the Yard?
In general, a wildflower garden takes up about 1/4 of the space, but the actual area for planting seedlings will depend on how many different varieties you grow in all.
The size and shape of a person's backyard affect how much total area they have available. If you’re planning to work with wildflowers, you should know that, on average, most people have at least an acre. This amount of area will help various cultivars spread without too much limitation.
And, finally, the area available for you to plant wildflowers will also depend on which other flowers and veggies you grow. For example, planting squash and tomatoes alongside wildflower seedlings will call for a larger site than planting roses, occupying a smaller area.
What Type of Soil Is Best For Growing a Wildflower Garden?
Soil quality and pH is often the most important consideration for growing these types of plants. There are three different types of soil currently populating the United States: loam, sandy, and clay soils.
Loamy soil with plenty of humus makes an excellent medium because its composition can provide water absorption and aeration. In addition, the structure from organic matter won't compact over time or in cold weather and precipitation as other kinds might.
Sandy soils contain high levels of sand particles which help loosen tight clumps. However, this type of soil doesn’t have enough nutrients to sustain healthy plant growth on its own. Instead, it needs some fertilizer added every year if used exclusively for wildflower planting.
Clay soil is dense, heavy, and typically retains water well due to its fine particles. This can benefit plants by providing consistent moisture, but its compact nature can also inhibit root growth and lead to poor aeration. If poorly drained, clay soil can become waterlogged, risking root rot. For optimal plant growth in clay, it's often amended to improve drainage and aeration.
When mixed with sand-based soils, clay or silt-based soils also work well. Making your mixture can make things easier because mixing up some "heavy" (clay) and light (sand) components will ensure moist soil in the early spring as well as during periods of drought in peak summer temperatures.
What Types of Flowers Should Be Included in a Wildflower Garden?
You can plan to plant two main categories of flowers in a wildflower garden: perennials and annuals.
Perennials will grow year after year and continue blooming up until autumn. They can even continue into a mild winter, especially if they receive some protection from frost at night or during cold spells.
Some perennials have a naturally long bloom time. An example is the pink and white Pinkladies (Oenothera speciosa), which will continue blooming from spring to winter.
Other perennials commonly appearing in wildflower seed mixtures include Orange Tiger Lillies (Lilium lancifolium) and Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea).
Annuals have one growing season, which may span for only 6-8 weeks, but their showy displays make it worthwhile. The most common annuals in wildflower seed mixtures include Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas).
No matter what colors and styles you like for your garden, you'll have the most success growing flowers that are appropriate for your region's climate. For example, Blanket Flower (Gaillardia Aristata) is an excellent choice for warm temperate regions. In cooler areas, try Five Spot (Nemophila Maculata) or Globe Gilia (Gilia Capitata).
Examples of Plants That Are Easy to Grow in Any Climate
There are countless wildflower species that you can grow in practically any climate around the United States. These are just a few of the most popular and most beautiful wildflowers you can grow no matter where you live.
This beautiful, low-growing wildflower is native to the western United States and has blue blooms with a white center. Baby blue eyes can grow up to about 12 inches in height but are often grown as an annual flowering soil cover.
This lovely wildflower is an annual that can grow up to a foot in height and has blooms with yellow centers and violet petals.
The Bachelor Button is an annual that grows up to about a foot in height. The flowers are pink with white petals and grow in clusters around the stem of the plant.
The plant is native to the eastern United States and can grow up to about a foot in height. The flowers of lemon mint are yellow with purple markings, and they bloom at the top of tall stems that may be upright or spread out across large areas.
This perennial is a prolific blooming wildflower that can grow up to a foot in height. The flowers are purple with white petals.
Also called Mexican Evening Primrose, this wildflower is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. The flowers are yellow with pink petals.
Standing Cypress is a biennial wildflower that can grow up to six feet in height. The flowers of this wildflower are red.
Sulphur Cosmos is a perennial wildflower that can grow up to three feet in height. The flowers of this wildflower are yellow with orange and red markings.
Sweet William is a perennial wildflower that can grow up to four feet in height. The flowers of this wildflower are white with pink, blue, and purple markings.
Planting a wildflower garden is not only good for the environment but your backyard as well. Whether you want to create more space or you simply enjoy watching hummingbirds and butterflies visit your yard throughout the summer months, planting a wildflower garden will bring joy to both you and nature.
With so many colors, shapes, sizes of plants available, as well as different seasons of bloom, there's something here for everyone. To start planning your area size and wildflower seed mix, we recommend beginning with our Seed Selector, which helps you choose the type of flowers that will work best in your area.
You can choose from dozens of different types of flowers, as well as trees and shrubs if desired. And with the proper preparation, it should only take about two hours per week to maintain your new wildflower oasis. So pick up some wildflower seeds and start planning your new garden today with Nature’s Seed by your side.