The process of growing and looking after wildflowers can feel like a big responsibility.
First, you’ve sown your seeds, watered them and patiently waited for them to grow. If you sowed in spring, you should ideally see new green shoots appear after a few weeks. If you sowed the previous autumn, you will need to wait until spring to see your results!
Read more on how to sow your wildflower seeds.
What happens next?
Ideally, a wildflower patch should be for life, not just for one season! To give your seedlings the best chance at survival once they’ve sprouted, follow these tips:
- Keep the soil moist – use the ‘knuckle test’ to see whether more water is needed. Put the tip of your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If it feels dry, you should water!
- You’ll need to water more frequently in hot weather.
- Watch out for slugs, snails and birds who might be after seeds and sprouts. You could try making a shiny bird scarer from old CDs!
- Remove any weeds that might be taking over. Gently dig or pull them completely out of the ground to make sure you have removed their roots as well – otherwise they'll just grow back!
Find out more about weeds and biodiversity.
Annuals, biennials and perennials
Annual wildflowers will bloom the first year they are sown, so you should see results quickly. They die back in the winter, but before that, they will produce seed which grows into new plants. This cycle can continue indefinitely!
Biennial plants won’t flower or produce seed until their second year. After producing seeds, these plants usually die in the same way as an annual.
Perennials will bloom in their second summer, and then every summer after that, growing from roots that survive throughout the winter.
Wildflowers in summer
Summer is the season when wildflowers are at their colourful best. But your patch will look different depending on which seeds you have sown.
The most important thing you can do for your wildflowers in summer is to keep watering them! Wildflowers grown in containers need regular watering throughout their lives, as they have a smaller space from which to draw nutrients. If it’s especially hot, dry and windy, you might need to water your wildflowers every day.
Use a watering can with a rose attachment, or a gentle spray setting on your hose, to make sure the water is gentle on the plants.
If you don’t have a hose, or an outdoor tap, you could try rainwater harvesting.
Using rainwater will mean you have water for your wildflowers during a drought. And you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment by cutting your water consumption. Water butts are easily installed to a down pipe from any roof and, provided the gutters are kept clear, you can quickly fill up a water butt in a downpour.
You should always make sure that your water butt has a lid to prevent debris collecting in the water and to keep any children safe when they’re enjoying your wildflower patch.
Wildflowers in autumn
When summer comes to an end, wildflowers will start to ready themselves for the colder months ahead.
The flowers fade and produce seed – this is the start of a magical, never-ending life cycle.
You could collect the seeds and sow them somewhere else, or save them to sow the following spring. You could also let the plants drop their seeds where they will, creating a wildflower patch with a life of its own!
Find out how to collect and save wildflower seeds.
You might want to cut back old stems once they've seeded, but be careful not to cut down biennials or perennials if they haven’t flowered yet.
You could also leave the old stems for a wilder look. They will help to create a safe habitat for insects and other wildlife during the winter months. Seed heads also act as nature’s birdfeeder!
During autumn, you should continue to water your plants in hot, dry or windy weather, until it gets too cold.
Wildflowers in winter
During winter, your plants will become dormant, meaning they stop growing to conserve energy until the milder weather returns. During this period, you don’t need to water them.
Wildflowers are naturally hardy and have evolved to survive most of what the winter throws at them, though you can buy horticultural fleece or use other wrappings if you want to protect plants in especially frosty weather.
Wildflowers in spring
In early spring, you can remove old growth and dead plant material to ensure new plants have space and access to light.
You can also plant new seeds – or simply wait for your biennials and perennials to sprout again, and for other seeds dropped by last year’s plants to grow.