Wildflower gardens can also be a rewarding project for the home gardener, and a wonderful way to utilize open space in the landscape. They also provide a tasty playground for wildlife and pollinators, and can help stabilize difficult soil areas with their hardiness and adaptability. There are wildflowers that love sun, and some that love shade. You don't need a large meadow to plant a wildflower garden — any space will do.
Wildflowers, true to their name, can be somewhat resistant to being cultivated, however. Some varieties of what we call "wildflowers" are a bit particular about where they will grow, and would rather control their own destiny. But once established, a wildflower garden will usually replenish itself year after year. It is also easy to care for: just mow at the end of the season, or in early spring, or leave it alone completely to do its thing.
Wildflowers are not appropriate for every garden space, but they're definitely worth a try if you have some space, plenty of sun, and a laid-back approach to growing flowers. Here are 15 of our favorite wildflower garden ideas.
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Pick a Wild Color Palette
Many gardeners spend long hours planning out their garden color palette. But for a wilder look, why not let Mother Nature do the planning? These spreading plants include multi-colored zinnias that happily reseed, creating a vibrant color palette that changes as new plants emerge.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Use Colorful Cornflowers
Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), also known as bachelor buttons are well known as tall, airy bright blue wildflowers that reseed and spread easily. But they come in a large variety of other colors including shades of white, pale blue, pink, purple, and bi-colors. Cornflowers spring up early in the season, so try planting the seeds in autumn.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Plant a Forget-Me-Not Forest
A great way to fill up a sun-dappled or shady woodland area is with forget-me-nots (Myosotis), which reseed freely. Their vivid blue flowers also sometimes come in shades of white or pale pink. To control spread, snip off the stems before the seeds dry and disperse in summer.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Mix the Colors
This wildflower meadow brings together purple, blue, red, yellow and orange flowers in varieties that reseed and spread easily, including tickseed (Coreopsis), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), butterfly weed (Asclepias), wild asters, and verbena. Including a mix of various wild grasses, this meadow also attracts many beneficial pollinators.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Create a Wild Cottage Garden
In cottage gardens that are allowed to meander and fill in as flower seeds drift and replenish empty spots, it's easy to obtain the look of a full, abundant wildflower meadow. This colorful array of flowers includes spiky purple hummingbird mint (Agastache) creamy yellow coreopsis, blue veronica, red salvia and pink cosmos. A treat for the eyes, and for the pollinators!Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Add Late Season Textures
One of the most exciting things about the wildflower garden is that even after blooms begin to fade, the shapes of the plants going to seed are still robust and beautiful. These tall thistles lend pink color to the garden in summer, but their tall statuesque shape lingers in the autumn landscape, when birds come to snack on their seeds.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Choose Showy Native Wildflowers
The white evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa 'Siskiyou') is a pale pink flower whose papery petals resemble the California poppy. It spreads via rhizome and also reseeds freely in gardens. It's drought-tolerant, so it does very well in xeriscape and desert gardens.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Create a Natural Orchard
Orchards are becoming more common with home gardeners. Letting wildflowers and grasses grow ensures plenty of pollinators for fruit tree blossoms. You can mow paths as needed for tree tending.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Cosmos: Late Summer Pollinator Magnets
Cosmos are a delight in the summer garden and are right at home in a wildflower meadow. They reseed themselves readily, and you can also collect the seeds in autumn and plant them in the spring. Their delicate lacy leaves and wispy flower petals are much like the colorful butterflies they attract. They come in a range of colors: a rainbow of pinks, white, rosy red, pale to bright yellow, and orange.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Plant a Backyard Bee Paradise
This wildflower garden was planted where some tall (but dangerous) trees were removed, using a simple wildflower seed assortment containing pollinator-friendly plants. This is a simple way to plant a small patch of wildflower meadow that can just be clipped, sheared or mowed down at the end of the season.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Embrace Wild and Crazy Color
This lush garden is full of native wildflowers as well as naturalized perennials, including yarrow, borage, Russian sage, hollyhocks and cosmos. Its untamed look provides an eclectic mix of textures, shapes, heights and colors.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Integrate a Seating Area
Here's a simple but stunning idea if you have a bit of space. Mow a circular area in your wildflower meadow and keep it mowed throughout the season. This creates a lovely feeling of a wild "room" where you can set up a seating area and enjoy the natural beauty along with your breakfast.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Even if you're not a beekeeper, you can help create delicious honey by planting native wildflowers. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), also known as Mojave buckwheat, is a native plant that has tiny but showy white flowers that are beloved of honeybees.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Make Wild Walkways
Wildflowers grow where they want, even on your garden paths. California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), also known as golden poppies, are a perfect native wildflower to introduce into your garden. They reseed freely and rapidly. You can also collect the seeds in late summer and scatter them where you wish. They grow in sandy well-drained soil, and will grow easily even in gravel walkways.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Let It Grow
This small walled garden has a cozy feel, and the overgrown wildflower patch makes it feel like you could almost get lost here. Wildflowers can really alter the feel of your yard, making it feel almost magical. Let things get a bit overgrown, and don't be surprised if you see some colorful birds and butterflies drawn to your oasis of wild beauty.
How do you start a wildflower garden?
The best way to start a wildflower garden is to pick a suitable spot. Ample sun, well-draining soil, and room to spread is a good start. A grassy meadow might need to be tilled a bit to loosen any tightly-compacted roots. Then plant a variety of seeds appropriate to your growing zone and see what takes.
Can I just sprinkle wildflower seeds on the ground?
You can sprinkle wildflower seeds on the ground to plant them as long as your chosen spot has loose, airy soil with good drainage. Many wildflowers reseed without having to be planted, including cosmos, cornflowers, asters, tickseed, California poppy, and calendula. Sprinkle them lightly, leaving some space for them to grow. You can tap on them gently with your hands or shoe to keep them from blowing around too much.
Is a wildflower garden low maintenance?
Wildflower gardens are much easier to maintain than traditional flower gardens. No fertilizer or special soil amendments are needed. Most wildflowers are drought tolerant but be sure to water a bit during a drought to keep blooms going. You can mow or cut back growth mid-season if you wish, and this can help slow down the rate of reseeding.