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Planting Wild Flower Seeds

Updated: Apr 22

white and red mixed wildflowers

Where should I plant them?

Wildflower seeds are best planted in well drained, nutrient poor soils in a sunny location.  Heavier clay soils hold on to nutrients, particularly phosphate, and this tends to favour grass and weed growth rather than flowering plants.  Wildflowers are very poor at tolerating competition from grasses as they quickly become shaded out.   Our brashy, thin Cotswold soils are ideal for wildflowers which is why we have such fantastic meadows such as Combe Hill.

You will probably have the best chance of success if you plant your seeds into an area of bare soil in the garden.

If you want to plant them into a grassy area you need to reduce grass competition as much as possible by cutting the grass really short and creating some bare ground by scarifying vigorously with a rake, aiming for about 50% bare ground before you sow.  Recommended seed rates vary but between 1 and 2 grammes per square metre should be about right. Sowing ‘yellow rattle’ can greatly help reduce the vigour of grass if you have a large area such as a meadow and will help your other wildflower plants become more easily established.

close up of mixed wildflowers

When should I plant them?

The best time to plant is in late summer/autumn between mid-August and mid-October, when the soil has been warmed up by the summer sun. They can also be planted in the spring between mid-March and the end of May. It is best to plant when there is plenty of moisture around, but the ground isn’t saturated. 

purple and blue wildflowers

How should I plant them?

Wildflowers should always be scattered on the surface of the soil and not be buried as they need light to germinate.  Seeds do however need good contact with the ground so gentle pressure with your hand or a roller, depending on the plot size is ideal, or you can just gently rake them over.  Carefully water them so that the seed doesn’t get washed away.

What after care do they need?

If you are planting in spring, make sure they don’t dry out.  One of the advantages of autumn sowing is the winter weather will generally do this for you.

If your seed mix is mostly perennials (e.g. if you are using seeds from our patch at Wotton Pool), they will reappear every year and if you can bear to cut them a couple of times in the first spring you will be rewarded with bushier stronger plants with more flowers, although they will then flower later in that first year.

Once established the plants will only need cutting back once a year in the late autumn.  This will allow them to shed their seeds naturally to maintain a good abundance of plants.  One year in three you can take an earlier cut so that you can collect the seed and use it to make your wildflower patch bigger!

If you have planted your wildflower seed into grass you will definitely need to keep the grass short in the first spring and thereafter cut twice a year; once in spring around April (as the grass starts to grow vigorously) and once in the autumn after the flowers have gone to seed.

The above are generalisations and it very much depends on what seeds you plant.  There are plants to suit every location so it's worth thinking about what your soil is and the aspect and getting seeds to match!

If you would like some of the seed harvested from the wildflower bed outside of Wotton’s pool, please contact us by emailing

wildflower bed outside Wotton swimming pool

With thanks to Moira Buist, Angela Sycamore and Bel Whitwam for the photos of the wildflower bed at Wotton pool. Thanks go also to Wotton Town Council for their collaboration with us on this and similar projects along the stream and at the Holywell Leaze picnic site.



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