How to sow a wildflower meadow

Wildflower meadows are a fantastic alternative to a grass lawn that require less cutting and are far better for wildlife.

Whether you’re planning a wild patch in your garden or something larger in a neighbourhood greenspace, read on to find out how to create your own wildflower meadow.


Five spot burnet moth
Five spot burnet moth on bird’s foot trefoil © Gillian Day


You can create a wildflower area from scratch on any patch of bare ground. Pick a poor patch of ground that hasn’t been cultivated recently as wildflower meadows establish best on unproductive soil. It’s worth checking what sort of soil you have and its pH before you choose which seeds to sow; wildflower seed merchants supply mixes suitable for various soil types and situations.

To create a wildflower meadow from scratch

  1. Control weeds by digging or rotovating, burying any vegetation to a depth of 15-20cm. This also brings less fertile soil to the surface.
  2. Firm and rake the surface to make a seedbed.
  3. Don’t be tempted to add manure or fertiliser as this will encourage excessive vigour in the grasses, which then swamp the wildflowers. This is the most important principle in establishing a wildflower meadow.
  4. Sow in autumn, giving the seed time to settle in over winter. If you are on heavy clay however, it is better to wait until spring. Even large areas can be sown by hand quite easily.
  5. Ensure that the seed is scattered evenly by sowing half lengthways and the remaining half widthways across the plot.

Maintaining your meadow

During the first year, it’s essential to get the mowing regime right. Cut to a height of 5-7cm whenever the average height of foliage reaches between 10-20cm. The number of mows required will range depending on your conditions and the seeds you’ve chosen to sow, but will likely be between one and four mows. Control assertive weeds like thistles, nettles and docks by hand-weeding.

After this, a couple of cuts a year should be enough: once in late July/early August and then again in early autumn. After mowing, always leave the clippings for a couple of days to drop any seed, then rake up and remove to keep soil fertility down.

Poppy meadow patch
A patch of poppy meadow in Leith Links, Edinburgh © Pete Haskell

Top tips

  • Be careful when mowing – small mammals, amphibians and reptiles may be hiding in the grass. Some birds nest in larger meadows, so don’t mow until after the beginning of August.
  • Wildflowers are available in plug form and in ready-planted turf rolls, which can make establishing the plants even easier.
  • Sow a mix of wild grass and wild flower seed.

Suggested species

Click on the sowing season to find out our suggested species.
  • Dropwort
  • Grape hyacinth
  • Red campion
  • Oxlip
  • Foxglove
  • Primrose
  • Cowslip
  • Ribwort plantain
  • Black medick
  • Hoary plantain
  • Selfheal
  • Wild daffodil
  • Bluebell
  • Sweet cicily
  • Meadow buttercup
  • Ox-eye daisy
  • Cow parsley
  • Cock’s-foot
  • Wild thyme
  • Lady’s bedstraw
  • Chamomile
  • Autumn hawbit
  • Feverfew
  • Meadowset
  • Teasel
  • Betany
  • Field Scabious
  • Musk mallow
  • Toadflax
  • Foxglove
  • Bird’s-foot-trefoil
  • Tufted vetch
  • Bladder campion
  • Goatsbeard
  • Pignut
  • Scentless mayweed
  • Oxeye-daisy
  • White campion
  • Wild carrot
  • Common agrimony
  • Greater knapweed
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Red clover
  • Red campion
  • Perforate St John’s Wort
  • Ribwort plantain
  • Yarrow
  • Harebell
  • Wild thyme
  • Yellow rattle
  • Common mallow
  • Hoary plantain
  • Devil’s-bit scabious
  • Viper’s bugloss
  • Kidney vetch
  • Salad burnet
  • Lady’s bedstraw
  • Nettle leaved bell flower
  • Dropwort
  • Dryers greenweed
  • Selfheal
  • Lesser knapweed
  • Meadow cranesbill
  • Small scabious
  • Cock’s-foot
  • Sheep’s-fescue
  • Bulbous buttercup

Time to complete

2 hours+

Anticipated cost

Difficulty Level

Suitable location

Size of garden/greenspace

Best time of year

Associated wildlife


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