Wildflowers are crucial for the environment for a variety of reasons. But, one of the most vital is the part they play in supporting insects and pollinators, such as butterflies and bees. Wildflowers provide wildlife with essential nectar, pollen, food, shelter and breeding spaces. However, advancements in agriculture have seen the steady decline of natural wildflower meadows. Yet, you can cultivate your own wildflower garden and keep our vital pollinators safe and fed. There are many flowers to attract bees that you can plant in your garden, but none do the job quite as well as wildflowers. Colourful, beautiful and low maintenance, wildflowers are an incredibly beneficial addition to any garden. So, here are the top 10 wildflowers to include in your garden.
Starting off our top 10 wildflowers is the gorgeous lavender. Lavender is a beautiful strong-smelling wildflower that blooms in late summer and early autumn. A favourite of bees and butterflies, this evergreen shrub can spread from 0.1 – 0.5 metres and produces clusters of pale purple-pink flowers. Lavender will grow best in well-draining, sandy soil with a medium level of fertility.
Cornflowers are a common sight around cornfields, hence their name. There are plenty of cornflower varieties for you to choose from, all of which are relatively easy to grow and integrate into a wildflower meadow. These annuals can grow as tall as 75 cm[i], and their purple-blue flowers appear throughout late spring and summer. Cornflowers prefer well-draining soil, and you should plant them in full sun.
The primrose is one of the UK’s favourite wildflowers, and it’s also one of the earliest to bloom around the country. Usually, you can spot primroses in the countryside around woodland and by riverbanks. Primroses form yellow coloured flowers that appear in spring and emit a sweet, tangy smell. They prefer moist soil that’s more neutral than acidic and can grow in both full sun and partial shade.
The distinguishable vibrant scarlet blooms of wild poppies look beautiful in a wildflower meadow or grown as borders. They provide plenty of pollen for bees and produce bowl-shaped flowers that can pop up in a range of colours depending on your chosen variety. Poppies require well-drained soil and will thrive if you plant them in full sun. It would be best to sow them in late autumn for full flowering in summer.
Candytuft is the ideal wildflower for getting children into gardening since it will grow quickly from seeds that you can sow directly into the soil. This low-growing plant produces lots of multi-petaled flowers, which can be blue, pink or purple. The foliage of candytuft is evergreen, but you can see its rounded blooms throughout spring and summer. Candytuft prefers to be planted in a full sun area in well-draining, alkaline soil.
Like Candytuft, Columbine is simple to grow from seed, producing nodding bonnet-shaped flowers. Wild columbine flowers are usually blue; however, garden varieties can come in white, purple, pink or mauve. You can see these flowers throughout spring and summer. Columbine can grow in partial shade but prefers full sun and will do best in well-drained, moist soil.
Corncockle is a tall wildflower variety that produces white and magenta coloured flowers during summer. Its foliage will flux between green, silver and grey as the warmer months draw to a close, providing some beautiful colour contrast in a wildflower meadow. Corncockle prefers a sunny spot in well-drained, sandy soil, and you will get the most out of it if you sow it in spring. However, you should be aware that all parts of corncockle can cause severe issues if ingested.
Another wildflower that can grow taller than you (some have reached 250 cm[ii]), the foxglove is a self-sowing plant that produces tubular purple flowers in summer. However, the foxglove’s foliage can last from spring until autumn. Foxgloves are incredibly poisonous if ingested, yet they are widely used in folk medicines. The foxglove will thrive in chalky, moist soils under full sun or partial shade.
Bluebells are common in the British countryside, and their violet, funnel-shaped flowers are a sure sign of spring. Bluebells are the perfect low maintenance wildflower with a clump-forming habit and deciduous foliage. They will grow best in chalk or sand soils that are moist but well-drained and prefer partial shade over full sun.
To bring our list of the top 10 wildflowers to a closer, we have the fritillary flower. Its intriguing bell-shaped purple flowers set the snake’s head fritillary apart from other wildflowers. These nodding flowers have freckles of pink in a checkerboard fashion and, although commonly spotted around the British countryside, are not actually native to our shores. Fritillaries will grow well in moist but well-drained chalky soil under full sun or partial shade.
Although natural wildflowers may be in decline, the same doesn’t have to be said in your garden! Instead, a collection of wildflowers will brighten up your garden and invite a whole host of wildlife into your space. Plus, with a sturdy garden bench by your new wildflower meadow, you can witness the thriving ecosystem you have provided without disturbing it.
What are your top 10 wildflowers? Let us know!
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.