Wildflowers sprawl across meadows showing off their bright colors and natural beauty. Thriving in their natural habitat, wildflowers need little help to spread and multiply. Seeds are carried through the wind or utilize birds and animals to carry them across the landscape.
Planting a wildflower cottage garden allows us to enjoy their fragrant, beautiful blossoms all summer without worrying about weeds or watering. Growing wildflowers near a vegetable garden has an added benefit of increased pollination for larger yields of produce.
The absolute best part about growing wildflowers is not just to look at them, but the positive impact those flowers have on the planet. Wildflowers provide food and habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects while improving soil conditions and enhancing the local ecosystem through biodiversity. Without flowers, life on earth would be very grim indeed.
Defining a wildflower planting with cottage garden style is a great way to provide some informal structure. Cottage gardens are designed with tightly packed flowers that overlap and blend flawlessly. Wildflower seeds can be designed with slightly more intentional patterns than the traditional scatter planting to give them that cottage style. Plant wildflower seeds by species in 2-3 foot sections to create a wild cottage-style garden.
Wildflowers are best suited to edges, meadows and other unmanaged areas of the yard. They should have room to naturalize and spread out without being over-managed. A wildflower cottage garden design should be unrestrained and relaxed. Embrace the thistles and dandelions.
With that being said, plants can be arranged with a loose structure in mind. Choosing a color scheme for your garden can give it a more intentional look. Remember that different colors can evoke different emotional responses, so think about the experience you want when you look at your garden.
Cool colors like blue, purple, white, and green are calming and relaxing, which can provide a soothing garden stroll. On the other hand, bright or warm colors such as red, pink, orange and yellow give us a sense of vibrancy, energy and adventure.
Complimentary color schemes (when the colors are opposites on the color wheel) are also proven winners in garden design. Pair yellow + purple, blue + orange and red + green using different species of wildflowers in the same color spectrum. White blossoms are a great compliment to any other color. My personal favorite garden color scheme, however, has to be the rainbow!
Height can also be included in a wildflower garden design. Shorter wildflowers, that grow to less than 18 inches can be planted along what will be the edge of your garden. This could be, along the edges of driveways and paths, or an edge where a mowed lawn meets the wildflowers. Then layer medium height plants that grow between 18 and 36 inches in the mid zone with taller species over 3 feet further back.
The best part about planting a wildflower garden is how quickly it can be done. There are no nursery transplants or endless holes that need to be dug. But how do we plant an area with thousands of seeds in an efficient way? Here are a few planting methods that can get your wildflower cottage garden planted in a weekend.
Preparing the Bed
There is no need to till up the ground before planting your wildflower seeds. If needed, you can clear leaves to ensure your seeds come in contact with the soil. Using marking flags or grading stakes tied with string can help you map out where to plant. Mark out edges or areas where you want to change height or color.
Broadcasting a mixture of seeds on top of existing ground cover is the quickest and easiest method of planting. If you are planting in a meadow with tall grass, it is helpful to cut or smash down the tall growth to give new seeds enough sunlight to germinate. If the area is covered in thick growth, aerate and scarify the soil to prepare it for planting. Tilling can give better results for germination, but it destroys soil structure, so if you desire a bare planting area, use cardboard or heavy duty landscaping fabric to kill turf at least six weeks before planting.
It can be helpful to mix sand, cracked corn or another bulking agent with your seeds to get a more even spread and allow you to see where you’ve sown them. After scattering your seeds around, either in a specific pattern or at random, use a lawn roller or even your foot to press the seeds down and ensure they won’t blow away. Water the area for several weeks, if possible, to speed up seed germination.
Once you have your wildflower seeds, you can give them an excellent start to germination by using seed balls. To make a seed ball, mix clay soil or clay powder with compost. Then add water until you have a moldable consistency. You can then add a wildflower seed mix or individual species of wildflowers to create 1/2 inch sized balls. Seed balls can be thrown around your planting area to suit your design.
It takes a lot of seeds to plant an entire meadow of wildflowers, typically annuals will require a higher quantity of seed than perennials. A good rule of thumb is to plant 3-8 ounces of seed per 1000 square feet or 6-15 pounds of seed per acre but some recommend as much as 25 pounds per acre. The more seeds you plant, the higher chances you’ll have of a full garden.
It can take several years to establish a new patch of wildflowers, so be patient and continue to fill in any holes you notice in subsequent years. Don’t get discouraged if your perennials don’t bloom the first year, some species may take several years to mature and bloom.
Pollinators Need Wildflowers
Bee populations have been in severe decline over the last few decades, putting food crops in great peril, worldwide. By planting wildflowers, we can supply food in the form of pollen and nectar to bees and other pollinating creatures, in turn, nurturing our own food security. For the health of beneficial insects and birds, always avoid using pesticides or chemicals on your wildflowers.
There are a variety of pollinator wildflower seed mixes on the market that are already blended for bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators. You may also want to consider planting wildflowers that will attract beneficial insects which prey upon pest insects to help your vegetable garden.
Butterfly Milkweed, New England Aster, Wallflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Sweet Alyssum, Red Corn Poppy, California Orange Poppy, Purple Coneflower, Yellow Prairie Coneflower, Gaillardia, Lemon Queen, Gayfeather, Lupine, Bergamot, Primrose, Phacelia, Crimson Clover, Echinacea, California Poppy, and Baby Blue Eyes
Butterfly Milkweed, Chinese Forget Me Not, Columbine, Snapdragon, Aster, Cosmos, Larkspur, Foxglove, Bird’s Eye, Toadflax, Alyssum, Four O’ Clock-Marvel, Lemon Mint, Maltese Cross, Jasmine, Poppy, Penstemon, Sage, Catchfly, Marigold, Nasturtium, Zinnia, and Treemallow
Rocket Larkspur, Perennial Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Gay Feather Liatris, Four-o-Clocks, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Scarlet Sage, Gilia, Annual Red Phlox, Sweet William Pinks, Spurred Snapdragon, Lemon Mint, Giant Columbine, Eastern Columbine, Tussock Bellflower, Wild Petunia, and Foxglove
Choose bio-regional species of wildflowers that are adapted to your climate. Click on one of the links below to see wildflower species that thrive in your area:
- Northeast Wildflowers
- Southeast Wildflower Seed Mix
- Midwest Wildflower Seed Mix
- Western Mountain Region
- California Natives
- Southwest Wildflower Seed Mix
- Pacific Northwest Wildflowers
- Drought Tolerant Wildflowers
- Moist Loving Wildflowers
Consider making your wildflower patch multi-purpose by layering in herbs and medicinal flowers or plant varieties that make beautiful cut flowers for the table or market. Edible flowers make for wonderful seasonings, jellies, salads, pie and more, just be sure you know how to identify them properly amongst your other wildflowers. Create biodiversity for different bloom times by planting at least 20 different types of flowers.
You can purchase a perennial wildflower seed mix or choose a combination of perennials based on the height or color that fits into your design.
- Achillea millefolium | White Yarrow | 24 to 36″ | White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Aquilegia vulgaris | Columbine | 10 to 18″ | Red/Violet/Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Aster novae angliae | New England Aster | 24 to 36″ | Blue/Purple/White/Pink Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Cheiranthus allionii | Siberian Wallflower | 10 to 18″ | Orange Color Blossoms | Zone 3-7
- Chrysanthemum maximum | Shasta Daisy | 16 to 24″ | White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Coreopsis lanceolata | Dwarf Lance-Leaf Coreopsis | 18 to 36″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 4-9
- Dianthus barbatus | Sweet William | 12 to 24″ | White/Purple/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Echinacea purpurea | Purple Coneflower | 24 to 36″ | Purple Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Gaillardia aristata | Blanketflower | 18 to 30″ | Yellow/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Liatris spicata | Gayfeather | 24 to 48″ | Purple Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Linum lewisii | Blue Flax | 18 to 30″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Lupinus perennis | Lupine |12 to 36″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Oenothera missouriensis | Dwarf Evening Primrose | 8 to 12″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Ratibida columnifera | Mexican Hat | 12 to 36″ | Red/Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 4-9
- Ratibida columnifera | Prairie Coneflower | 12 to 36″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 4-9
- Rubeckia hirta | Black Eyed Susan | 12 to 36″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
Most annual wildflowers will drop seeds and populate next year’s blooms. Although colder climates will have a more difficult time getting some of these species to germinate naturally the following year after a long winter. Check your growing zone to determine if these annuals are right for you, or enjoy them for a season and see if any take hold the next year. You can always harvest and save annual seeds you want to replant if they are not hardy in your growing zone.
- Callistephus chinensis | Aster | 12 to 36″ | Blue/Pink/White/Purple Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Calendula officinalis | Pot Marigold | 12 to 24″ | Yellow/Orange/Cream Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Centaurea cyanus | Bachelor Button, Polka Dot Mix | 12 to 36″ | Mixed Colors Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Clarkia amoena | Godetia | 8 to14″ | Pink/White Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Clarkia elegans | Clarkia | 18 to 30″ | Pink/Lavender Color Blossoms | Zone 2-10
- Coreopsis tinctoria | Plains Coreopsis | 12 to 36″ | Yellow-Maroon Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cosmos bipinnatus | Cosmos, Dwarf Sensation | 36 to 60″ | White/Pink/Crimson/Rose Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cynoglossum firmament | Chinese Forget Me Not | 18 to 24″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 6-9
- Delphinium ajacis | Larkspur | 12 to 36″ | White/Pink/Blue/Violet Color Blossoms | Zone 1-10
- Dimorphotheca aurantiaca | African Daisy | 8 to16″ | Orange/Salmon/White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Eschscholzia californica | Poppy, Mission Bells | 12 to 18″ | Yellow/Orange Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Gaillardia pulchella | Annual Gaillardia | 12 to 24″ | Yellow-Red Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Gypsophila elegans | Baby’s Breath | 8 to 18″ | White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Helianthus annuus | Sunflower | 24 to 72″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Helichrysum monstrosum | Strawflower | mixed 24 to 36″ | Yellow/White/Red/Pink Color Blossoms | Zone 1-11
- Iberis umbellata | Candytuft | 12 to 18″ | White/Pink/Violet Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Lavateria trimestris | Tree mallow | 24 to 48″ | White/Pink Color Blossoms | Zone 1-10
- Lobularia maritima | Alyssum, Tall Sweet | 8 to 16″ | White Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Oenotheria lamarckiana | Evening Primrose | 24 to 60″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Papaver rhoeas | Shirley Poppy | 12 to 30″ | White/Pink/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Phacelia campanularia | California Bluebells | 8 to 20″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 2-10
- Silene armeria | Catchfly | 16 to 22″ | Pink Color Blossoms | Zone 5-8
- Tagetes erecta | Marigold | 12 to 16″ | Yellow/Orange/Maroon Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Zinnia elegans | Zinnia | 12 to 36″ | White/Purple/Yellow/Orange/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
To give your wildflower cottage garden a bit of shape, plant short wildflowers in the front or along borders.
- Centaurea cyanus | Dwarf Bachelor Button | 12 to 36″ Height | Blue or Mixed Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cheiranthus allionii | Siberian Wallflower | 10 to 18″ Height | Orange Color Blossoms | Zone 3-7
- Clarkia amoena | Dwarf Farewell to Spring | 8 to 14″ Height | Pink/White Color Blossoms | Zone 2-10
- Collinsia heterophyla | Chinese Houses | 12 to 24″ Height | White-Violet Color Blossoms | Zone 1-10
- Coreopsis lanceolata | Dwarf Lance Leaf Coreopsis | 18 to 36″ Height | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 4-9
- Coreopsis tinctoria | Dwarf Plains Coreopsis | 12 to 36″ Height | Yellow-Maroon Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cynoglossum firmament | Chinese Forget Me Not | 18 to 24″ Height | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 6-9
- Dianthus barbatus | Sweet William | 8 to 12″ Height | White/Pink/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Dimorphotheca aurantiaca | African Daisy | 8 to 16″ Height | Orange/Salmon/White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Eschscholtzia californica | California Poppy | 12 to 18″ Height | Yellow/Orange Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Gypsophila elegans | Baby’s Breath | 8 to 18″ Height | White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Iberis umbellata | Candytuft | 12 to 18″ Height | White/Pink/Violet Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Linum lewisii | Blue Flax | 18 to 30″ Height | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Lobularia maritima | Sweet Alyssum | 8 to 16″ Height | White Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Nemophila menziesii | Baby Blue Eyes | 4 to 12″ Height | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Phacelia campanularia | California Bluebells | 8 to 20″ Height | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 2-10
- Silene armeria | Catchfly | 16 to 22″ Height | Pink Color Blossoms | Zone 5-8
Wildflowers for Partial Shade
Partial shade wildflowers do well in woodlands or on the edge of a forest. They could be a great option to plant under a large shade tree in the yard or even beside a barn.
- Aquilegia vulgaris | Garden Columbine | 10 to 18″ | Blue and Mixed Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Centaurea cyanus | Bachelor’s Button | 12 to 36″ | Blue and Mixed Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cheiranthus allionii | Siberian Wallflower | 10 to 18″ | Yellow/Orange Color Blossoms | Zone 3-7
- Chrysanthemum maximum | Daisy Chrysanthemum | 16 to 24″ | Yellow/White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-8
- Clarkia elegans | Clarkia Mix | 18 to 30″ | Pink/Purple/White Color Blossoms | Zone 2-10
- Coreopsis lanceolata | Lance Leaf Coreopsis | 18 to 36″ | Yellow Color Blossoms | Zone 4-9
- Coreopsis tinctoria | Plains Coreopsis | 12 to 36″ | Yellow/Maroon Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Cynoglossum amabile | Chinese Forget-Me-Not | 18 to 24″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 6-9
- Delphinium consolida | Rocket Larkspur | 12 to 36″ | White/Lavender Color Blossoms | Zone 1-10
- Dianthus barbatus | Sweet William | 12 to 24″ | Pink/Red/White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-9
- Digitalis purpurea | Common Foxglove | 24 to 48″ | Mixed Color Blossoms | Zone 4-8
- Gypsophila elegans | Annual Baby’s Breath | 8 to 18″ | White Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
- Lavatera trimestris | Rose Mallow | 24 to 48″ | Pink/White Color Blossoms | Zone 1-10
- Nemophila menziesii | Baby Blue Eyes | 4 to 12″ | Blue Color Blossoms | Zone 2-11
- Papaver rhoeas | Shirley Poppy | 12 to 30″ | White/Pink/Red Color Blossoms | Zone 3-10
Wildflower Cottage Gardens
Designing a wildflower cottage garden can turn an otherwise wasted yard space into an oasis of blossoms. Wildflowers provide a safe haven for pollinators and wildlife while bringing joy to all who look upon them. With minimal effort, you can plant a wildflower patch this year to enjoy for generations to come.
For more inspiration, check out these Top 20 Flowers for a Cottage Garden!
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