British wildflowers are some of the most reliable and beautiful plants you can grow. Being native, all of them have some benefit to wildlife, be it flowers for pollinators or leaves for caterpillars and other larvae.
How to grow wildflowers
Most wildflowers thrive in nutrient-poor soils similar to meadows, although some, such as ragged robin, cuckoo flower and snake’s head fritillary, thrive in damp soils and are best planted in a bog garden or around the edge of your pond. Always check the natural environment of the wildflowers before planting.
If transforming your lawn into a wildflower meadow, it’s a good idea to reduce fertility before planting. You can do this by removing the top soil and starting from scratch, but this is quite labour-intensive and not always suitable for the home gardener. Alternatively, simply plant wildflower plugs among the lawn and then gradually reduce soil fertility by mowing the area twice a year and removing the grass clippings.
Even a small garden can accommodate a patch of native wildflowers. In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Matthew Pottage from the RHS shows Monty Don how to prepare the soil and sow a patch of native Btitish wildflowers:
If you’re short of space, you can still grow wildflowers by planting up a wildflower container.
More on growing wildflowers:
Browse our list of British native wildflowers, below.
Ox-eye daisies have tall stems, with flowers from June-August. Happy on most garden soils in sun. Can be invasive.
Height x Spread: 890cm x 60cm.
Ragged robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi, is a striking wildflower, native to damp, wetland meadows. It’s a valuable nectar source for pollinators.
H x S: 75cm x 80cm
H x S: 70cm x 30cm
The corn marigold (Glebionis segetum) is an annual that thrives on newly cultivated soil in full sun. The yellow wildflowers flowers look especially pretty when growing among other wildflowers like cornflowers and ox-eye daisies.
H x S: 80cm x 30cm
Campanula glomerata and Campanula trachelium will flower much of the summer if grown in moisture-retentive soil. Campanula trachelium thrives in partial shade, while Campanula glomerata requires a more open situation.
H x S: 50cm x 1m
Betony (Stachys officinalis) is a beautiful long-lived perennial, with purple flowers that are popular with butterflies and bees.
H x S: 60cm x 20cm
A tall, marvellous native perennial, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) thrives in damp, semi-shaded habitats, including woodlands, hedgerows, rivers and ponds. It’s a great nectar plant for butterflies.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) is a colourful biennial that prefers a sunny, dry position. Wait for it to set seed in late summer before cutting down.
H x S: 75cm x 50cm
Common knapweed, Centaurea nigra, will do well in a variety of situations, from damp to dry, though dense woodland and wetland conditions are best avoided. Leave the seedheads on over winter to provide seeds for birds.
H x S: 70cm x 50cm
Bugle, Ajuga reptans, can be grown in both sunny and shady conditions, though damp soil is always needed for it to grow well.
H x S: 20cm x 80cm
Our native primrose, Primula vulgaris, heralds spring with its pale yellow flowers with a darker yellow centre. The flowers are an important source of nectar and pollen for a number of pollinators, while its leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of number of moth species.
H x S: 20cm x 35cm
Our native honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, bears fragrant pink, yellow and white blooms with long flower tubes. A magnet for long-tongued pollinators such as some bumblebees and moths. Its leaves are used as a caterpillar foodplant for the 20-plume moth.
H x S: 7m x 3.5m
Forget-me-not is a pretty biennial wildflower that thrives in shade. Its flowers are a magnet for a number of pollinators and its leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of many moth species. Perfect for edging paths and the front of borders.
H x S: 20cm x 15cm
Lily of the valley
Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, bears arching racemes of bell-shaped, white flowers with an extremely rich fragrance, from late spring. Plants spread quickly in shady positions, making it an excellent choice for a woodland garden or shady border.
H x S: 30cm x 20cm
Snake’s head fritillary
Snake’s head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, bears bell-shaped flowers in various shades of purple and occasionally white, always with a pronounced checked pattern all over. Plants are extremely hardy and trouble-free, and are ideal for growing in a variety of situations including containers, sunny spring borders and in wildflower meadows or areas of long grass. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
H x S: 30cm x 5cm
The pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris, is a beautiful spring flower, traditionally a sign that Easter has arrived. The silky buds open to light purple, cup-shaped flowers which mature to develop a star shape. As the flowers develop, ferny foliage starts to appear at the base of the stems, which continues to look good after the flowering season has finished.
Grow Pulsatilla vulgaris in well-drained soil in full sun. It takes a while to become established and resents being disurbed. If growing in the right conditions, it will self-seed, so leave the seedheads to allow colonies to build up. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
The dog rose, Rosa canina, bears an attractive burst of lightly scented, usually pink flowers in summer. These are followed by a terrific show of bright red hips. It’s fast growing and its stems are incredibly prickly, making it a good choice for an informal mixed hedge. It’s a great wildlife plant, attracting bees, butterflies, moths and birds. The density of its growth habit provides shelter for birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs.
H x S: 4m x 3m
The wood anemone is native to, and associated with, ancient woodland. It flowers between March and May and spreads via its roots.
H x S: 25cm x 10cm
Helleborus foetidus is a compact, evergreen perennial with more finely divided, elegant foliage than most hellebores. In spring its almost ferny clumps are joined by clusters of nodding, lime-green flowers held on thick stems just above the tops of the foliage. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
H x S: 80cm x 45cm
Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea is a native European foxglove woodland plant with spikes of tubular purple flowers with a spotted throat. It’s a popular biennial for a shady spot and looks fantastic when grown en masse at the back of a border. Its blooms are extremely attractive to bumblebees.
H x S: 1.5m x 45cm