Frustrated gardener

Why are my wildflowers not growing?

Wildflowers are pretty much the perfect combination. Not only do they look absolutely stunning when in bloom but they are fantastic for the environment, low maintenance and cost effective! With all that being said, wildflowers seemed to have developed a bit of a reputation for being difficult to grow. However, with just a few tips and tricks, I’ll help explain why your wildflowers may not have grown in the past and how to get them blooming this summer!

Top reasons why your wildflowers are not growing

Once wildflowers get going, they are pretty easy to look after and will provide fantastic, vibrant blooms during the summer months. However, it is the work we put in early doors which will make all the difference in the world – whether you’re growing wildflowers in a small garden bed or a larger meadow. This means that seedbed preparation and when/how you sow your wildflower seed are crucial for getting the results you want.

Wildflower seed sowing date

Let’s start at the very beginning and look at when you sowed your wildflowers.

The best time to sow wildflowers is in the spring and autumn months. During these seasons, there is usually the right amount of both sunshine and rainfall to get the young wildflower plants off to a good start. However, as we all know living in the UK, the weather is nothing, if not unpredictable! Therefore, if your wildflower seeds haven’t grown, it may be due to the weather around the time of sowing. To help, I’ve put together a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge and sowing your wildflower seed mix again:

Sowing date checklist:

  • Is the temperature forecast to be 8°C plus for the foreseeable future? If yes, sow!
  • Has there recently been a frost or is a frost forecast? If no, sow!
  • Is there rain forecast in the 7-10 days following sowing? If yes, sow!

Using this checklist, you can also sow in the summer months but the main thing to check when sowing in mid-summer is whether there are any drought periods forecast and, if so, can you water your wildflowers seeds manually to provide them with the moisture needed to establish.

If there are any more extreme forms of weather around the time of sowing or in those early growth stages, then this can easily lead to some severe stress for your wildflower seeds and young wildflower plants.

Wildflowers under stress

Like us humans, wildflowers can also feel the effects of tough times and also like humans this stress can manifest into physical symptoms and issues. Extreme weather, as previously mentioned, is one form of stress which may cause your wildflowers not to grow. However, if the weather was A-Okay, it may have been a different type of stress which prevented your seeds and young plants from growing.

Firstly, it’s worth checking that there wasn’t too much ‘traffic’ over the sowing area after the wildflower seeds were sown. Anything which may have compacted the soil from people to machinery could have prevented the young seedlings from being able to form their early root systems. This would ultimately stop your wildflower seeds from growing.

Another common form of stress which stops your wildflower area from growing is the seeds being eaten by animals, particularly birds. If a lot of the wildflower seeds you have sown are eaten, then the area may look patchy or sparse, as the seedlings start to develop. If you think that this is likely to be or has been a real problem, I would suggest covering the area with netting (which is reusable) until the plants are coming through and looking healthy.

Seedbed conditions

I’m going to say it…seedbed preparation is the most important part of the wildflower growing process to get right. If you put the effort in at this stage, I promise you, you won’t regret it. So how do you know if you haven’t prepped your seedbed right?

The first signs of not getting the seedbed prepped properly, will be the emergence of weeds and/or grasses in the area where you have sown your wildflowers. The growth of these plants, probably mean your wildflowers haven’t grown and instead you are left with unwanted weeds! If this has happened to you, then take a look at my top tips for prepping your seedbed to stop this from happening to you when you sow your next wildflower seed area:

Remove any weeds, grass or plants in the area

Remove all the existing weeds and grasses from the area, ideally by hand if possible. Leave the area for a couple of weeks and repeat the process of removing the unwanted grasses and weeds coming through.

Rotavate/break up soil for fine seedbed

Once you have removed the weeds or grasses, it’s important to break up the soil using a fork.

Rake over and roll

Using a rake go over the ground and if possible and if there is space walk over the soil to make the seedbed firm.

Wildflower seed sowing depth

If some or most of your wildflower seeds have not germinated and are not growing, it may be that they were sown a little too deep. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to sow your seeds at a shallow depth and only lightly rake over them. There is a fine balance here between getting the seed to make good contact with the soil and burying them so deep they do not get the sunlight they need to develop.

If you’re a little unsure of the prep and sowing process for your wildflower seed mix, know that 1. This is totally normal! And 2. YourGreen is here to help with simple yet effective advice for getting your wildflowers off to the best start.

Other reasons why your wildflowers are not growing

Mistakes at the early stages of sowing and growing your wildflowers is definitely the most common reason for why your seed hasn’t developed into healthy plants. However, there may be another couple of other reasons why your wildflowers are not growing which is worth noting.

Wildflower seed selection

Selecting the right wildflower seed mixture for you can seem a little daunting and if you have any doubts at all, you can always contact us for some help in making the right decision. Most YourGreen mixtures have been designed to grow in most situations, as long as the area gets sunlight and has access to water (whether rainfall or manual watering).

However, there are some occasions where you may need specialist wildflower seed mixtures in order to get the results you’re looking. These are mainly if you have:

Wetland areas

These are spaces which are often near streams, ponds, lakes, rivers or other waters. In some cases, wetland areas are just naturally boggy spots, which hold moisture and water. If your wildflowers have been sown in a wetland area and they haven’t grown, it may be that the seed mixture didn’t include the wildflower species most suited to wetland areas. When selecting a wildflower seed mix for wetland areas, look out for wildflowers such as Water Avens, Sneezewort and Purple Loosestrife.

Shaded areas

Shaded spaces are likely to be spots under trees, hedges, buildings or fences which get only partial sunlight throughout the day, even during the summer months. Again, if you have sown a wildflower mix in a shaded area and the plants have not grown, it’s likely that the species are not suited to growing in shaded areas and need full sunlight to establish properly. When choosing a mix for these shaded spaces keep an eye out for species such as Wood Sage, Wood Avens, Bluebell, Foxglove and Hedge Bedstraw. Most shaded wildflower seed mixtures will be labelled as being for shaded areas but if you’re not sure it’s worth asking the question to seed supplier! Especially if the area is heavily shaded.

Extreme soil types

Most soils whether slightly acidic, chalky, sandy or heavy will be absolutely fine for growing wildflowers. However, if you think you have extreme soil types where the soil struggles with growing plants usually, this may cause a problem for some wildflower species. My advice in this instance, speak to an expert and get some free advice. The YourGreen team is always available to help if you think that this may be an issue for growing wildflowers and we can offer all the advice you need to avoid your wildflowers not growing again!

Quality of wildflower seed

At YourGreen we take the quality of our seed very seriously and the same can be said for most wildflower seed retailers. The majority will do their best to provide seed mixtures which are great quality in terms of germination (how likely it is to produce a plant) and also cleanliness (the mix does not include weed or grass species). However, on occasion some wildflower seed packs may not be the quality you deserve and expect. Thankfully, this tends to be a rare event but if you have sown seed, followed all the sowing rules and they are still not growing, think back to where the seed was from.

Wildflower seed sample

Finding help when your wildflowers are not growing

As with anything in nature, there are a lot of variables and many which are not in our control! This makes every wildflower grower’s experience unique. At YourGreen, we want to make sure that this process is all about you and your journey, therefore we’re more than happy to provide you with bespoke advice and support. If you have any queries, please contact us and one of our friendly team will come back to you as soon as possible.