How to get wildflower seeds
So you want to try sowing and growing UK native wildflowers, but don’t have any seeds?
You’ve come to the right place! The good news is that seeds are relatively easy to get hold of and shouldn’t be too expensive, depending on what seeds you get.
You can buy them from a local garden centre, DIY, supermarket, or online shop. Alternatively, you could try and get donations from other wildflower growers or even collect them yourself, bearing in mind COVID-19 safety and current legislation. Here is some information on how to get your hands on some wildflower seeds in time for the sowing season.
Important notice: if you are in a rural or semi-rural area you may need to be a bit more careful to avoid introducing something that could upset the local balance of plants and wildlife… in which case you should seek advice from your local Wildlife Trust.
However sometimes humans gather the seeds from these wildflowers before they drop. They’re the people you want to find!
You can read more about how to gather seeds on our page How to Collect and Store your Wildflower Seeds
The great thing about getting seeds this way (besides the fact they’re free!) is that you know where they have been grown, so can be confident they are native to where you will be sowing them.
You could put a call out to your friends on social media or by email. Or you could research online to see if there are any projects or sites near you that may have some free seeds available.
What we mean by ‘native’ is that the seeds are naturally found, and have been grown in, the country where you want to sow them. You can usually find this information on the back of the seed packet, although it’s not always written down.
We are passionate about encouraging people in the UK to grow native wildflowers, so if you’re visiting a garden centre or an online shop, make sure you ask where their seeds come from.
Here are things to look out for:
Check the label - check to see if they are labelled as UK natives.
Mixed bag - many of the wildflower seed mixes found in garden centres and online may contain seeds of exotic plants, which have been included for their colour or ‘showiness’, but which may not be as beneficial to UK wildlife as true UK native wildflowers.
Origins - your supplier ought to be able to tell you where the seeds originated from.
For rural or semi-rural sites - a reputable supplier should be able to offer advice on the best seed mix for your site.
Important notice: seed should not be sent or brought back from overseas without the correct plant health permits.
You can read more about why UK native wildflowers are important on our page Why wildflowers matter
All the guidance we provide is how to sow wildflower seeds and may not be relevant for other kinds of seed, like sunflower, so bear this in mind when looking for seeds to buy.
There are over 1,600 species of wildflower in Britain and Ireland. So there’s no shortage to choose from! You can buy packets containing seeds of a single wildflower such as oxeye daisy, but for a vivid and multi-coloured display you can buy mixtures of different seeds. You will most likely find that shops and garden centres offer you things like ‘Annual Wildflower Seeds’ or a ‘Wildflower Collection’.
On the back of the packet it will list the different kind of seeds inside, and you can use our Wildflower Gallery to see what kind of flowers these seeds produce, if they’re listed!
All wildflowers fall into one of the following categories:
Annual wildflowers put on a show in their first summer and quickly produce seed, which then grows into new plants the following year. And so it goes on.
Perennial flowers will wait to burst into flower in their second summer - and carry on for many years beyond.
Biennial flowers grow in their first year but don’t flower and produce seeds until their second year, although some occasionally defy convention by acting like annuals. After producing seeds, these plants usually die in the same way as an annual.
For a long-lasting display of wildflowers beyond the first year it’s a good idea to try and buy a mix that contains a variety of all of the above.
If there are any other words you don’t recognise, see if they’re explained in our A-Z of Growing Words
It depends how big a patch you’re using!
Yeah, we know, it sounds obvious but it can be tricky to work out how much is enough. A good rule of thumb is 1g for 1m² but it never hurts to allow extra for more liberal sowing. Most seed packets on the market range from 1-3g but make sure you check what the packet says before buying.
And just to throw a spanner in the works… the size of seed varies depending on the species so some packets will tell you the number of seeds rather than the weight. If so, you just need a vague idea of the size of the wildflowers to estimate the amount of space the packet can cover (although bear in mind that not all the seeds will germinate).
But hold on…! Before you design a mind-boggling calculation to work out exactly what you need, or get halfway through sowing and realise you’ve run out of seeds, perhaps just get a bit extra. You can always sow any leftovers next time.
Once you’ve purchased your seeds you need to store them in a cool, dry, vermin-free place until you sow them. This will keep them healthy and ensure their viability doesn’t drop too much. (Viability is the ability of the seed to germinate, it declines as the seed gets older.)
What if I want to sow a much larger area?
If buying large amounts of seed it’s likely to be cheaper to go to a specialist grower.
Can I get plants instead of seeds?
Yes you can, however you may want to consider these different factors first:
What you want to grow – if you can’t find the seeds for a particular wildflower you may instead be able to get your hands on a plug plant (see below)
Budget - seeds are relatively cheap, while potted plants will be expensive, particularly for a big area.
Cost v. effort - pre-grown plants need less initial site preparation but will cost you more than seeds.
Time of year - lots of wildflower seeds need a period of cold to germinate, while pre-grown plants are already established and can be planted out later in the year if you’ve missed the seed sowing window.
Results - how quickly do you want to see the fruits of your labour? Seeds will take longer to show results but may surprise you once they get going.
What's a plug plant?
In your searching you may come across the option of seeds or plug plants. A plug plant is a seed that has already been grown into a very small plant. They can give you a head start but will cost more money than seeds. And if you’re sowing your seeds in Autumn, it may be better to use seeds.
If you have any further questions, drop our team an email at [email protected] and we will try to help.