Wildflowers – Form

Wildflowers are usually bought in one of the following forms:

  • Seed
  • Clumps
  • Pot grown plants / plugs
  • Bulbs, corms and tubers

Wildflowers can be bought as seed, both as single species and as mixtures.  Considerable research has been undertaken in establishing wildflowers from seed and it is worth reading the following:  Wells, TCE. 1989. The establishment and management of wildflower meadows. Peterborough, Nature Conservancy Council.; Ash, HJ, R Bennett and R Scott. 1992. Flowers in the grass. Peterborough, English Nature.; ‘Select Wildflowers’, in Plant User, issue 14, Spring 1994. pub. Landscape Design Trust.

The principal criterion for the purchase of seed is its origin or provenance.

Origin is defined as “the place in which an indigenous stand of plants is growing or the place from which a non-indigenous stand was originally introduced.”

Provenance is defined as “the place in which any stand of plants, whether indigenous or non-indigenous is growing.”

For the use of wildflowers, it is essential to research the appropriateness of the selected species to the final site.  Examples exist of particular species wildflowers planted where none have previously been.  If the chosen species establishes from seed then it is essential to specify the source of the seed. For certain species which grow widely throughout the British Isles, it is probably appropriate to specify “British Origin”. For wildflowers which are more specific to location, it may be necessary to specify that the seed should be collected, with all necessary rights and approvals, from a particular source  – “Local Origin”.

This subject is a matter of considerable research and it is recommended that the guidance of specialists is sought to determine the most appropriate species and specifications to use.

There is no simple method for checking the origin of wildflower seed.  In purchasing this type of plant it is essential to talk to suppliers and find out where they obtain their seed and how they recommend seeding and/or growing plants.

Seed may be used for perennial, short lived perennial and annual wildflowers. Increasingly perennial forms are being supplied as plants.  Examples of species which may establish from seed are wild grasses such as Agrostis tenuis (Common Bent); Anthoxanthum odoratum (Sweet Vernal Grass); Brizia media (Quaking grass). and wildflowers such as Betonica officinalis (Betony);Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower); Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury); Fumaria officinalis(Common Fumitory); Papaver rhoeas (Field poppy).

Rootballed clumps of herbaceous perennial wildflowers

Traditionally perennials were supplied as clumps, dug from open ground production and wrapped to prevent damage and desiccation. Increasingly, wildflowers are supplied pot or plug grown.  However, if wildflowers are supplied as clumps then the plants must have a good balance between the growing parts, i.e. the buds and the root system.  The buds, whether visible or not, must not be damaged in any way.

The root system must not be allowed to dry out at any time and the clump must be wrapped or protected by material which moisture within the root mass.

Native marginal and aquatic plants are often supplied as clumps, e.g. Phragmites communis(Common Reed); Sagittaria saggitifolia (Arrow-head); Scirpus lacustris (Club-rush); and other plants which can be propagated by division.

Pot grown Plants/Plugs

In recent years there has been considerable expansion in the supply of wildflowers in pots/containers.  There are many advantages in growing wildflowers in containers.  Some wildflower seed is difficult to germinate and may take some time to break dormancy.  The specified plants can be ‘true to name’ and checked as such if supplied as plants.  In addition, the benefits of a well grown, vigorous plant, established at the right time of year from container can ensure success more effectively than most other methods.  However, most wildflowers are planted out into conditions which are less than ideal for plant establishment.  The larger the plant and its root system, the more robust it is in confronting these rigours.  For this reason, it is important to consider the season and conditions into which the plant is to be established and the skills and resources in maintenance.  Containers of very small volumes are very prone to drying out.  For this reason, it is important to ensure the use of containers/pots or plugs which are sufficiently large to provide a satisfactory plant for the purpose.

Wildflowers are grown from seed in plugs (moulded trays containing a large number of individual compartments) or in pots which typically have a larger soil volume.

Many perennial wildflowers are grown in plugs or pots; for example, Achillea millifolium (Yarrow);Cardamine pratense (Lady’s Smock); Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove); Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill), Lotus corniculatus (Birds Foot Trefoil) and many others.


Bulbs, Corms or Tubers

Some wildflowers grow from perennating storage organs which can be used as a means of supply. As with other herbaceous perennials which grow similarly they can be specified as bulbs, corms and tubers and their specification using the same criteria as indicated in Section HP.B. Reference to that section will give details. Examples are Allium ursinum (Ramsons); Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell), Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Wild Daffodil).