How to Plant Wildflowers for Bees and Butterflies


Create a Wildflower Meadow

Butterflies and bees do such incredible work pollinating our crops. So let’s show them some love—by growing more wildflowers! In this short video (and article), we’ll explain how to plant more wildflowers in your own garden to benefit pollinators, lift your spirits, and boost harvests, too!

Why We Need Pollinators and They Need Us

One out of every three bits of food is thanks to bees as well as other pollinators. But bees need food to eat. With native wildflower meadows becoming scarce, pollinators need our help. Planting wildflowers is the perfect way to provide these amazing insects with the pollen, nectar and habitat they need to survive.

Flowers attract all kinds of beneficial insects – not just bees and butterflies but also predatory insects such as hoverflies and ladybugs. Together they help to boost harvests and keep common pests like aphids under control.

Flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen offer the most food for these insects. Wildflowers are best because they usually have simple, single flowers that are easier for flying insects to access. And it figures that native bugs will be more familiar with native wildflowers.

Here are some favorite native plants that are widely adaptable.

Know Your Local Wildlfowers

To grow well, wildflowers need the right growing conditions. Some wildflowers grow very well in sandy, free-draining soils that dry out often, while others are better suited to heavy clay soils.

Your local climate and soil will determine what you can grow. Some wildflowers, for example yarrow, knapweed and ox-eye daisy cope very well with sandy, free-draining soils that are prone to drought. Others like primrose, cowslip and buttercup are better suited to heavy clay soils.

Take time to research which wildflowers are native to your region then check their suitability to the conditions found in your garden to make sure your preferred wildflowers will thrive there.
Research which wildflowers are native to your region then check that they will suit your garden’s growing conditions to make sure they will thrive.

Check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a wildflower plant list by state and location.

Plan for Flowers All Year

To encourage beneficial insects to set up a permanent home in your garden make sure to provide flowers all year round.

Early spring starts with the plethora of bulbs planted in the fall time – snowdrops and crocuses, followed by daffodils, fritillaries and tulips. Native bulbs will naturally spread over time to become a permanent and very welcome feature of your garden.

At the other end of the season, examples of fall flowers include sedums, ivy and colchicum (also known as autumn crocus). Shrubs such as witch hazel flower from late winter on.

If you have try our online Garden Planner, it includes a range of flowers (including several wildflowers) that are perfect for growing within a fruit and vegetable garden. Click on the ‘i’ Information button next to the plant in the selection bar to discover how to grow them and which plants to grow them close to. Or, click on one or more vegetables in your plan then click the heart-shaped Companion Planting button to see plants that will grow well together.

Self-Seeding Wildflowers

Some flowers will self-seed so you only need to plant them once. They will drop seeds that will sprout and grow with little assistance. This is a major advantage to growing wildflowers; often you only need to plant once for a lifetime of blooms. Once you get your eye in, their seedlings are easy to spot and removing unwanted plants takes very little effort. Many self-seeders, such as Mexican fleabane, will happily establish in cracks within paving or walls.

Popular self-seeders include calendula, borage, and poppies, as well as a number of biennials or short-lived perennials like teasel, hollyhock and foxglove.

To introduce self-seeders in the first place simply scatter seeds onto prepared ground then rake in. If you want to grow them among your vegetables sow them in rows between crops or to the side of the plot as a ‘pollinator strip’.

Grow a Pollinator Strip

Alternatively, start seedlings off in pots then transplant them to where they are needed.

Create a Wildflower Meadow

By simply leaving an area of lawn alone through spring and summer – uncut, unfed and unwatered – you’ll be able to see if any wildflowers are already there. Then once you have seen what’s there you can easily supplement the display by planting plugs or bulbs of other wildflowers.

Another option is to sow a wildflower mix onto empty ground. Cornfield mixes are excellent for this purpose, providing a riot of color with an accompanying throng of insects mere months after sowing. Rake dug over, weed-free soil to a fine tilth then broadcast the seeds evenly over the surface. Rake again so the seeds are in contact with the soil then pat the surface down with the back of the rake. If it’s dry, water the sown area to speed germination along. The seedlings should appear within a couple of weeks.

You can show areas of wildflower meadow on your Garden Planner plan by selecting the meadow texture from the Palette, then choosing a solid shape to add to your plan. Learn more about the online Almanac Garden Planner.

Wildflowers are great for bees and butterflies, and to be honest they’re pretty darn good for the soul too! Please drop us a comment below to share your favorite wildflowers for attracting these beneficial bugs.

About The Author

Jennifer Keating

Jennifer is the Associate Digital Editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She is an active equestrian and spends much of her free time at the barn. When she’s not riding, she loves caring for her collection of house plants, baking, and playing in her gardens. Read More from Jennifer Keating

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Frances Gale (not verified)

1 year 7 months ago

I have a gigantic wildflower area and thoroughly enjoy all the various types of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that feed on the plants. I leave them all standing all winter and my birds feed on the seeds. In the spring I mow it all down and voila, I have a new wildflower patch as soon as it warms up enough to germinate.