Free Wildflower Seeds
When I first wrote this page, it linked in to a couple of websites offering free wildflower seeds. However, those offers have since expired, so I now find myself thinking up ways for people to get hold of wildflower seeds for free.
This time, I'm not going to link into temporary offers, because I only have to go back and sort out broken website links later, so I'm going to approach this topic differently. Instead, I have put together a list of suggestions of how you can obtain free wildflower seeds for bees and other pollinators.
Bumble bee foraging on Common Mallow - Malva sylvestris
You can also check my list of wildflowers loved by different species of bees (as well as other pollinators, of course!).
Why We Need More Wildflowers
Wildflower habitats are crucial to wildlife, but in many countries,
these habitats have been drastically reduced. This is bad news for the
pollinators that depend upon them.
Why has this happened? A few
reasons, but especially farming and agriculture practice, and building
development which has seen housing being built on green belt - I discovered my own home had been built on what was a meadow about 25 years ago.
A bumble bee and a leafcutter bee foraging on thistles.
Whilst I am in favour of seeing more wildflowers around, to an extent, I urge you to have a good think about things before you throw lots of seeds around in your garden, even if they were free wildflower seeds:
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- Do you know what you are sowing? Be cautious when using free wildflower seed mixes - or purchased ones for that matter.
- Be careful not to include non-native, invasive species (not that I am against non-native plants in general - indeed many are very beneficial to pollinators).
- Which kinds of wildflowers can your garden accommodate?
For example, if you have heavy clay soil, there is no point in trying to sow seeds that only thrive in dry conditions, and vice versa. Ensure you match your growing conditions to the wildflowers selected.
- Are you sure about how you are going to incorporate wildflowers, and is it the best option for both you and the pollinators in your area?
The final point may seem a strange thing to write. Mostly, I would assert that wildflowers are always great. However, I will explain my reasoning further down the page.
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How To Get Hold Of Free Wildflower Seeds For Bees And Pollinators
Bombus lapidarius - red-tailed bumble bee male, feeding on hemp agrimony - Eupatorium cannabinum.
Here is a list of ideas:
- If legal in your area, collect them from wildflower verges. Be sure not to disturb rare species of plant.
- Find the owner of a meadow nearby, and ask if they would allow you to collect seeds.
- Sometimes, conservation organisations promote wildflowers, and will even give away seeds or sell them for a small price.
- If you are seeking free wildflower seeds for a charitable project, you may be able to get a donation from a supplier of wildflower seeds, or at least a discount. I have personally instigated this to help a school, so I know there are suppliers who will help. Look on line to find a supplier, and write them an email. Don't be offended if they say "no" - try some-one else. Be sure to use the email address of your school or charity, and explain the project clearly.
- Councils may be able to supply you, especially if you are hoping to convert a large area. Some councils are keen to promote the planting of wildflowers as part of their schemes to aid pollinators and biodiversity.
- Join local gardening and conservation groups - it may be possible to share and swap wildflower seeds.
- Look out for offers on the internet and on social media. Sometimes there are free seeds available, or very cheaply.
Incorporating Wildflowers Into The Garden
- In smaller gardens,
sometimes it's better to be very selective in your choice of
wildflower, and how you use them.
Having tried initially to convert
our small lawn into a
wildflower patch (mini-meadow) a few years ago, I changed my mind about how to manage my garden.
I had persevered with trying to create a mini-meadow for a couple of
years, but it didn't really work as I had hoped, and to be perfectly
honest, we did not enjoy the garden, nor did we attract the number of pollinators I hoped to see. Furthermore, we wanted to grow a few food crops: raspberries, plums, sometimes beans and corgettes. I also wanted a greenhouse for growing tomatoes.
In short, it seemed neither we not the bees really got the benefit from our
patch of land. If we'd had a large piece of land, I might have seen and chosen things differently, perhaps persevering even longer an experimenting to try and make the wildflower 'mini-meadow' idea work.
I now keep the grass cut
short, apart from areas of clover, daisies,
buttercup, Welsh violets, and selfheal, plus a few spring
The lesson is that your garden has to work for you as well as the bees - and this is perfectly possible.
Below is an image of a small patch of garden behind my greenhouse. It is great for pollinators, having Jacob's ladder, lamb's ear, toad flax and campanula.
In terms of wild flowers, it also has hedge woundwort, fox gloves a few dandelions (although I don't try to encourage these for reasons I explain below), and bluebells in early spring. There are, of course, wildflowers elsewhere in my garden, as I explain below.
Above: even a small patch can be put to use for pollinators. This spot is actually in partial shade for some of the day, due to an overhanging cotoneaster tree.
I now have flower borders, and have choice wildflowers incorporated into them, among carefully selected plants for bees. This works
better for me - and the bees, and I now get a greater variety of bee species
Honey bees on knapweed.
For example, over time, I was able to attract hairy footed flower bees, wool carder bees, mason bees, chocolate mining bees and leaf cutters, as well as a good variety of bumble bee species and the honey bee. I also grow raspberries, which bees love, and sometimes I grow vegetables such as beans and courgettes. Both of these have flowers visited by pollinators.
Around the corner from my home, verges are abundant with knapweed, hemp agrimony, brambles and rosebay willowherb.
- If you are going to plant wildflowers, take a look around your local area. If you have
major abundance of a particular wildflower, you could think about
leaving it out of your garden since it is provided elsewhere. Opt for something else that meets the
needs of bees.
You can still choose wildflowers, and you can opt for
something native to your area, but perhaps something that needs help to extend its range. I did this. I love dandelions, and although a few pop up in my garden all the time, I decided not to worry about keeping them, since there are so many verges covered in them. Rosebay Willowherb and knapweed are also abundant, as well as hemp agrimony and comfrey. I felt some of these wildflowers, though very valuable, would be intrusive in our small garden space.
However, hedge woundwort, ox-eye daisies, selfheal and poppies are present but patchy in the immediate area, so I added these to my garden, and they look great!
Above: I have Bird's Foot Trefoil growing as a rockery plant in the front garden. A number of species forage on the yellow, cheerful flowers.
- Consider different ways to incorporate wildflowers. I have various
wildflowers in my rockery areas and even in pots. This may be the best
way to control a wildflower plant that has a very vigorous rooting
system that otherwise would dominate your garden too much and too
Foxgloves and hedge woundwort grow among the flowers in this small patch. Elsewhere I have ox-eye daisies and selfheal.
In short, think about your own needs and
what you would like, as well as what is good for the bees. I firmly believe
it is quite acceptable to design your garden in a way that suits the
bees and you. I have more bees in my garden since I ditched my 'create a
mini-meadow' attempt. I grow some fruit and vegetables (and enjoy
great autumn raspberry crops thanks to the bees!).
Bees benefit from many flowers that are loved by humans, as well as vegetable and fruit crops.
Update: I now have a page about planning a bee garden, with a free, printable PDF download.
Good luck with your wildflowers!
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