The Complete Gardener's Guide ,

Wildflower meadows are an attractive alternative to a traditional lawn and will attract wildlife and provide vibrant color for many weeks. They can be time- consuming to establish but are simple to maintain.


20 Great American Wildflowers 20 photos

Meadow Options

A meadow will add a natural touch to a garden, and there are many exciting seed mixes available, along with plants that will add a bold splash of color from spring to summer. To make a meadow that will return year after year, use perennial seeds or plants. For a one-time spectacle or to fill a bare patch with a splash of color, sow a mixture of annual varieties. An existing lawn or patch of grass can be turned into a meadow, but you will have better results if you start with a bare piece of ground. Wildflower turf is available for those who are pressed for time and want to create a meadow quickly.

Let It Grow

The simple way to create a meadow look is to allow your lawn to grow long and let the grass flower. To add extra color, plant wildflower plugs in groups within the grass, along with small bulbs. Plant in the fall after cutting the grass short. To keep fertility low, which will encourage wildflowers, do not use lawn fertilizers and always remove clippings so nutrients cannot re-enter the soil. It can take several years to establish a balance between grass and wildflowers.

Wildflower Meadow Mixes

There are many types of seed mixes available that contain different varieties, color blends, or suit a specific soil type or location. Perennial meadow mixes tend to prosper in low-fertile soil. Where soil fertility is too high, for example in an existing border, sow a cornfield annual mix that includes plants such as cornflower, corn poppy, corn marigold, and corncockle. Barley and wheat seed add an authentic touch. Perennial wildflowers tend not to flower in their first season, so to ensure interest in the first year, choose a mix that contains some faster-growing annuals.

Cutting Your Meadow

Although meadows do not require as frequent cutting as a traditional lawns, they do need mowing occasionally. Meadows that flower in summer are generally cut from early fall to early spring, while those designed for spring color should be cut from midsummer. If you have a mixture of flowers that appear at different times, cut once a year in early fall. The height of cut should be no lower than 3 inches (8 cm). Remove all clippings to keep soil nutrient levels low.

Meadow Plant List

  • Anthemis arvensis (Corn chamomile)
  • Atriplex (Red orache)
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed)
  • Daucus carota (Wild carrot)
  • Delphinium ajacis (Rocket larkspur)
  • Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)
  • Iberis (Candytuft)
  • Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox-eye daisy)
  • Linum perenne (Blue flax)
  • Nigella (Love-in-a-mist)
  • Papaver rhoeas (Corn poppy, Shirley poppy)
  • Phacelia tanacetifolia (Purple tansy)
  • Salvia pratensis (Meadow clary)

Herb Lawns

Chamomile and thyme lawns are low-maintenance alternatives to a traditional lawn and suit areas that receive only light foot traffic. Thyme plants make a lush, aromatic lawn, spreading to create a pretty, edible carpet studded with pink flowers in summer. Use several varieties for a patchwork effect. On the other hand, chamomile is a classic alternative lawn. It is a harder plant to establish than thyme, but in light, moist soils it will become a pretty, fragrant carpet of low-growing plants.

To establish an herb lawn, prepare and clear the site as you would for sowing a new lawn in spring. Choose a ground-hugging variety of thyme or a non-flowering chamomile, such as Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’, and plant plugs or plants at 4–10 inches (10–25 cm) intervals, depending on the size of plant. Water the plants in well, and keep the site weed-free until established. Do not walk on the lawn for 12 weeks after planting, and allow only light traffic over it for its first year.

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