Where to get UK native wildflower seeds & plants
Wildflower seeds or plants - or both?
The factors below are helpful to consider when deciding whether to sow wildflower seed, or pre-grown wildflower plants:
What you want to grow - is there something you want to grow that you can’t find supplied as seed?
Site preparation - i.e. the amount you’re able or willing to do. Pre-grown plants need less initial site preparation but will cost you more than seeds.
Results - how quickly do you want to see the fruits of your labour? Seeds will take longer to show results but will surprise you once they get going.
Budget - seeds are relatively cheap, while potted plants will be expensive, particularly for a big area.
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.
Urban jungle or rural retreat
If your site is in an urban area, in most cases it is acceptable to bring in UK native wildflower seed or plants. If on the other hand, your site is 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.
Keep it local
If you’re seeking to improve a site for wildlife, ensure that the seed or plants that you’re introducing are native, and preferably from a local source. Avoid planting imported plants that may introduce pests or diseases.
What wildflowers should I grow?
We recommend growing a colourful mix of UK native wildflowers to get the best results for both you and your local wildlife, as well as a mix of annual, perennial and biennial species (check out our A-Z of wildflower words to find out more about these).
There are still lots of different and wonderful wildflowers to choose from! Have a look at our wildflower gallery for inspiration and photographs of wildflowers that are native to the UK.
Why choose native plants?
A native plant can broadly be said to have originally arrived in an area without human intervention. In contrast to plants that might be described as ‘non-native’, ‘exotic’ or ‘alien’, which have only arrived in a particular place thanks to plant collectors.
Plants that are native to an area have evolved a complex relationship, in some cases over millennia, alongside the other plants and animals around them. Each plant has a role to play in a particular area, for example as a food source for a certain type of bee or butterfly.
- Balance - native plants have a range of wildlife that not only rely on them for their survival, but also ensure that one plant is not dominant over any other.
- Invasive - in contrast, exotic or non-native plants do not have this same association. In some cases plants can become ‘invasive’, and can have a considerable negative impact on other wildlife, and controlling them can be very difficult.
How to buy UK native plants
Although many garden centres and online suppliers stock UK native wildflower seed, caution is needed to ensure that the seed you are buying is genuinely of native origin and is not derived from a cultivated variety which may have been imported.
- Check the label - you can introduce native seeds or plants to an appropriate site if they originate from the UK so check to see if they are labelled as UK natives.
- Reputable source - to be certain of this, only purchase plants and seeds that are truly natives from a reputable supplier.
- 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 - a supplier ought to be able to tell you what country the seed or plants you are buying originated from.
- Your site - a reputable supplier of UK origin wildflower seed and plants, will also be able to offer advice on the best seed mix or plants for your site. Some suppliers will be able to provide you with large quantities of seed for a big project as well as small seed packets and individual plants.