Wild Flower Directory
A Guide To Some Of The Most Suitable Wild Flowers And Plants For Your Garden
For lists of what to plant where, please see the pages Plants For Sunny Borders, Plants For Light Shade
Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) Carpeting hillsides in late summer with their clusters of dark purple-pink flowers borne from stems with evergreen, needle-like leaves in whorls of three, bell heather forms a breathtaking sight in the British countryside. A real beauty in the garden, providing excellent groundcover. The nectar-rich flowers are loved by bees in particular. Acidic, peaty soil, preferring a well-drained site. Prune back in March/early spring as soon as new growth occurs. Flowers July to September. Up to 50cm.
Betony (Betonica officinalis, formerly Stachys officialis) Increasingly rare in the wild, this is a dense and bushy plant with purple-red flowers, which consist of a hooded upper lip, four stamens and a three-lobed lower lip. Will tolerate most soils, though prefers a damp, slightly acidic medium. Copes with shade as well as sun, so will happily grow in hedgerows and woodland. Flowers June-August. 10-60cm.
Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Naturally occurring in open, sunny, often rocky grassland sites, these long-lived perennials can be grown in just about any open spot where the soil is reasonably well drained. Good for gravel gardens, meadows and naturalised planting schemes. An important nectar source for many bees and butterflies. Flowers May-September. 10-50cm.
Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) Also known as Common Knapweed, an attractive thistle-like flower which is loved by bees, hoverflies and butterflies, as well as seed-eating birds such as goldfinches. Tolerant of most soils but prefers a sunny aspect. Flowers June-September. 60-100cm.
Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) Pretty, white, clefted petals form from a large, pink-veined calyx, similar to Sea Campion. Waxy, grey-green foliage. May-August. Subtly scented, it is a great source of nectar for butterflies and moths. Enjoys an open, sunny position in well-drained soil. Flowers May-September. 90cm.
Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)
With its striking, intense magenta to pale pink, saucer-shaped flowers and creeping, low-growing, clump-forming habit, this is a most attractive addition to any garden. Thrives best in well-drained sunny sites, but will happily tolerate semi-shade. Flowers May-September. 30cm.
Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Drifts of hazy blue gracefully carpeting woodlands are one of the most breathtaking sights of the British countryside. This is the true British bluebell, now at risk because of competition and hybridisation with the more vigorous Spanish bluebell often grown in gardens from where it escaped into the wild, resulting in the invasive hybrid H. hispanica x non-scripta. Flowers April-June. 30cm.
Bugle (Ajuga reptans) Superb ground-cover plant, with bright, purple-blue flowers, a rosette of dark green foliage with a purplish hue, which remains throughout the winter. Tolerates almost all soils, shade as well as full sun, but less happy in very dry soil. A valuable source of nectar for many insects, including the wood white butterfly. Flowers April-November. 10-25cm.
Catmint (Nepeta cataria) Minty aromatic foliage, white woolly on the underside and irresistible to cats, with whorls of creamy white flowers throughout the summer. The nectar-rich flowers are highly attractive to bees. Full sun but will tolerate semi-shade. Flowers June-September. Up to 90cm.
Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) Elegant, fragrant pink flowers formed above clump-forming tufts of blue-green foliage. Happiest in a sunny position, in well-drained, sandy soil. Now rare in the wild, and on the Red Data List as a vulnerable species. Nectar-rich flowers encourage a variety of wildlife. Ideal for rockeries, gravel beds, pots and containers or at the front of a well drained border. Flowers May-July. 30cm.
Chicory (Cicorum intybus) A striking perennial with brilliant blue flowers on tall stems, and definitely worth including in any border. Highly attractive to bees and many other insects, it prefers a sunny site on well-drained, preferably alkaline soil. The young shoots can be used in salads and the fleshy roots are sometimes dried, roasted and grounded as a coffee substitute. Flowers June-September. 1m.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) No garden should be without this wonderfully, versatile herb, which is as pretty as it is tasty. Globular pink flowers are borne on slender stalks, surrounded by bright green, rush-like foliage. Tolerant of various soils, damp or dry; it's only real requirement is a sunny position. Happy to grow in pots and tubs, chives also make an excellent edging plant. Flowers May-July. 25cm.
Clematis, Wild, Traveller's Joy (Clematis vitalba) Fragrant clusters of green-white flowers at the height of summer followed by fluffy, feathery seed-heads which can last throughout the winter. Rich in pollen and nectar and attracting many bees, butterflies and hoverflies, wild clematis also provides shelter for nesting birds and small mammals. A vigorous climber, it can be grown up a well-established tree or shrub, or trained up a trellis or pergola. Grow in sun or partial shade. Flowers July-August. Up to 30m.
Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata) A superb addition to any garden border, with clusters of vivid, violet-blue to deep purple, bell-shaped flowers borne on tall stems that make this a most attractive choice. A vigorous plant, which quickly makes a large clump; good for open, well-drained sites. Flowers June-August. 60cm.
Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) Dainty, archetypal cottage-garden plant, with deep blue to purple flowers that have distinctive hooked spurs. Despite being a prolific self-seeder, wild Aquilegia is now sadly rare in the wild. Will tolerate most aspects and soils but prefers a shady site and damp soil. Flowers May-June. 40-60cm.
Cowslip (Primula veris) Now scarce in the wild, one of our most charming spring flowers was once a common sight in early summer meadows. Clusters of deep yellow, apricot-scented, tubular flowers borne on short stalks from a rosette of fresh green, toothed leaves.Tolerant of most soils and grows in light shade to full sun. Flowers April-May. 10-15cm.
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) Cheery yellow cup-shaped flowers borne on trailing stems with bright green, rounded leaves. Happy in shade or sun, providing excellent ground cover in the garden, whilst attracting bees and other pollen-eating insects. Prefers a moist soil. Flowers June-August. Up to 5cm.
Daffodil, Wild (Narcissus pseudonarcissus syn lobularis) Deservedly one of our most celebrated wild flowers, the British wild daffodil has seen its once common numbers reduced drastically. Much less overstated than some of the garish cultivars, the native daffodil has pale yellow to cream petals and a darker yellow trumpet, lightly fragrant. Naturally thriving in damp woodland and pasture, it can be planted in grassland for naturalising, dappled shade and open woodland. Flowers February-March. 15-30cm.
Devils's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) So-called because of the way its roots end abruptly as though bitten off by the devil, the pretty, pincushion type flowers are violet-blue. Grows in variable habitat from meadows and heaths to open woodland. Loves damp soil, and is an excellent nectar plant for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Larval food plant for the marsh fritillary. Flowers June-October. Up to 50cm.
Dog Violet, Common (Viola riviniana) A daintily cheery flower, and one of the most widespread wild violas, tolerating many differing habitats, including woodland, grassland, heaths and hedgerows. Equally adaptable in the garden. Heart-shaped leaves, with purple flowers, April-June.10cm.
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) One of our prettiest wild flowers and very important for many species of wildlife. Blue-violet, pincushion flowers with pink anthers and four petal lobes. Broad, un-toothed, lanceolate leaves. Sun-loving, preferring, dry, well-drained soil. Highly attractive to bees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths. Food plant for marsh fritillary larvae and the white letter hairstreak. Flowers June-October. 90cm.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) Tall, tapering, pink to purple spires, carry masses of tubular flowers which are flecked with dark spots or rings inside the lower lip. The whole plant is poisonous. Loved by a wide variety of bumblebees and honey bees. Caterpillars of butterflies such as the heath fritillary and various moths use the leaves as a food source. Tolerates most soils, but prefers well-drained, acidic soil, and ideally humus-rich. Adapting to many situations, from partial shade to shade, will also grow in full sun. 150cm. Biennial.
Fritillary, Snakeshead Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) Utterly captivating with their nodding chequered bells of purple to pale cream flowers, a group of snakeshead fritillaries make a spell-binding display. At home in damp meadows, they will favour an open position in damp soil. Flowers April-May. 30cm.
Globe Flower (Trollius europaeus) A beautifully exotic wild flower, with rather grand, globular flowers of bright lemon yellow, with glossy green foliage. Tolerates most soils although it is naturally at home in damp places. Flowers April-June. Up to 60cm.
Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) A little more flamboyant than its close cousin, black knapweed, the ragged purple-pink flowers on tall stems make a striking impact. An excellent late-nectar plant for bees and butterflies as well as seed-eating birds. Flowers July-September. 60-100cm.
Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) A delightful shrub for the garden, elegant lacecap flowers of soft cream are followed by clusters of deep red berries. The nectar-rich flowers are loved by many insects and the autumn fruits provide a welcome food source for birds. Enjoys full sun but will tolerate semi-shade and will tolerate most soils. Flowers June-July. Up to 5m.
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) One of our most charming wild flowers, the nodding sky-blue bells adorn grasslands throughout the summer. Known in Scotland as the Scottish Bluebell, harebells are host to a wealth of insects and is the food plant of the Ingrailed Clay Moth. Enjoys an open sunny site with well-drained, sandy soil. July-September. 40cm.
Heather (Calluna vulgaris) A delightful and useful evergreen, also known as 'Ling', with delicate pink flowers and short, narrow leaves borne in rows. A showy display which easily attracts bees and and other pollinating insects. Acidic, peaty soil. Excellent ground-covering plant. Flowers July-October. Up to 90cm.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) Cream and yellow trumpets full of rich perfume are followed by bright red clusters of berries. Excellent for wildlife - bees, moths and butterflies are drawn to the nectar and it's also an important food source for the larvae of marsh fritillary and white admiral butterflies. Birds take advantage of the nourishing berries as well as using its dense tangle of stems for nests. Enjoys full sun but will grow in semi-shade and tolerates most soils. A vigorous climber, it can be grown up a well-established tree or shrub, or trained up a trellis or pergola. Flowers June-September. 6m.
Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) For anyone with an interest in wildlife as well as flowers, this wild flower is a must. Apart from being a rewarding, spreading plant with clusters of large, rounded yellow flowers (though occasionally cream or red), which provides a rich source of nectar for bees, it is the only food source for caterpillars of the beautiful small blue butterfly. A sun-lover that prefers, light, well-drained soil, but hardy and adaptable so worth trying in less than ideal conditions. Flowers June-September. 20-40cm.
Maiden Pink (Dianthus deltoides) Pretty, rose-pink flowers formed above clump-forming tufts of blue-grey foliage. Happiest in a sunny position, in well-drained, sandy soil. Now rare in the wild, and on the Red Data List as a near-threatened species. Nectar-rich flowers encourage a variety of wildlife. Ideal for rockeries, gravel beds, pots and containers or at the front of a well drained border. Flowers June-September. 30cm.
Majoram, Wild (Origanum vulgare) Dense clusters of pink-purple flowers sit above wonderfully aromatic dark green leaves on this fragrant and colourful herb. A particularly important wildlife plant, the nectar-rich flowers are host to many species of bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Fresh or dried, the leaves are a delicious ingredient for tomato-based sauces and pasta dishes. Flowers July-September. 60cm.
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) Also known as the Kingcup, this most regal of buttercups has magnificent eye-catching yellow flowers and glossy, dark green leaves - a superb plant for the garden with a long flowering period. As well as striking, the flowers are rich in nectar and therefore attractive to a host of insects including the early bumble bee. Enjoys damp soil, bog gardens, and the shallow water of pond margins. March-July. Up to 45cm.
Meadow Clary (Salvia pratensis) A worthy wild sage to have in any flower border, with striking violet-blue spikes flowering throughout the summer and pleasantly aromatic leaves. A great nectar plant highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Excellent cut flowers, and when dried makes a fragrant pot pourri. Prefers a sunny site on well-drained, sandy soil. Flowers June-July. 30-100cm.
Meadow Crane's-bill (Geranium pratense) Clusters of intense violet-blue, saucer-shaped flowers make this a most eye-catching plant which is seen throughout the summer in grassland, open woodland and verges. Leaves are deeply dissected with 7-9, toothed, radiating lobes. Bumble bees, honey bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers, and it is also the food plant of the brown argus. Prefers a sunny site. Flowers June-September. 90cm.
Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum syn Cirsium helenioides) A wonderful addition to the border, with beautiful, intensely coloured, solitary flowers and no sharp spines. The flowers are loved by bees and butterflies and the subsequent seed is enjoyed by birds, particularly finches. There are several explanations as to how it got its common name, one of which is that it refers to the way the buds hang their necks, straightening only as the flowers fully open, another comes from the potion which was once made from this plant to cure 'melancholia' or depression as we now refer to it. Enjoys a damp soil, full sun or partial shade. Flowers July-August. 100cm
Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula trachelium) With delightful, lilac-blue bell flowers, this plant makes a wonderful addition to any border. Preferring a moist soil, it is a woodland plant in its natural habitat and therefore tolerant of partial shade. Not as vigorous as the clustered bellflower. Flowers June-September. Up to 75cm.
Night-flowering Catchfly (Silene noctiflora) As its name suggests, this annual plant comes into its own at night, when the flowers open and give off a beautiful sweet fragrance, attracting a variety of moth species who will pollinate it. With distinctively sticky stems, the flowers are usually white but can be pale pink. Usually found on drier, sandy soils (often calcareous) it enjoys well-drained soil in full sun. Flowers July-September. 30cm.
Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) One of the most recognisable of all our wild flowers, the oxeye daisy is an iconic symbol of summer in the British countryside. Large, cheerful daisy-like flowers with yellow centres from June to September. Great nectar flower, attracting butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies. The leaves provide a food source for the heath fritillary butterfly. An excellent cottage-garden plant, at home in any herbaceous border. Grows in most soils, ideally well-drained, prefers full sun but partial shade. Flowers June-September. 100cm.
Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) Exquisitely exotic, this is easily one of our most beautiful wild flowers. Rich violet bell-shape flowers with silky-backed petals cup a host of golden anthers. After flowering wonderful seed-heads of feathery plumes are formed. Grows best in well-drained, alkaline soil in full sun. Flowers April-May. 10-20cm.
Potentilla fruticosa (Potentilla fruticosa) Much more commonly referred to by its latin name than the English name of shrubby cinquefoil, this much-loved native is deservedly popular in the garden. A compact shrub bearing a mass of bright yellow, saucer-shaped flowers throughout the summer. Happiest and most prolific at flowering when grown in full sun, but will tolerate a wide variety of soils. An absolute must for any garden. Can also be grown as an informal hedge. Flowers May-October. 100cm.
Primrose, Wild (Primula vulgaris) A springtime favourite, the pretty, pale yellow flowers with a deeper yellow eye and honey guides. Found in woods and grassy banks, primroses prefer a semi-shady, moist site. A valuable food source for moths, primroses are pollinated by night-flying insects. An excellent nectar plant for butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Flowers February-May. 15cm.
Ragged Robin (Silene flos-cuculi) Bright pink ragged petals, which flutter in the wind make this a most delight native wild flower. A lover of damp, wet soil, it grows in sun or semi-shade, the flowers are attractive to bees, hoverflies and butterflies. It is also the food plant of the lychnis moth. Flowers May-July. 30-50cm.
Ramsons, Wild Garlic (Alium ursinum) Carpeting the woodland floor in early spring with its vibrant green leaves and starry white flowers, this member of the onion family will be quite happy in a shady part of the garden. It is vigorous, so may need to be kept in check, but as it's edible as well as attractive (leaves are delicious in spring salads) this is a plant well worthing adding. Flowers April-May. 15-30cm.
Red Campion (Silene dioica) A versatile and reliable flowerer capable of growing pretty much anywhere, although happiest with at least some shade, making it a perfect choice to brighten up an otherwise dark part of the garden. The dainty flowers (more pink than red) are borne on branching stems. Typically found under hedgerows, woodland edge, ditches and meadows. The larvae of the campion moth, which lives in the red campion's seed heads, is a valuable food source for blue tits. Like white campion, it is dioecious - male and female parts are on separate plants. Unlike its relative, the flowers close in the evening. Flowers May-September. 60-90cm.
Rock Rose (Helianthemum nummularium) With an array of bright yellow flowers throughout the summer, rock rose makes a wonderful addition to the garden and also plays an important plant in supporting wildlife. An excellent nectar plant, as well as a food source for the larvae of several butterflies, including the Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak, Northern Brown Argus and Silver-studded Blue. Flowers May-September. 15-30cm.
Quaking Grass (Briza media) A delightful, graceful grass, most notable for its quivering seed-heads that dance in the breeze, and go on to make a superb cut flower. Creates a beautiful meadow effect when planting alongside wild flowers. Though it tolerates most soils, it favours dry, well-drained ground in full sun. Flowers June-August. 30cm.
Sea Campion (Silene uniflora, formerly maritima) A striking coastal plant, forming drifts of white along cliff tops, the blush-pink of the beautifully veined calyx creates a stunning effect with the white petals. Perfectly adapted to its environment, it forms low cushions of waxy, sea-green leaves. In the garden, it makes a great rockery plant, enjoying an open, sunny position, with well-drained soil. Flowers May-July. 20cm.
Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) A boldly attractive, architectural wild flower, with distinctive, blue-green spiny leaves, veined with white, and a large head of small, powder-blue flowers flanked by broad spiny bracts. A coastal plant by nature, it prefers an open, sunny position in well-drained, sandy soil. Flowers June-September. Up to 60cm.
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) Common in open grasslands, verges and lawns, self heal takes its name from its once widespread use for medicinal purposes, often to treat wounds, sores and ulcers. Loved by bees ands butterflies, the violet-coloured, hooded flowers are borne on short spikes above paired, slightly hairy, eliptical leaves. Flowers May-October. Up to 20cm.
Sheep's-bit (Jasione montana) Also know as sheep's-bit scabious. Delightful, deep-blue flowers, so pretty it deserves a place in the border, meadow, rock garden, or pots and troughs. A ground-hugging rosette of narrow, pointed leaves form at the base, from which long stems of the prolific flowers form, looking quite scabious-like, though it is in fact a member of the bellflower family. A good flower for cutting. Enjoys full sun and a well-drained soil. Flowers May-September. 40cm.
Small Scabious (Scabious columbaria) A worthy addition for its pretty, pin-cushion flowers of blue-lilac alone, the small scabious is a very important plant for wildlife. Many varieties of butterfly, such as brimstone, comma, painted lady and peacock, as well as bees, hoverflies many other insects all benefit from this nectar-rich plant. Birds are then able to enjoy the ripe seeds. Prefers a sunny, open position in well-drained soil. Flowers July-September. 30-45cm.
Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) Dainty clusters of daisy-like flowers on narrow-leaved stems; happily grows alongside taller plants. Although it tolerates most soils, sneezewort favours damp clay soil, in sun or partial shade. Flowers July-August. 30-60cm.
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) Exquisite drooping droplets of pure white pushing implausibly through the frozen ground has to be one of the most uplifting sights of the British winter. Dappled shade and moist, nutrient-rich soil, so will much appreciate the addition of leaf mould. Some debate as to its origin, possibly introduced in the first century, but certainly naturalised over a lone period of time. Flowers February-March. 20cm.
Strawberry, Wild (Fragaria vesca) Triplets of bright green, toothed leaves, pretty white flowers, and come midsummer, delicious scarlet fruits. Easy-to-grow and easily earns a place in any garden. Producing offspring via arching runners - little plantlets complete with roots and leaves, allow this low-growing plant to become excellent ground cover. Tolerates most aspects but naturally prefers semi-shade. A good source of nectar for various insects, and the leaves are a food source for the caterpillars of the grizzled skipper butterfly. Flowers April-July. 10-15cm.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Bright yellow button-like flowers full of nectar, with feathery, aromatic foliage. Vigorous once established, it will tolerate most soils but prefers a dry, sunny site. Loved by bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Flowers July-September. Up to 150cm.
Thrift (Armeria maritima) A coastal dweller in the wild, this delightful, long-flowering plant forms dense cushions o f narrow, fleshy leaves and a mass of pink, nectar-rich, fragrant flowers which are often in bloom from spring right through to autumn. Prefers well-drained, sandy soil and a sunny position. Flowers April-October. Up to 25cm.
Thyme, Wild (Thymus polytrichus) A delightful plant with tiny dark green aromatic leaves and clusters of pink to purple flowers. A low-growing mat-forming herb with nectar-rich flowers much loved by bees, butterflies and moths. Prefers a dry, sunny site and is ideal for growing in walls or paving, rockeries and gravel beds. Flowers June-September. 10cm.
Toadflax, Wild (Linaria vulgaris) Boasting beautiful spires of bright yellow flowers with rounded orange lips, this cheerful plant is not unlike a little snapdragon. Long flowering, it provides a rich source of nectar to many bees, butterflies and moths. An attractive plant for the border, it grows best in well-drained soil and a sunny position. Flowers June-October. 30cm.
Viper's-bugloss (Echium vulgare) One of our most spectacular wild flowers, easily earning its place as an eye-catching addition to the garden. The vivid blue spikes of trumpet-shaped flowers produce four nutlets after pollination, which are said to resemble the head of a viper, giving the plant its common name. Drawn by the nectar-rich flowers' colour and scent, it is a highly valuable plant for attracting bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths. Flowers May-August. 100cm. Biennial.
Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) Commonly cultivated in gardens, and with good reason: it's tolerant of a wide variety of situations, including shade, and has a long flowering period, which can be prolonged further by dead-heading. The cheerful yellow or orange flowers will brighten up the dullest corner. Makes a great addition to the border and will set seed if not dead-headed. Flowers May-September. 40cm.
White Campion (Silene latifolia, formally alba) Crisp white flowers, that are scented in the evening. Not quite as vigorous as red campion and flowering even later into the year, it is shown off at its best planted in clumps or drifts in a sunny border and works beautifully planted among red campion. A little less shade-tolerant than its cousin, white campion prefers open, drier ground. It also makes an ideal addition to a wild flower meadow. Flowers May-October. 60-90cm.
Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) Also known as Herb Bennet, the bright yellow flowers are rich in nectar and are followed by hairy seed heads, which provide a valuable food source for small mammals. A shade lover that will tolerate most soils. Flowers June-August. Up to 40cm.
Wood Cranesbill (Geranium sylvaticum) Intensely purple-pink flowers with paler centres and dark veins that guide insects towards the nectar. A trouble-free plant that flowers profusely throughout spring and summer. Ideal for a damp or shady border as it prefers moist soil. Flowers May-July. Up to 30-60cm.
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) A dainty woodland plant, the delicate, solitary flowers are set off beautifully as they sit above a backdrop of impossibly bright green, clover-like leaves. Favours damp woodland, tolerant of even deep shade, often growing directly on leaf mould and found around old, mossy stumps and along the banks of woodland streams. Flowers April-May. Up to 15cm.
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) An eye-catchingly beautiful flower with its distinctive bright flash of yellow petals and tall sword-like leaves. A vigorous grower once established it is ideal for pond margins and will tolerate any damp soil. Flowers June-August. 90cm.