The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is often asked, “should I plant wildflower seed?” Our answer is always that pollinators themselves would say “no”.
Would I sow wildflower seed in my own garden? I might put some in a patio pot, but there is absolutely no way that I’d sow them in my lawn. By simply reducing mowing, amazing wildflowers like Dandelion, Clovers, Self-heal and Bird’s-foot-trefoil naturally pop-up year after year at no cost. These common flowers provide the nutrients our insects need. You’re also genuinely helping biodiversity – by returning pockets of natural grassland meadows and verges, no matter how tiny, the collective benefit to wildlife is enormous. They’re a long-term and sustainable solution to the biodiversity crisis. It’s very tempting to plant what we humans like, rather than doing what our declining pollinators actually need. Most wildflower seed is imported from other countries and is not native. There is a huge risk of accidentally bringing in pest species like Black grass that, if spread, would be devestating to the Irish agricultural industry. If you decide to buy wildflower seed, you should source it carefully, and please only ever plant in your own garden and not in the wider landscape. View it in the same way as you might planting Lavender, Comfrey or Crocus. It’s a colourful ‘horticultural action’, it’s not a ‘biodiversity action’.
In our lawns, verges, towns, villages, and parks, let’s really help bees and biodiversity by not planting wildflower seed. Instead, reduce mowing and allow our beautiful natural Irish meadows to return with native flowers that are meant to be there. It won’t look like the front of a wildflower seed packet, but that’s not a natural habitat and is not what pollinators want.
Let’s change our expectations and create thousands of natural mini meadows that genuinely help biodiversity, not artificial ones that are attractive to humans!
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan strongly endorses natural regeneration
If you decide to plant wildflower seed, please don’t plant it outside of a garden setting.
Creating Meadows for Biodiversity
Top Tips for Creating a Wildflower Meadow
These articles offer more information about why natural regeneration is a much better, more sustainable option for creating pollinator-friendly meadows:
- Spreading Seeds of Doubt – fake ‘wildflower’ mixes – By Dr Noeleen Smyth, National Botanic Gardens
- Why ‘wildflower seed’ is a prickly issue – By Prof Yvonne Buckley, Trinity College Dublin
- Debunking myths – The truth about seed bombs, beehives, and bee hotels – your questions answered
- Reducing mowing for pollinators – brilliant for bees, harder for humans! – the joys and pitfalls of creating a wildflower meadow
- Don’t mow, let it grow – and amazing things will happen! – how reducing grass cutting gives our native wildflowers a chance to bloom
- Practical advice on managing wildflower meadows – how natural meadows are flourishing under management practices of the Irish Wildlife Trust Laois/Offaly branch – By Anne Sundermann, Ricky Whelan and Brian Gaynor
- Creating a lawn spiral for pollinators – reduce mowing and get creative by mowing paths through your meadow
- Wildflowers – to plant or not to plant? Why buying wildflower seed is not always helpful– By Prof Jane Stout, Botany Dept, Trinity College Dublin
- Summer bedding – making the switch to pollinator-friendly bedding plants– By Peter Cuthbert, Horticultural Services
- Does the lockdown bring any silver linings? – Rare orchids return as mowing stops– By Dr Mark McCorry & Dr Fiona MacGowan, BSBI