Grow Guide: Plant a Wildflower Garden for a Charming Natural Look

Some types of wildflowers to consider.
Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Grow a Wildflower Meadow

A simple section of fence can tame a wildflower meadow.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

A simple section of fence can tame a wildflower meadow.

Q: I want to have a little patch of wildflowers in my landscape to attract butterflies, but I am afraid my neighbors will complain. Do you have a suggestion for keeping them looking fairly neat?


From a horticultural or garden use point of view, there isn’t a lot of difference between, say, a flowering annual such as zinnia from South America and a coreopsis from North America, or between a perennial daylily from Asia and a purple coneflower from America. Though they differ vastly in growth habit, shape, flower type and origin, they are similar in how they are used in gardens. 

So treat native wildflowers like any regular flower, whether in a strip carved out of the lawn, in a bed, or even in a container. Those that spread from runners or seeds may have to be thinned from time to time to keep them in bounds.

Mix with the Familiar 

There are some easy ways to work natives into any style garden, or to even get away with a with a full-blown slice of meadow right out in the lawn.

For starters, keep a neat edge to the planting, with perhaps a “mowing strip” of grass to make it look tidier to others, and to help keep some plants from spreading as quickly or easily.

Interplant common garden favorites with the natives. Nothing wrong with including daylilies, gladiolus, iris, yarrow, and some hummingbird-friendly salvias in with the native coneflowers, Phlox, Monarda, Rudbeckia, cardinal flower, Liatris, and perennial natives sunflowers. In fact, it will look more like a real garden if you include all those together anyway. 

And include semi-woody plants such as the native soft-tip yucca and some ornamental grasses for a very naturalistic effect. Consider adding a small shrub rose as well. 

Accessorizing Works Wonders

No good garden, whether formal, contemporary, suburban or naturalistic, will fail to have “hard” features that interpret the area. Mulched or paved walks, low fencing, a gate, an arbor: These are hallmarks of good gardens, and lend credibility to native plants as well. 

Be sure to add butterfly- and hummingbird-friendly native vines to an arbor or rustic post. Great ones to start with would be Carolina Jessamine, trumpet creeper, coral honeysuckle, and crossvine (the one named ‘Tangerine Beauty‘ is my favorite for its non-stop flowers).

For an instant visual interpretation for both you and your neighbors, include artwork. It could be something as simple as an old wagon wheel, or a large boulder. Could be a series of birdhouses, a bird bath, or even a sculpture. 

Just as adding Chinese or Japanese stone lanterns to a quiet spot can create an Asian look, having a big piece of driftwood, some split rain fence, or a large boulder can create an acceptable naturalistic scene that will interpret the area to folks who may not otherwise understand. 

Finally, go to the National Wildlife Federation website ( and apply for a “Wildlife Habitat” designation for your garden. Place the sign in a prominent spot for your neighbors to see that you are doing all this on purpose - not just letting the yard go to weeds.

Gardening expert and certified wit Felder Rushing answers your questions and lays down some green-wisdom. You can get more of your Felder fix at

Keep Reading

Next Up

Garden Plants and Flowers

Learn how to discover which plants underscore and help define a specific garden design style.

How to Plant Perennial Flowers & Plants

Perennials are the mainstay of the traditional flower garden. When planted correctly, they are long-lived.

Plant Nectar-Rich Flowers

Bees are suffering an alarming decline in numbers, so plant a border of nectar-rich flowers to keep these essential insects well fed. Prolong the food supply by growing early- and late-flowering plants.

Planting Annuals: When and How To Plant Annual Flowers

Learn the ins and outs of planting annuals, including when to plant annuals and techniques you can use to boost success.

Planting Flowers for Summer Perfume

Rich in scent and color, tobacco plant (Nicotiana) or cherry pie (Heliotropium) are good selections for warm-weather blooms.

Selecting and Planting Flower Bulbs

From the purchase to maintaining them throughout the season, this simple guide to bulbs will help ensure garden success.

Fast-Growing Flowers and Plants

Young children have short attention spans, so to get them interested in gardening, choose plants that do something spectacular, fast. While no plant gives instant results, many germinate and turn into something recognizable quickly enough for your child to remember sowing them.

Lantana Plant and Flower

Give your yard a color boost with the changing beauty of lantana flowers.

Tropical Flowers and Plants

Groom an equatorial paradise in your own backyard with tropical flowers and palms that thrive in heat and humidity.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.