Create a mesmerising daydream in blue in your own back yard with these 12 blue-coloured wildflowers for the garden.
There’s nothing quite like a touch of blue to make the colours in your garden pop and really bring it to life. Whether you want to introduce random pockets of blue into the overall palette, concentrate it in one area or aim for a completely blue theme in your back yard, the UK offers plenty of wildflowers to satisfy your needs.
Here is a dozen of the prettiest blue-coloured wildflowers out there, guaranteed to spruce up your garden’s colour scheme and bring some joie de vivre to your back yard.
Our 12 favourites for your garden
It’s surely the first thought that springs to anyone’s mind when discussing blue wildflowers, so we might as well get it out of the way early on. With its iconic bell shape, delicately curved petals and folkloric connotations, bluebells are a favourite among any flower lover. A perennial flower, bluebells bloom from April onwards and prefer shade and humidity to thrive.
They’re found throughout the UK but concentrated more densely in the woodlands of England, while the British variety should not be confused with its Spanish counterpart. The difference between the two is that the flowers on UK bluebells droop to one side, while their Latin cousins stand more upright. Bring some fairy magic into your garden with these beauties!
Sometimes referred to as Scotland’s answer to the bluebell, the harebell is not actually related to its more illustrious counterpart. It goes by a variety of other monikers, too, including “witch’s bell”, “cuckoo’s shoe” and “old man’s shoe” – and the old man being referred to here is none other than the devil himself. It’s also connected with true love in some folklore.
Whatever name it goes by, the harebell is a deceptively robust little specimen. Its drooping bells and paper-like petals might give it the appearance of a fragile flower, but the harebell is actually a hardy little creature that can survive well as long as it’s given the conditions it requires. It does best on dry grasslands exposed to the elements, such as windswept shorelines or bare hills.
Blue, blue, electric blue – cornflowers are striking enough to give your garden the gift of sound and vision. In fact, their flowers are so vibrant that they even have a colour named after them! The most expensive sapphires are “Cornflower blue”, which is testament to the value placed upon this stunning shade of flower.
The species is so named because it is commonly found in croplands across the UK (especially central and southern England), often rising proudly above the arable produce surrounding it. Indeed, the fact that cornflowers can surpass a metre in height means they’re best placed next to a fence or other border, while they thrive best in slightly sandy soils that are not too dense.
The pastel blues found on the petals of a chicory plant can be a lovely addition to any garden. Not only will it spruce up a sunny border or add a flash of colour to a sea of foliage, but it’s also a huge draw for pollinating insects. This means that it’s ideal for encouraging biodiversity into your back yard and returns the best results when planted in tandem with species like viper’s bugloss (see below).
Chicory plants perform well in dry and dusty sites, which is why it’s often seen at the side of busy roads where conditions are arid. To replicate a similar environment at home, plant it in sandy soil or that containing traces of chalk or limestone. It’s a tallish variety, growing to well over half a metre in size, so bear that in mind when choosing a location for it among your other florae.
5) Field Scabious
Another species which is often found at the roadside, Field Scabiouses are perhaps more lilac or lavender than outright blue. Having said that, they can certainly complement an azure colour scheme and bloom exceptionally well; a single plant can produce up to 50 flowers, while the fact that their blooming period lasts so long makes them attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Field Scabiouses are easily identifiable by their spindly stalks with oversized, pompom-like flowers growing atop of them. The flower takes its name from the fact that it was used to alleviate the sores and wounds of plague-sufferers, while it was also employed by herbalists to treat skin conditions such as mange, scabies and other itchy ailments.
6) Common forget-me-not
Prolific on arable terrain, the common forget-me-not (sometimes known as a field forget-me-not) is actually deemed a weed by farmers who wish to clear their lands. Just one look at its small, blue (and sometimes pink) flowers will make you question how something so pretty could ever be thought of as a nuisance, but its name soon reminds that not everyone sees it that way.
Indeed, the forget-me-not was christened due to the fact that it was often viewed as a symbol of love, so hopeful suitors would gift them to their beloved to ensure they stayed lodged in their memory. It has incredible longevity and an ingenious methods of seed dispersal – when rubbed up against, the small seedpods will cling to clothing, before being dropped in other locations in which it can germinate afresh. Will grow easily in cultivated land.
7) Sweet violet
Another one which leans more to the purple end of the spectrum, sweet violets can grow in both blue and white varieties, as well. They favour woodland and hedgerows, providing offshoots of bright colour in among the foliage. While they’re found throughout the UK, their distribution is not as widespread in Scotland, Wales and northern England.
Sweet violets have a long and interesting history with regard to the romantic connotations that various civilisations and cultures have attached to them. The ancient Greeks, for example, extracted their essence to make perfume, while the Romans did the same to produce wine. In Britain, they were used to make cosmetic products, while the French have long regarded them as a sign of faithfulness in love – perhaps because Josephine is rumoured to have thrown a posey of them to Napoleon upon their first meeting and he later found them growing on her grave.
8) Viper’s bugloss
There’s no mistaking this fearsome but fascinating flower. So named for its serpentine appearance, viper’s bugloss is characterised by its tall, thick and hairy stems, vivid blue blooms and coarse petals surrounding a brilliant red stamen which flicks out like a snake’s tongue. Due to how it looks, it was once used by herbalists to treat viper bites – but it has actually been known to irritate the skin rather than soothe it, so careful not to get too close!
Not everyone is put off by its intimidating façade, however – bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects can’t get enough of it. It thrives well in chalky soil and flowers in the summer months, at which time it will bring an unmistakable charm to your back yard.
This evergreen perennial plant will continue to grow all year round, but comes to life in the spring. In April, its dense undergrowth of dark green leaves will shoot forth great spikes of blue flowers, complemented with purple highlights, adding colour, texture and variety to any background which it adorns. It’s another one with a decent height clearance, so bear that in mind when it comes to planting.
The bugle is found all over the UK, preferring woodlands, meadows and hedges as its preferred habitats. Damp conditions are what it loves most, so mulchy soil that is either sunny or shady should see it prosper. Like the similar-looking selfheal, it has been used by herbalists to staunch woods and stop bleeding in the past. Keen-eyed gardeners can tell the difference between the two by the fact that the flowers of the bugle are more sparsely populated at the apex of its stalks.
10) Sea holly
In appearance, sea holly resembles something like a combination between its Christmas namesake and Scotland’s national flower, the thistle. In actuality, it’s related to neither! Even more surprisingly, it’s actually an unlikely member of the carrot family. It’s immediately identifiable by its tall stems, spiky leaves and bluish-green, pin-cushion-like flowers.
In 2002, the sea holly was nominated as the flower for the city of Liverpool, most likely due to its widespread appearance along the Wirral. It favours sandy dunes and shorelines, meaning it’ll do best in free-draining soils exposed to lots of sunshine. Bear in mind, though, that those leaves can be quite sharp to the touch, so planting it well away from paths is advisable!
11) Meadow clary
Easy on the eye, meadow clary has tall stems with clumped offshoots of brilliant blue flowers. It used to be widespread throughout the British Isles until the middle of last century, when a change in agricultural practices saw it crowded out by other plants. It is now classified as a Near Threatened species and is only found in 21 native locations around the UK.
That means that planting meadow clary in your back yard will contribute towards its conservation – but it also means you’ll need to be careful where you get your seeds from. It’s now a criminal offence to damage or uproot this vulnerable plant, so only ever seek it out from an approved source. Once you have done so, it’ll fare best in soil with chalk or limestone content that’s open to the sun, while its petals give off a very pleasant aroma when crushed.
12) Spiked speedwell
With long stems, jagged leaves and extensive spikes of vivid blue-purple flowers tapering towards their apex, spiked speedwell is an excellent border plant that draws the eye with its vibrancy and size. The flower of the historic Welsh county of Montgomeryshire (or Maldwyn), spiked speedwell is found scattered in isolated pockets throughout England and Wales.
As for cultivation, it’s a fairly hardy species which can fare well in most soil types, though best results will be witnessed when situated in well-drained terrain. It prefers full sun but can also thrive in south-facing areas of the garden, while it blooms from July to September.