When to Cut a Wildflower Meadow for a Vigorous Wildlife Garden

By   | Last Updated :   December 8, 2022 | Filed In :   DIY & How To

Wildflower meadows are a beauty to behold. Just picture bluebells, cowslips and honeysuckles swaying in the wind…

Flower meadows are low-maintenance and can be integrated into the smallest of UK gardens. Plus, they provide habitats for wildlife to thrive in. But for a successful wildflower meadow, the timing of cuts is important.

You can cut your wildflower meadow three times a year. Once in spring, again in summer and finally in autumn. These cutting cycles will not just boost wildflower growth, but also keep grasses and weeds in check. After mowing, collect all cuttings and compost them or dry them to feed livestock.

when to cut a wildflower meadow

Image credit: @dahliasonmydoorstep

Why mow a wildflower lawn?

Wildflower meadows are relatively low maintenance once established. But they still need a bit of mowing now and then. This gives wildflowers a kickstart to establish themselves and flower all year round.

So, do you need to cut a wildflower meadow? And what happens if you don’t?

You do need to mow your wildflower meadow. Mostly because native grasses and weeds grow faster than wildflower mixes. Mowing helps maintain a diverse range of wildflowers. It also keeps the competition down for grasses and weeds.

A good trim in spring and summer allows water to reach the roots.  An autumn cut aids germination once the wildflowers have gone to seed.

When to cut wildflower lawns

When to cut a wildflower lawn is more than a matter of personal preference. The right time will determine your lawn’s beauty, hardiness and ability to thrive even amidst grasses and weeds.

Along with the right time, you also need to understand whether you’re working on a new or established meadow. That’s because the rules for cutting a wildflower meadow when it’s first planted are different from those for a thriving, well-established one.

wildflower meadow

Image credit: @seed_ball

New meadows

New meadows are still in the process of establishing strong roots. So, when to mow a meadow lawn that’s still new? It’s best to wait for it to grow first. Two to three months are ideal for the first cut.

You can mow the meadow to a height of 2 inches. Repeat the process every 2 months throughout the first summer.

You may not be able to enjoy a blooming wildflower meadow the first year. But your patience will be rewarded with an abundance of wildflowers, bees and butterflies the following year.

Established meadows

Wondering when to cut a wild lawn after it’s established? You can cut it three times a year: in spring, summer and autumn. This is considerably less than new meadows that require mowing all through summer.

These cuts will keep weed and grass growth in check and help the wildflowers to blossom vigorously during the blooming season.

When to cut wildflower lawns in the spring

You can cut your wildflower lawn in March, just as spring emerges in the UK.  It may seem counterintuitive to do this when your wildflower meadow is just springing into life and needs easy access to sunlight and water. However, the spring cut will kickstart the early blooming season of bright and cheery wildflowers. But don’t postpone mowing until April. Otherwise, you may be disappointed with stunted wildflower growth in summer.

You can cut back your meadow to a height of 2.5-3 inches. This will keep the grasses and weeds under control while promoting wildflower growth. The result will be stronger, bushier and more compact wildflowers.

When to do a “hay cut” of your meadow in the summer

Late June and August are ideal to mow your meadow in the summer. This will be the second cut of the year. It’s called the “hay cut” and it’s done to remove all summer growth, which is later dried and baled to feed livestock.

But that’s not the only benefit of a hay cut. This cut encourages the growth of later-season wildflowers. It will keep your meadow growing vigorously while also controlling grasses and weeds. 

Again, cut back your meadow to 2.5-3 inches. By this time, you would’ve already had a great show of wildflowers so you can remove all deadheads and spent blooms without remorse.

small meadow garden after a hay cut

A small meadow garden after a hay cut. Image credit: @fernprimrose.conservation

Last cut: When to cut a meadow lawn before winter

The autumn cut is best left for late November, just before icy winter sets in. This cut is essential to keep grasses and weeds at bay and stimulate new wildflower growth in the coming year.

Mowing in autumn will keep your meadow tidy. It will also promote reseeding. For this to happen, be sure to mow only after the wildflowers have finished blossoming and have gone to seed. Otherwise, you’ll have sparse wildflower growth in spring.

You can cut the meadow as close to the ground as possible. This will set up your meadow for overwintering and allow for easy access to sunlight, which will give your wildflower seedlings a chance to germinate before the ground freezes.

How to cut your meadow

There are three ways to cut a wildflower meadow. You can use an old-fashioned scythe, a strimmer or a heavy-duty mower

hand scythe wildflower cut

Image credit: @cairnofdunncroft_

We recommend cutting wildflower meadows in three separate sweeps. You can schedule them one week apart. This will allow wildlife to move from one area to the next. You can also leave some messy edges for the wildlife to overwinter.

Wildflower meadow aftercare

Whether you have a sweeping meadow or a tiny one, there are a few things you need to do after the cut.

Remove all cuttings after mowing. Wildflowers enjoy poor, nutrient-lacking soil. Mowed cuttings will increase soil fertility and promote grass and weed growth.

Don’t worry about fresh growth after the last cut. A couple of stems and flower heads in winter can make a safe home for insects.

Lastly, wildflowers don’t need additional watering or feeding. Leave your meadow be and watch it come back to life after a good cut. It will be beautiful!

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  1. Brian wicks
    July 10, 2023 at 1:32 pm

    Please, when is best to cut with insects and their laying eggs on mind.

    • Liz Berry
      July 14, 2023 at 9:03 am

      Hi Brian, Many insect eggs hatch in the warmer seasons of spring and summer so we’d advise waiting until late August to cut your wildflower meadow.


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