There are many wonderful colours to choose from when planning your garden, but unfortunately some colours are not as easy to come by. Blue doesn’t occur as often as colours such as pink, yellow and red, but it’s my favourite color. As a result, finding blue wildflowers to add to my space always makes me really happy.
Why is Blue So Special?
The reason for the rarity of blue wildflowers is that there’s no true blue pigment in nature. We perceive blue color in some flowers through a sort of chemical trickery used by the plants. If you’re a health food devotee, than you’ll probably know what anthocyanins are.
If not, here’s a 101 primer! Basically, they’re a type of flavonoid: a pigment that’s high in antioxidants. One particular pigment is cyanidin-3-glucoside, which is commonly found in red leaves and flowers. As it’s a strong antioxidant, it’s readily available in health food stores. Plants modify this pigment through various chemical adjustments, which results in the production of blue blooms.
Blue Wildflowers are More than Just Weeds!
You may be wondering why this article is about blue wildflowers, rather than domesticated blooms. Well, while some people consider wildflowers to be weeds, they are in fact the source of all modern-day cultivated flowers. They’re native to their locales, and generally very easy keepers.
While they’re sometimes considered invasive, these flowers can be a gorgeous addition to any garden. Additionally, they’re ideal for attracting and feeding native pollinator species!
If you love blue wildflowers just as much as I do and are looking to add some easy keepers to your garden, take a look at the following list for some true blue inspiration.
1. Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea)
Blue columbines are extremely versatile. These lovely plants makes themselves at home in zones 3 all the way to zone 10. Their flowers are a purplish blue and white, and the plant itself can reach heights of 1- 3 feet. As a bonus, the blooms produce sweet, fragrant nectar that will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.
Columbines will thrive in partial shade up to full sun, and will do well in just about any well-draining soil. Note that these plants are susceptible to powdery mildew if they end up sitting in soil that is too wet, or soggy.
2. Narrowleaf Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
Both the name and visual aspects of this plant would suggest that it comes from the grass family. In fact, this plant is a part of the iris (Iridaceae) family. Clusters of grass-like foliage reach an average of 1 foot tall, with light blue flowers hovering just above on separate stems.
It’s interesting to note that these plants have medicinal properties, and were once used for treating diarrhea in children and upset stomachs in adults. These plants are happy in part shade to full sun. Unlike columbines, blue-eyed grass prefers to be in damp soil and will start to die off if allowed to dry out.
3. Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
Another wildflower from the iris family, the blue flag can grow up to 3 feet tall, with large showy, blueish purple flowers. This flower has been beloved for centuries and referred to throughout various mythologies. As a result, it would make an excellent addition to any garden.
Blue flag thrives in wet areas, so as long as you don’t let yours dry out, you shouldn’t have much trouble adding this graceful flower to your garden. You can use mulch to achieve the desired dampness, or you can even submerge and grow this plant in the shallow area of a pond.
4. Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
This plant was named for the fact that it was used by early Americans as a dye. False indigo is a large perennial that can reach 4 feet tall, and grows just as wide. It would make a gorgeous back border to any garden, or as a stand-alone center piece.
It thrives across a wide range of zones and is considered extremely adaptive. The black seed pods that form after flowers have died off are considered ornamental and can be used for decorations. Just be sure to leave a couple of pods on the stalks so that the plant can re-seed for the next year.
5. Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)
Bluebonnets have long been a favourite of mine, but sadly, I don’t have the right environment for them to thrive. They’re known to be tricky in getting started, but if you’re patient, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous patch of dazzling blue wildflowers.
These plants are drought resistant, which is actually part of which makes them difficult to get going. The seeds are heavily coated, which ensures that they can survive a year or two of low rainfall. Healthy amounts of water along with scarring the seeds before planting will help to break down that protective coating more quickly. Plant seeds in the fall in a sunny location for best results.
6. Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis)
Part of the allure of forget-me-nots has to be the length of time they remain in bloom. In fact, you can expect continuous blooming all the way from May to October. When it comes to caring for these plants, you’ll spend most of your time simply trying to keep them from taking over.
They are self-seeding and spread really quickly. If you find them appealing and would like to add some to your space, a good technique is to plant them where other plants fail to thrive. For example, really wet areas of your garden. This way your other plants won’t be competing for space.
7. Wild Violas, aka Johnny Jump-Ups, Heartsease (Viola tricolor)
These flowers are small in size, and grow close to the ground. They’re a really lovely shade of deep blue, with lighter blue edges and yellow central petals. They look a lot like pansies, just on a much smaller scale. These grew freely on the property of my childhood home and were considered a weed by my parents.
Although they’re said to be invasive, they were only found in small clumps on our property, so not as invasive as some species can be. Deadheading will encourage new flowers and bushier growth. As a bonus, these lovely little flowers are edible and can be added to salads or used as edible garnishes. You can even candy them and use them to garnish cupcakes and other desserts.
8. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
Cornflowers produce the most beautiful blue blooms, and can reach heights of 3 feet. Since they grow in a mainly upright position, however, they fit nicely into tight spaces. This makes them well-suited for filling in gaps in the garden. You can even grow them in containers if you so desire.
The flowers produce particularly sweet nectar that is very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. Cornflowers require staking to look their best, as their heavy flowers can bend the stalks. These plants require a nice sunny spot and will need to be watered during dry periods.
Note that these are annual plants and will need to be re-sown each year. Luckily, they’re fast growing, so you’ll get to enjoy a wonderful showing each year.
9. Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila)
If attracting important pollinators to your garden is one of your goals, you should consider adding these little blooms. These soft blue flowers are magnets for many insects such as bees and butterflies. For gardeners with sandy soil, you’re in luck, as this species prefers a sandy type of environment to grow in.
Seeds are easy to start and the plants will be happy in sun or partial shade as long as they’re protected when placed in areas with high winds. Transplanting is more difficult, so if you’re hoping to get a plant from a friend, collecting seeds from them will be much more successful.
10. Globe Thistles (Echinops)
Last, but certainly not least, globe thistles can be quite magnificent showstoppers. With their bright blue, orb-shaped flowers that can measure up to a diameter of 2 inches across, they’re real eye catchers. Their blooms perch atop 3- to 4-foot stems and last up to 8 weeks long, making them a wonderful addition to any space.
Hardy from zones 3 to 8, they’re extremely versatile and easy keepers. They prefer full sun if possible, but will still do well in partial shade. As with many wildflowers on this list, globe thistles are very attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.
As you can see from the above list, using blue wildflowers to add a splash of wonder to your garden is an excellent choice. They’re generally easy to cultivate, with few exceptions. Better still, acquiring them is sometimes as easy as pulling over the car at the side of the road to take some cuttings, or taking a walk in your own home town to collect seeds.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and grab some of these beauties!