Field margin at RSPB's Hope farm, Knapwell

Leave seedheads standing

Activity time:
Less than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Suitable for:
Balcony/roof, Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Creepy crawlies, Birds

Relish the fading glory as your flowers go over – they will give you and wildlife continued joy for months to come.


However, what it needs is for you to resist the powerful urge to clear up at the end of summer. For so many people, as the petals drop, it is the signal to get in there with the secateurs thinking that the show is now over. What it ignores is that nature actually has something of an encore, quieter and with less razzamatazz, but beautiful in its own way. Under the crispy frosting of winter mornings, seedheads can be an absolute joy. 


They carry, too, a bonus for birds and other wildlife at a time of year when pickings are thin. Birds will eke out the seeds, while hiding in the stems and seedheads are likely to be a myriad of insects and their eggs and larvae. 


Leaving the dead plantheads standing also helps protect the soil beneath so that it is not pummelled by the elements.  


Tidying flopped stems or those hanging over paths isn’t the problem – a tidy garden can still be a wildlife-friendly garden. No, it is when gardeners are clinical that is the issue.

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What you will need

  • Discipline (not to give in to temptation and start clearing up)

Step by step

  1. Here are our pick of the best wildlife-friendly plants to grow for their winter seedheads.
    • Teasel
    • Echinacea
    • Phlomis
    • Opium poppies
    • Sedum
    • Eryngiums
    • Alliums
    • Heleniums
    • Ornamental grasses
    • Rudbeckias
  2. Once you’ve enjoyed them in flower, just leave them into the winter. If some have flopped over, why not prop them up? It’s what we do with flowers, so why not with seedheads.
  3. And when you do finally come to clear them up, leave it as late as possible (it won’t hurt!) – some can even be left into April. Leave the cut stems lying on the ground for a few days for any wildlife still harboured within to make their escape, before the waste goes on the compost.

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