Cardamine pratensis is one of the most beautiful and one of the best loved of our wild flowers. It bears long narrow leaves and supremely elegant flowers in late spring/early summer. It flowers at the time the first cuckoo starts to call. They flower two or three to each stem, in white or with pink tomes.
The Cuckoo Flower, sometimes spelt Cuckooflower, can be found in moist or wet habitats, including meadows, damp grasslands, roadsides, ditches and river banks. It is part of the Brassicaceae family and is native throughout most of Europe and western Asia.
In garden situations the plant can play a role in spring flowering lawns on heavy soils when a regular cutting programme is carried out after flowering or can be established in a range of wet grasslands, including sites waterlogged in the winter.
The Cuckoo Flower is noted for attracting wildlife. The flower is an important larval host plant and nectar source for the Orange-Tip and Green-Veined White butterflies, It makes a valuable addition to any garden which aims at attracting wildlife.
The optimum time for sowing is late summer/early autumn with March to May being the next best window. Temperatures should be around 20°C (68°F)
Seeds can be sown three ways:
Under glass: Sown into cells or small pots to create plug plants. Sow on the surface and just press lightly into the soil. Keep the compost moist but not wet at all times.
Prick out each seedling once it has its first set of “true” leaves, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost has passed. Plant 30-60cm apart.
Once established the plug plants can then be introduced into the garden, into existing wildflower meadows, or into newly sown meadows after the sowing of the seed mix.
Seedbed: They can be sown into a small seedbed in a shady position in April. They can then be planted out in autumn or spring.
Direct Sowing: Sow onto prepared soil, either on its own or as part of a wildflower seed mix. Weed control is critical to the successful development of wild flower meadows. It is important to start with a site free from weeds.
Seed requires warmth and moisture to germinate and so should be sown later in spring on cold, clay soil than on light sandy or chalky soil. However, seed can be sown throughout the winter given good soil conditions. Sow onto the surface but do not rake in. If it is a very small area, then walk over the site to create good seed to soil contact.
Does well in most soils in sheltered situations. Do not plant in full sun.
The plant produces young plants at the base of its leaflets. When large enough, these can be easily separated from the main plant and grown on as individual plants.
The maintenance regime for a wildflower meadow can comprise a cut in June or July with a second cut in the autumn. The key issue is not to let the sward grow so tall as to swamp the Cuckoo Flower.
Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Meadow; Bog Garden
Appropriate for planting in a flower border, rock garden or woodland.
Cottage/Informal, Beds and borders, Wildflower, Wildlife
In folklore it was said to be sacred to the fairies, and so was unlucky if brought indoors. It was not included in May Day garlands for the same reason.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Family Brassicaceae Genus Cardamine Species pratensis Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Common Name Cuckoo Flower, Ladys flower, Ladys smock
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Bread and milk, Cuckoo bread, Milk Maid, Spinks, Spring cress
Mayflower, Meadow cress, Cuckoo buds, Cuckoo spit.
Other Language Names IR. Biolar gréagháin Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers White or pale pink in April to June Foliage Mid green, narrow long leaves Height 20-50 cm (8-20”) Position Partial Shade, Full Shade Time to Sow Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn.