Why Your Wildflowers are Falling Over

wilting wildflowers
Photo by Kim Siever

Wildflowers typically grow upright under the right conditions. Common reasons for wildflowers falling over are over-fertilization of the soil, large blooms, heavy rains or over-watering, hail, or strong wind. Wildflowers grow well in poor-quality soils without too much moisture. Wildflowers will also fall over because their stems are too weak or they grow too tall. 

Common causes for wildflowers drooping

1. Too much fertilizer

Wildflowers do not require fertilizer to grow. The soil should be of average or low organic content to prevent aggressive growth and high competition from weeds and grasses.

Wildflowers only need essential nutrients such as nitrogen to develop strong upright stems. Species such as coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan and Asters thrive in poor soils, but develop weak stalks in rich soils.

Mulching your wildflower garden will enrich the soil and prevent your wildflowers from thriving. Ideally, you should avoid using any fertilizer, chemical or organic, close to where you have planted your wildflowers. 

2. Too much water

watering flowers
watering flowers

Many wildflower species are drought tolerant. If you water your wildflowers, allow the soil to dry completely before adding more water. Species such as Black-Eyed Susan, Hyssop and Coreopsis thrive with little water even in extremely hot and dry climatic conditions.

Poorly drained soils will retain water, deny roots oxygen and expose them to rot. This causes the stems to weaken and fall over. 

3. Inadequate sunlight

Wildflowers require adequate sunlight to flourish. Some species will grow well in partial shade but many varieties will become tall and leggy if denied sunlight. 

There are however, wildflowers that love to grow in the shade!

4. Heavy winds or rainfall

Some wildflowers have weak stems which will droop when exposed to heavy winds and rainfall without any support. 

5. Diseases

wilted weak flower
Photo by romana klee

Wildflowers are affected by diseases such as mildew, stem rot, gray mold and aster yellow. Their impact on each wildflower species varies.

Too much water will cause the soil to remain wet for too long and thus become a breeding ground for diseases. Using overhead sprinklers leads to high moisture in the soil and exposes the wildflowers to diseases. 

6. Large heavy flower heads

Wildflowers such as sunflowers grow too tall and produce flowers that are too heavy to be supported by weak stems. They will fall over when the stem is unable to support the weight of the flower in full bloom. 

What to do when wildflowers fall over

Wildflowers with tall stems will need a little aid to regain their upwards growth after they fall over. Staking is recommended to cover a small wildflower garden and to position their stems upright. Staking can be done when your wildflowers fall over due to high winds or rainfall.

Staking can be preventive or remedial. Remedial staking is done after the stem falls and is done to support the plant in its later stages of growth. The stake support should fall between the midpoint of the wildflower plant and its peak. Stake your wildflowers when you are expecting heavy winds or heavy rains. 

For the best support, stake your plants using the corral method. To do this:

  1. Insert four or more stakes in the ground around the plant. 
  2. Tie a string around each of the stakes, going round and back to the original stake. 
  3. You may need to use several string tiers for taller wildflowers. 
  4. Space them 4-6 inches apart. Flower heads should be placed 4-6 inches above the top tier string. 

Prevention methods to stop wildflowers from falling over

1. Single staking

This involves:

  1. Poking a wooden stake into the ground, at a distance of 2-3 inches from the stem. Ensure it is secure in the ground. Do this during the spring before the plants need them. 
  2. As the stems emerge, use a string to loosely tie the plant to the stake at intervals of 6 inches. 
  3. As the plant grows taller, add more ties 6-8 inches apart. 
  4. The highest tie should be located at the base of the flowers. 
  5. Keep the string tight enough to support the leaning stems but loose enough to allow natural growth. 
  6. Wooden or bamboo stakes will rot over time so you should remove them over the winter. You can dip the ends of the stakes in wax to slow down the decomposition process. 

2. Tomato Cages

These will benefit wildflowers with heavy heads. 

Use 3-4ft tall cages to support tall growing and bushy wildflowers such as hollyhock and meadow rue. 2-3ft tomato cages can be used for smaller wildflowers such as purple coneflower. 

Use strings to tie the plant stems along the horizontal support wires. 

3. Wildflower positioning

flowers and grass

You can grow your wildflowers along strong-stemmed perennials or against hedges. Plant weak-stemmed wildflowers alongside prairie grass to provide extra support and protection against strong winds. 

4. Spring pruning/mowing

mowing wildflowers
mowing wildflowers

Prune or mow your wildflowers during spring to encourage foliage growth. Follow this guide on how to mow your wildflowers. Heavy foliage will support flowers. Further, cut back the flowers in the fall after they go to seed. These flower heads place extra strain on the stems and may result in falling over. 

Can you overwater wildflowers? 

Yes, it is possible to overwater your wildflowers. Most wildflower varieties will thrive with little moisture in dry soils. If their roots sit in damp soil, root rot may set in. Overwatering your wildflowers is detrimental to their growth.

Overhead sprinklers or individual watering without letting the soil dry first is a common issue. Soils with poor drainage will not support the growth of wildflowers. 


Wildflowers fall over due to too much water in the soil, extreme winds or rains or too much nutrients in the soil. You can prevent the stems from drooping by staking early in the germination process or after the plant falls over. Regulate watering and the use of fertilizers when growing wildflowers. It is best to leave them to grow with as little interference as possible.