Given that they’re—um—wild, wildflowers are easy to grow, right? Absolutely. “Plant it and forget it—until it blooms!” You just need to adhere to a few basic principles of gardening:
- Identify an appropriate location with adequate light and drainage
- Choose native wildflower seeds appropriate for the spot you’ve chosen
- Wait until the danger of frost has passed in the spring (or in the fall in mild climates)
- Prepare the soil
- Plant the seeds
That’s it. As with most new gardening projects, or new gardeners, we recommend that you start out on a small scale and expand your effort over time. Following are a few additional pointers.
Choosing an Area for Planting
A wildflower garden, contributing a splash of color to the landscape, looks best in a natural setting, in a large field or bordering a woodland. But, if you don’t have that kind of yard, you can accomplish the same effect by planting the wildflowers as a border in front of a fixture such as a fence or stonewall.
As is the case with most plants, a wildflower garden demands well-drained soil, which means you must plant in an area that doesn’t harbor standing water. At the same time, however, the new garden needs to be proximate to a water source as the wildflower seeds and seedlings will need to be kept moist in the early stages.
Choose your Wildflower Seeds
Wildflower gardens generally consist of a mix of annual and perennial flowers to ensure a succession of bloom throughout the season—not only for esthetic reasons—but also to provide continuous nourishment for important native pollinators. As pointed out above, the plant seeds should be native or adapted to the region where you live. Bentley Seeds has wildflower seed packets customized for all different areas of the country, including: Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Northwest, Mountain, Southeast, Southwest, and Texas.
- You can also buy wildflower seed mix specifically designed to attract bees, birds and butterflies.
- For planting in a large area, it’s easier and more cost effective to buy Bulk Flower mix.
Prepare the Soil
How much effort you go to to prepare the soil for the garden depends on what the nature of the area you’re planting is.The soil doesn’t need to be amended unless it’s particularly sandy and/or completely lacking in organic matter. For best results, you need to have a cleared area of loose soil for the garden—whether that means digging up sod or clearing an area covered with weeds and rocks. Timing is key. Once the area has been prepared, you must plant the seeds quickly, or local weeds will invade and colonize.
Planting the Wildflower Seeds
Wildflower seeds are easy to plant – just follow the instructions on the seed packet, which generally entails sprinkling the seeds in the prepared area and cover them loosely with soil. They do not need fertilizer. You may want to cover the garden with a very thin layer of straw mulch to keep the seeds from blowing away or being disturbed by hungry birds. As long as you water the garden regularly, the seeds will germinate in no time.
As with all gardens, be sure to remove weeds on a regular basis, especially in the beginning, to allow the wildflowers to gain the upper hand. Over time, though you’ll have to resign yourself to the fact that weeds will coexist with your wildflowers—which is part of that natural look you were after, right?
In terms of timing, it depends on your USDA Gardening Zone. For Zones 1-6, it’s best to plant in early spring, after the frost. Otherwise, for Zones 7-11, we recommend planting in late fall which leaves the seeds dormant until the soil warms up in the spring.
Timeline: Seed to Germination to Bloom
Depending on the ambient temperature when you plant your wildflower seeds, and the type of wildflowers included in your seed mix, germination can take place within several days or within a couple of weeks. Remember, the seeds need continuous moisture in order to sprout and grow.
Wildflowers are a beautiful addition to any landscape and are a good way to attract birds, bees and butterflies. For those who love nature, and flowers, in particular, it’s a real pleasure to have a semi-wild colorful area of the yard that doubles as a haven for beneficial wildlife.
The subject of wildflowers has been embroiled in controversy in recent years as more and more focus has been brought to bear on invasive plants which not only can be a nuisance but destructive to the environment as well. Unfortunately, many people, including some so-called experts conflate wildflowers with invasive plants, giving the former a bad name.
The truth of the matter is, for the most part, native wildflowers behave well in the garden given that they have evolved over time to become a cooperative part of the local ecosystem. By contrast, invasive plants tend to come from outside the region and don’t have established natural predators to keep their expansion in check. Over time, invasives may quickly take over and crowd out all other local plant species, which, in turn, puts the local pollinators that depend on them at risk.
In this post, we recommend planting native plant seeds as well as those adapted to the region in which you live. Most seed companies should offer different wildflower seed packets for specific regions of the country. If in doubt, you can always double-check with your local Cooperative Extension Service.