Wildflowers are a beautiful addition to any landscape, whether you’re seeking to fill in a border or dedicate a large swath of your property to these low-maintenance flowers. The autumn months are the best time of the year to plant the seeds as it gives them enough time to settle into the soil and grow well in the early spring months. Additionally, planting now will give you far more sunny days to plant than waiting until the spring.
Benefits of Spring Wildflowers
Wildflowers offer many benefits for the surrounding ecosystem. They attract and nourish pollinators like bees, prevent soil erosion, and can cover unsightly parts of your landscape like drainage areas. Since they’re virtually maintenance free, you can create a beautiful garden without back breaking work, so long as you put in a little effort at the beginning and keep up with the occasional watering during a dry spell.
Plus for those who love having cut flowers in the home, wildflowers offer a continuous source of fresh flowers during the growing season. Just be sure to stick to varieties native to your region or perennials, and you’ll be able to enjoy them year after year. In many cases, planting your wildflower seeds just once is enough to keep them growing back, but if you do ever need to cover bare spots, do so in the fall so the seeds have time to acclimate before the spring growing season.
Before You Plant
It’s often best to wait until the end of the growing season to plant wildflowers. This may cut down on the number of weeds your seeds will have to contend with when spring arrives. The first step is to clear the area of plants and roots. That means pulling up grass, weeds, and any other unwanted plants in the area of your intended wildflower garden.
If you want to save yourself from a lot of sweaty labor, you can start clearing the area now. If you have cardboard or leftover carpeting from a renovation project, place it over the site you want clear and leave it there for a few months. With cardboard, you may need to weigh it down so it doesn’t blow away. Although it may look unsightly at first, when you pull it up a month or so later, the weeds will have died and you’ll be left with soil. Use a rototiller or shovel to turn over the soil and remove all the old roots and growth that lies beneath the soil.
Choosing Your Site
Always go with a spot that gets full sun. Wildflowers thrive in full sun. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, it’s best to plant at the end of September or early October. If you live in a more temperate climate, you can wait until the end of October or early November.
Although you could scatter wildflower seeds straight from the packet, it’s best to mix it with sand first. Then, take a handful and broadcast it throughout the garden site. The sand helps you ensure you’re covering the full area you intend to grow. Once you’ve covered the site with seeds, walk all over your garden to compress the seeds into the soil. That’s it! Don’t touch it further--that means don’t cover it at all. Just sit and wait to watch the sprouts in the spring.
When spring rolls around, you’ll notice your flowers begin to sprout. Pull weeds when you notice them and add water only if you notice the area is dry.
Wildflowers Wherever, Whenever
If you go to your local plant nursery or garden center, you’ll often find large packets or bags of wildflower seeds. In many cases, the seeds included are native or easily adaptable to your zone and area.
A number of flowers grow well in all parts of North America. These include species like African daisy, black-eyed Susan, blanket flower, calendula, California poppy, cosmos, crimson clover, hollyhock, morning glory, nasturtium, red poppy, rose mallow, Shasta daisy, sweet alyssum, yarrow, wild perennial lupine, and zinnia.
In terms of more localized seed choices, Northeast wildflower mixes may include calendula, wild lupine, and echinacea, as well as any of the flowers mentioned above.
Southeast wildflower mixes will also include cosmos, scarlet sage, and shasta daisy.
Midwest wildflower mixes often include prairie clover and black-eyed Susans, as well as any of the flowers mentioned above. If you live in a prairie region, plant bird’s eyes, blanket flower, blazing star, blue flax, clasping coneflower, grey-headed coneflower, lemon mint, wild sunflower, and Mexican hat.
Southwest wildflower mixes often include African daisies, California poppies as well as Mexican hat and the flowers listed above. They may also include baby snapdragon, bird’s eyes, blue sage, California bluebell, desert marigold, moss verbena, or scarlet flax.
Pacific Northwest wildflower mixes may contain columbine, cornflower, Chinese houses, coreopsis, and foxglove, as well as the varieties above and mountain phlox.