Are you enticed by the lavish meadows of wildflowers that appear each Spring along our highways? Why not create a meadow of your own in your backyard. Here are a few simple steps to ensure success in growing wildflowers.
- In the East Texas area, the best time to sow your seed is in the Autumn for flowers in early Spring.
- Start with a clean seed-bed by clearing weeds and grasses that might compete with wildflowers.
- Carefully scatter the seeds by hand onto your prepared soil.
- Small seeds are easier to handle when you mix them with sand (one part seed to four parts sand).
- Press the seeds into the soil with your footsteps; try not to bury them more than 1/8 inch deep.
- Wait for the rain to sprout your seeds, or, if it doesn’t rain, be sure to water them.
- If you notice any plants growing much faster, they may be weeds that you need to pull out of the ground.
Come Spring you should have a colorful field of blooms that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees.
Sheri Bailey, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Wildflowers, or native flowers, as they are sometimes called, are becoming more and more popular. They appeal to our regional pride. Who doesn’t love a Texas bluebonnet? And wildflowers exhibit enough beauty and diversity to satisfy many landscape situations.
If these flowers grow in the wild and are native to our area, they must be really easy to grow. Right? Well, yes and no. Yes, they are easy to grow under the right conditions, especially if the plants are available from a local plant nursery and are waiting to be put into just the right spot. Fortunately, many wildflowers are now available from nurseries and can easily be incorporated into traditional borders of perennials.
But to have great sweeps of wildflowers in fields or hillsides or informal lawns, planting from seeds is the way to go. However, it is not quite as easy as just throwing a bunch seeds out in the yard or pasture and watching them pop up and bloom every spring. But if nature cooperates, it is possible, with a little effort and patience and wildflower knowledge, to have wildflowers that are just as spectacular as those pictured in the wildflower seed catalogs.<p.
How can we be successful in our wildflower gardening? By knowing what conditions are necessary for wildflower seeds to germinate and grow. The first is site selection. The site must be sunny, preferably with a minimum of eight hours of direct sunlight every day. Because the seeds must be kept moist for about four to six weeks for proper germination, supplemental watering must be available if rainfall is inadequate. However, too much rainfall or over-watering may cause the seedlings to die from lack of oxygen to the roots. So a site with good drainage is essential.
After the site has been selected, the soil must be properly prepared by removing all existing vegetation, either with a herbicide or by hand. Rake or till the soil no more than an inch deep so that dormant weed seeds will not be released to compete with the wildflowers. Now you are ready to plant. In Zone 8, the recommended time is in the fall, from October 1 to December 1.
Now comes the easy part. Mix the seeds with a carrier such as masonry sand or potting soil with a ratio of one part seed to four parts carrier. This aids in even distribution over the site. Next, broadcast the seeds, one half in one direction and the other half in a direction perpendicular to the initial sowing. Then gently press the seed into the soil to a depth of about 1/16th of an inch, either by walking over the seeds or rolling over them. It is important that they not be any deeper than 1/16th of an inch. Some of the seeds will be visible.
Wildflowers, once established and with just a little bit of care, can return year after year and make us proud of our Texas natives.
Mary Wilkerson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service