Establishing Native Wildflowers

Whether you are planting a few wildflowers in your garden or trying to repair a large area disturbed by construction the fastest way to get native perennial wildflowers established is by planting plugs or potted stock. Perennials are much more complicated than annuals to germinate and can take several years to do so depending on the species and the conditions. To learn more about this Click Here.

If you have a large space to work will and think you can’t afford plugs just keep reading because you probably don’t want to try and cover the whole area with just wildflowers right off the get go. A wildflower garden is different from a naturalized landscape; a garden will be tended by hand, weeded with care and nurtured along. If you are planting a garden and want to try growing from seed it is possible to do so but you will have to take very good care of the area and have patience. Perennial seeds tend to last much longer than annual seeds which can have a short viability period. If your seed doesn’t germinate the first year it has not gone bad, it is just waiting for the right conditions.

If you are trying to naturalize a space you need to incorporate grasses and the faster the better. By getting some grasses established you are starting to give the weeds some competition. The grass will germinate fast and you can expect to get that going fairly easily, especially if you do it at the right time of year because grass is a cool season germinator and when seeded in the spring or late summer/fall when seasonal precipitation is higher you might get some help from Mother Nature.

Within the larger area seeded to grasses you will want to plant Wildflower Islands. These islands should be well marked and you can have as many or as few as suites your project. These islands can be looked after with more care and attention, you should water them more often and hand weed with care. The larger area seeded to grasses can be mowed to prevent annual weeds from going to seed while avoiding the wildflower islands because until a perennial wildflower is well established it will not tolerate being mowed and even then it may not tolerate being mowed very often. You will have to target perennial weeds like Thistles with more aggressive tactics as they come back from the roots. Mowing can actual create a weed problem where there wasn’t one before Click Here for more details.

The wildflower islands can contain plugs, seeds or both and can have as many or as few plugs and species as your budget and project dictates. Best case scenario includes planting wildflower plugs and sowing seeds, this takes a minimum of two years off the establishment time than if you just seeded the area. Our wildflower plugs are old enough to flower in the first growing season when plant in the fall or spring. These plugs will begin to put seed into the area every year and over time this will compound on itself as the plants begin to spread.

Some plants like Buffalo Beans and Prairie Sage don’t make very much seed and depend instead on spreading roots systems so planting plugs maybe the only option.  Wildflowers are considered very aggressive when they produce a lot of seed and spread aggressively by rhizomes; this is exactly what you are looking for if you have a big space. The smaller the space the less aggressive the wildflowers you should choose.

By adding plugs and seeds to these islands you are really going as far as you can to help expedite the process. If you choose to do seed only it is still a good idea to stick to the island concept so you can monitor and better care for the area. You can pick from our wide variety of individual seed packages or choose one of our seed mixes. Our High Diversity mixes contain 30 different kinds of wildflowers and our Wildlife Mixes contain 15 , some of which are not available in any other format. Some seeds in these mixes will need a winter stratification to geminate so a fall sowing is best; you can expect germination to occur over 4+ years. The Easy Grow mixes do not need a winter stratification to germinate but they still need care and attention to do well; just because they don’t need to be stratified doesn’t mean they will germinate completely in one season, you can still expect germination over a few years. The seed mixes provide the potential for a greater diversity and if you choose plants from the seed mix contents list to add as plugs the visual recognition this provides can really make a big difference in your ability to recognize the wildflower seedling from the weeds once they start to germinate and spread.

Naturalizing an area from scratch will take several years and be a different kind of work than mowing and weed whacking everything to the quick many times over the course of the growing season season. You will be out there experiencing the space as the wildflowers and grasses begin to grow and spread, you will see the wild life move in and begin to recognize the wildflowers as the appear. It is fresh air, sunshine, exercise and interaction with nature as opposed to trying to dominate the landscape so that there is nothing left to draw us in. This is an uphill battle because Mother Nature is relentless and will always win so we can only hope to influence the process.