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A Guide to Native Plant Gardening

These problems are compounded when native plants are replaced with non-native species in landscape plantings. The continual use of a limited palette of non-native plants readily available across the U.S. had produced a homogenized landscape susceptible to pests and diseases. Non-native species often require large amounts of water, fertilizer and herbicides for their maintenance, and those that escape cultivation and become aggressive often out-compete native plants for resources.

While preserving natural stands of native plants is important, you can help reestablish native plant communities in your yard and community by choosing to landscape with native plants as well. Regardless of the scale of the project, you can help conserve water and other natural resources while restoring and celebrating your region’s character.

A native landscape provides so much more than just water-conserving features. Native landscapes provide habitats for wildlife and encourage the presence of native insects and microorganisms; these native organisms benefit plants by keeping them healthy without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Your native landscape will be an economical, ecological and beautiful entity that reconnects you to the natural world.

Establishing native plants in your garden or landscape usually requires every bit as much work as establishing non-native species. However, once your native plants are established, you will see not only savings in time, energy and money, but also an aesthetic sense of place only regional native plants can provide.

Site Assessment, Planning and Design

You can incorporate native plants into an existing landscape or start completely from scratch. First, you’ll want to assess your property’s environmental conditions (shady or sunny, adequate or poor drainage, soil types, irrigation, etc.), inventory existing native plants, and establish your own landscape needs based on how you use your yard. The results are well worth the time you spend analyzing and matching species to site conditions and personal preference.

Work toward a naturalistic landscape design by imitating associations found in specific plant communities (a prairie area, wetland or woodland edge, for example). Visit local natural areas so you can determine which species might grow well on your property. By observing native plants in their natural environments, you can learn more about their ecosystem requirements and growth habits. If you duplicate at home what you see in nature, you’ll properly place native plants in your yard. Note the plant’s maximum size and bloom sequence and where it occurs, such as at the edge of a forest or in an open meadow. Take time to learn about the dominant native plants in your area.

Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it can be installed in phases as money and time permit. If you should need assistance, a professional landscape designer or landscape architect with native plant experience could be employed.

Soil Preparation and Weed Elimination

First, you’ll want to assess your weed population and determine a control method. Disturbing the soil can create more problems than it solves because weed seeds, roots and rhizomes lay dormant underground, ready to sprout after tilling. If the site isn’t too weedy and has an appropriate amount of sun, incorporating wildflowers into the existing vegetation is relatively easy. Mow the herbaceous vegetation to a height of 6-8 inches and rake up the thatch, opening up some bare areas to allow the seeds to make soil contact.

If you have some weeds but prefer not to till or hand-weed, you can kill them by watering them and covering them with clear plastic for several months—a process known as solarization. This process works best in full sun and often creates temperatures high enough to kill the bank of weed seeds if done for a long enough period of time. Be sure to use clear plastic, as black plastic only causes the unwanted plants to go dormant, ready to spring back to life.

If you choose to till first, be sure to go no deeper than one to two inches to prevent the surfacing and germination of weed seeds. You could also apply two or more applications of a nonresidual, post-emergent herbicide to remove existing vegetation. Before you apply the herbicide, water the site for a week or two to promote weed germination. Let the seedlings grow one or two weeks and apply the herbicide. Repeat this process once more to ensure a fairly clean seed bed. Be sure to handle all herbicides with caution, read labels carefully and, if you are near surface water, choose an appropriate one. You can plant your wildflower and native grass seeds as soon as you are sure competing vegetation is under control.

If you have a lot of persistent weeds (Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, nutgrass, etc.), you may need a year or more to kill them all, although total eradication may not be practical if the site is extremely degraded or very large. You may want to use a modified solarization process where you use an herbicide in place of watering and then cover with clear plastic. Eliminating weeds as much as possible before planting is easier and less expensive than trying to control them in a newly planted site.

When plants are truly well selected for a site, no soil amendment should be needed. However, if your site has had the original topsoil removed, some soil amendments can help. (Also, imported soil may have been combined with native soil, changing how well it is suited to native plants.) Garden soils prepared and available at garden centers and dirt yards are often too rich in organic matter for native plants. If you are able to specify your own soil mix, ask to have less manure and organic matter added. Better yet — have them help you simulate as best as possible your native soil. Be aware that some builders lay down sandy loam— often referred to by native plant gardeners as “red death” — which is dug from deep pits and has no nutrient value or organic life. If this is the case, you may need to remove the sandy loam and start from scratch. Properly prepared soil helps conserve water because it absorbs and holds water more efficiently and drains better. Healthy soils support healthy plants that can better resist pests and diseases.

When possible, prepare your beds two to three months before planting so the soil can settle. Many wildflowers require well-drained soil, so you may need to supplement the prepared soil with sand, gravel or other material that loosens it and permits good drainage. Some wildflower species require moist soil; add water and large amounts of rotted leaves or compost to accommodate those needs.

Plant Selection and Planting

Choose species based on the soil, light and water conditions of your site and for the size, shape, texture and color you desire. For a more natural, successful and easily maintained landscape, you’ll need species that grow together naturally. The commercial availability of native plant species in local nurseries ultimately will determine which plants you use in your landscape. As demand for native plants increases, the nursery industry will respond and begin offering more native species in larger quantities. Take advantage of our biannual native plants sales, and keep asking your local nurseries to stock native plants!

If you have a large, sunny spot and are interested in planting wildflowers by seed, please refer to our How to Plant a Wildflower Meadow page. It is often preferable to work with plants instead of seeds to achieve your landscape goals more quickly. Native plants come in a variety of sizes from multiple-plant packs to large containers. Choose plants that have good branching structure and look healthy. Don’t let plants wilt in your car; get them home as soon as possible and into the shade until you are able to plant them.

The soil and roots of plants in pots can easily dry out so be watchful and water accordingly. When you are ready to plant, dig the holes larger than the root ball of the plant. To achieve a natural look, avoid planting in rows. Remove plants from their pots by manipulating the sides of the pots to loosen the soil from the roots. Never pull on the stems of plants to remove them as this might cause injury to the plant. If the plant is pot bound, you may want to cut and spread out some of the roots. Backfill the hole with some of the loose dirt, then position the plant so that the soil line from the pot is level with that of the ground. Use the remaining soil to fill the hole.

Mulch can help control weeds, reduce temperature fluctuations, retain moisture and give a finished look to the landscape; we suggest four-to-six-inch deep organic mulch around trees and shrubs and one inch or less around perennials. In some cases (blackfoot daisy, bluebonnets, yuccas, etc.), too much organic matter at the base of plants may encourage rotting; in those instances, we recommend the use of mineral mulches, such as crushed granite or limestone. Another bonus: Mineral mulches visually simulate the typical landscape of much of the Texas Hill Country.

Maintenance

All landscapes need several years to be come well established. The critical period for watering and weeding is two to three weeks after planting — longer if you are planting in warm, dry seasons — when nursery-grown plants are making the transition to living in a landscape. Your landscape will need minimal maintenance once it is established. Many maintenance practices used for traditional cultivated plants also work for native plants.

Depending on the look you’re trying to achieve, you may need to prune fast-growing species or weed out undesirable plants. Clipping seed heads and branch tips encourages fullness and longer bloom periods for many perennials, although it may sacrifice some seed production. You’ll want to research particular species you plan to prune. Some perennial wildflowers and shrubs respond well to severe pruning in the fall or late winter to remove frost damage.

Before mowing or collecting, you’ll need to examine seeds to determine ripeness to ensure the wildflower seeds have matured. Allowing seed to set is more important for getting annuals to come back than it is for perennials. Mowing will help disperse the seeds into the same location. If you collect your seeds, you’ll want to store them in a dark, dry and cool place until you’re ready to plant. Be sure to label them with at least the species name and date collected (learn more about collecting and storing seeds).

Native plants usually do not require fertilizer. Many thrive in poor soil, and applying fertilizer could chemically burn them or stimulate weak foliage growth with few flowers.

How To Plant Wildflowers In The Fall Or Winter

1. Identify The Correct Planting Time For Your Area
In cool climates, plant just after hard frosts. In warm climates, plant just before the rainy season.

2. Prepare Your Site For Seeding
Choose a site with a minimum of 6 hours of sun. Prepare your soil by removing all existing growth. Better soil preparation = more flowers!

3. Sow Your Wildflower Seeds
Mix seeds with sand for even distribution. Be sure to follow the correct coverage rate, as wildflowers do not like crowded conditions.

4. Compress Seeds Into The Soil
Walk directly on top of the planting area, or use a seed roller. They need sun – do not bury or cover wildflower seeds with soil.

5. Wait For Growth & Blooms
Unlike planting in spring, fall planting does not require intensive watering. Depending on your climate, blooms will appear in spring or early summer.

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It’s As Simple As Plan, Plant, Grow!

Watch: How to Plant Wildflower Seeds in Fall

In this two-part video, our resident wildflower expert, Mike “The Seed Man” Lizotte, shows how to plant a wildflower meadow. Watch for tips preparing your land, sowing the seeds, and taking care of your planting as it grows and matures.

1. Identify The Correct Planting Time For Your Area

Fall is a perfect time to sow wildflower seeds. This timing follows the same approach as Mother Nature: wildflowers naturally drop their seeds in fall to take advantage of the freezing, thawing, and/or extra moisture that winter delivers. This weather helps to crack open their hard, outer seed cases.

Fall Planting Wildflower Seed in Colder Climates

  • Fall seeding is a good choice if you live in an area that experiences cold or freezing winters, and the ground freezes for more than 60 days. Though you have a shorter growing season, you’ll get a jump start on spring growth, and should see color 2-4 weeks earlier than with spring planting.
  • The best strategy is to plant after at least one or two killing frosts. See our Frost Date Chartfor frost dates in your area. You want to make sure that seeds lay dormant over the winter, and that there is no chance for germination. Yes, that’s right…You definitely don’t want the seed to begin to sprout! Otherwise, those tiny wildflower shoots will simply die off as soon freezing temperatures arrive.
  • In cool climates, average ground temperatures for fall planting wildflower seeds need to be below 45 degrees. The biggest mistake people make with fall planting in cooler climates is sowing seed too soon. It takes time for soil temperatures to drop, even after air temperatures cool – especially if you’ve had a warm summer. Soil cools down and warms up gradually, like a large body of water does.
  • See A Soil Temperature Map Here.

Fall Planting Wildflower Seed In Warmer Climates

  • In warmer climates, sowing wildflowers in fall allows you to take advantage of your rainy season and the natural precipitation that winter often brings to the warmest zones. Your seeds will also germinate in optimal temperatures for growth. Young plants that avoid early stress will develop into strong adult plants that are more resilient to stressful weather events in the future. (Spring plantings can be challenging in warm climates, where spring and summer heat requires lots of watering and can cause stress to young seedlings.)
  • If you live in a warm winter climate, you may choose to winter sow your wildflowers. Even though the ground doesn’t freeze and harden, you can still take advantage of the dormant season by sowing seeds in January or February. You can expect your seed to germinate 2-4 weeks after planting. This is a great way to take advantage of the natural precipitation that winter often brings to the warmest zones.
  • If you live in a warm climate that experiences frosts, you can plant perennial wildflowers about 60-90 days before the first frost arrives.This will give perennials an opportunity to establish root systems that will endure over winter. Consult our Frost Date Chartfor frost dates in your area.

Have questions about getting the timing right? We’re here to help! Contact Us.

2. Preparation Is The Key To Success

Better preparation = more wildflowers! Use a tractor or rototiller, hand tools, solarization/smothering, or organic herbicides to clear your soil of weeds, grasses, and other plants (roots and all), to make room for your wildflowers to grow and thrive.

A note for climates with winter freeze: You should plan on working the soil to remove other plant life before the ground freezes. Ideally, you’ll be sowing your wildflower seeds about 2-3 weeks after you’ve tilled the planting site, after a few hard frosts. This schedule means that the seed will just lay dormant (sleeping) through the winter season and begin to germinate once the ground warms next spring.

Why Is Soil Preparation Important?

  • Your seeds will germinate better in a site without competing plants shading them out and stealing resources like nutrients and water.
  • Grasses and weeds are vigorous growers that can out-compete wildflower seedlings, so removing them gives your wildflowers the best chance to thrive.
  • Soil that has been loosened makes root growth much easier for thriving plants.
  • Seeds need good contact with soil and plenty of sunlight to germinate and establish healthy roots.
  • Without the stress of competition early on, your young wildflowers will be better suited to compete with weeds and grasses that might try to grow back.

We don’t recommend just throwing the seed out in the field or into grass; anyone who’s tried scattering seed without removing other plants has been sorely disappointed when their wildflowers don’t come up.

  • For details, see our helpful guide: 4 Ways To Prepare Your Site For Planting Wildflowers

Tips For Choosing A Site For Wildflowers

  • Your soil is probably already perfect for wildflowers. The test is simple: If anything is growing in the area — even if it’s just grasses or weeds — the area should support wildflowers without concern.
  • Wildflowers do not need fertilizer to grow well. Wildflowers, as we see on every roadside, are extremely adaptable and do well in poor soils.
  • Full sun is a must for most wildflower varieties. Choose a sunny spot that receives 6+ hours of sun. (For areas with 4+ hours of sun, our Partial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix is a great option.)
  • Good drainage is a requirement. Choose a place where water does not stand for longer than one hour after a rainfall. (For wet areas, try our Wet Area Wildflower Seed Mix.)

Tips For Choosing A Site For Your Wildflower Planting

  • Full sun is a must. Choose a sunny spot with 6+ hours of sun. One exception is our Partial Shade Mixture, which only needs 4 hours of sun.
  • Seed Man’s Planting Tip:A minimum of 6 hours of sunlight is necessary for wildflowers to grow.
  • Your soil is probably already perfect for wildflowers! Unless your soil is actually sterile, which is rare, it’s recommended that you use your soil just as you find it. Wildflowers, as we see on every roadside, are extremely adaptable and do well in poor soils. Of course, if yours is heavy clay , you can till in sand or peat moss to loosen it. And if it’s sandy , you can till in humus or compost to make it heavier and more moisture-retentive. But the test is simple: If anything is growing in the area — even if it’s just grasses or weeds — the area should support wildflowers without concern.
  • The only absolute requirement is good drainage. Choose a place where water does not stand for longer than one hour after a rainfall.
  • Wildflowers do not demand fertilizer to grow well. Just take a look at the healthy wildflower plants found along most country roads – no one fertilizes there. Wildflowers are famous for growing in poor soils.
  • Seed Man’s Planting Tip: If you can grow weeds, you can grow wildflowers!

Prepare Your Site: Better Soil Prep= More Flowers!

Preparing the planting area is a task that many people tend to overlook or cut short. Maybe it’s the thought of having to fire up the roto-tiller or work the ground with a spade for a few hours that doesn’t appeal to most folks but trust us, it’s the most critical step for success.

No matter if you’re sowing 5 acres or 5 square feet, the more time you spend prepping the area before seeding, the better results you’ll have.

While we wish we could tell people to “just throw the seed out in the field,” we know that to be terrible advice. Anyone who’s ever tried scattering seed without removing other plants has been sorely disappointed when their wildflowers don’t come up.

You’ll need to get rid of weeds, grasses, and other plants (roots and all) to make plenty of room for your wildflowers to grow and thrive. There’s a set amount of water, nutrients, and sunlight available in every planting space and it’s your job to remove any plants that will compete with your wildflowers before sowing your seeds.

What could be a thick, lush planting of wildflowers will struggle to grow if it’s left to compete with existing root structures in the soil. The better you prep the area, the more easily two very important things will happen:

  • Your seeds will germinate quicker and stronger without competing plants shading them out and ‘stealing’ available food and water
  • Without the stress of competition early on, your young wildflowers will be better suited to compete with weeds and grasses that might try to grow back.

Seed Man’s Planting Tip: Take your time and be thorough. After your hard work is over, you’ll get years of low-maintenance enjoyment from your planting!

4 Ways To Clear The Ground Before Planting Wildflowers

While you have a few choices to consider around how to clear your soil, there are two factors that will help you to decide which one is the best for you: Size and Lead Time.

Size: Large spaces are more apt to require equipment like rototillers (or even tractors if you’re planting 1/2 acre or more), while hand tools will be just fine for prepping small gardens and containers.

Lead Time: With a few weeks, a few months, or even an entire season ahead of your planting date, you may be able to prep your soil using labor-saving, cost-effective and/or eco-friendly methods. Here are some soil prep approaches that work with different schedules:

  • Planting Immediately: If you’re looking to sow your wildflower seeds within a week’s time, you’re usually limited to tilling or using hand tools to remove plant growth and existing roots. Some people rent or borrow equipment if they don’t own it, while others are happy to prep their soil by hand to keep their planting budget-friendly.
  • Planting in 3 months: If you have a few months ahead of you, you can make use of natural herbicides and weed killers. This approach reduces physical labor, and also allows time for the chemicals to dissipate before they can do any harm to your wildflower planting. Alternately, this time frame means that the soil can be worked with a tiller or hand tools multiple times, allowing for weed seeds to be repeatedly brought to the top of the soil and killed off, diminishing their overall appearance in your meadow.
  • Planting in 6+ months: With a good amount of time to spare, you have the eco-friendly option of using plastic sheeting or other materials to kill off weeds by smothering them out. This technique is very effective, does not require much physical effort, and costs very little.

Roto-tilling:

For larger areas, a rototiller can be used to break up the ground and soften the soil. These are often very affordable to rent if you don’t own one. It’s important to “till” only as deep as necessary to remove old roots. 4 to 6 inches deep should do the trick.

The deeper you till, the more dormant weed seeds you’ll turn up near the surface where they can sprout along with your wildflowers. If your area has been an old field that has grown and seeded itself for years, expect plenty of weed seeds in the soil.

If you’re tilling a lawn that’s been mowed for years, chances are your weed seed count will be low. Careful rototilling works well for three reasons: It opens the soil and allows a “soft” space for emerging flower plants; It creates a good seedbed for germination and promotes good “seed-to-soil” contact; And, of course, it removes almost all the existing grasses and weeds which would otherwise compete with your seedlings.

A very thorough approach for tilling is to plan to take 2-3 passes over the soil, all spaced a few weeks apart. The first tilling can be done at a depth of 4-6”, with each consecutive tilling being done at a shallower depth. This allows you to intentionally bring weed seeds up, have them germinate, and then kill them off in your next tilling. Your first two passes will be aimed at cleaning weeds out of the soil, while the final pass is meant to correctly prep the soil for your upcoming planting.

Solarization and Smothering:

Both of these methods are aimed at killing weeds by laying materials over your planting site.

Solarizing Weeds: Lay clear plastic, like a painting drop cloth, over your soil. The sun will shine down on the plastic, trapping an excessive amount of heat and moisture underneath, which will kill any existing plant life.

An added benefit of solarization is that some weed seeds may be encouraged to germinate in the sunlight before the heat kills them off.

Smothering Weeds: (also called ‘occultation’) Lay a heavy tarp, blanket, or sheets over the planting site for 4-6 weeks. This cuts plant life off from available sunlight and also introduces a whole lot of warmth. Weed seeds that germinate in darkness will sprout under the heavy fabric, but will then die off from lack of sunlight.

An added benefit of smothering is that it creates the perfect environment for earthworms and other soil life to eat the decaying plant growth and loosen up the soil.

Hand Tools:

For a small area, the project is the same as preparing for a new vegetable garden, and a shovel or spade and rake is usually all that’s needed.

Simply dig out everything that’s growing there, turn the soil, and rake the area flat and free from rocks and roots. (By the way, here’s one advantage of meadow gardening over vegetable gardening. A few rocks and some uneven spots won’t bother a wildflower planting, so there’s usually less to do.)

Old grass roots are especially important — be sure to remove them or they’ll grow back along with your new wildflower plants. If necessary, use a pickaxe – or the smaller, handheld version called a mattock, or even a sharp spade.

Natural Herbicides:

Those who are really struggling to remove tough weeds may choose to turn to chemical applications. Organic (non-synthetic) herbicides are available at most hardware stores and garden centers. When working with any weed killer, gardeners should be aware that they are ‘non-selective’ which means that they will harm any broadleaf plant or tree that they make contact with. To prevent damaging the plants you’ve chosen for your landscape, apply herbicides carefully on wind-free days.

If seeing grasses growing among your wildflowers is maddening to you, and you’d like to reach for a natural herbicide spray – be sure to choose one that is intended to control ‘monocots’, or single-blade plants (like grasses). Herbicides intended to kill ‘dicots’ (also called broadleaf plants) will likely kill off part of your intended planting.

Shop Regional Wildflower Seed Mixes

All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is 100% pure, non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free, and guaranteed to grow.

This favorite wildflower mixture is comprised of 27 different wildflowers, both annuals and perennials, that will thrive in the Western region of the country. The West Wildflower See.

The Southwest Wildflower Mix is comprised of 26 different wildflowers that will thrive in the Southwest region of the country. Designed to create show-stopping color all season long.

Containing 26 different wildflowers that thrive when planted in the Southeastern US, the Southeast Wildflower Seed Mix brings steady color to the landscape throughout the summer seas.

This favorite wildflower mixture is comprised of 28 different wildflowers, both annuals and perennials, that will thrive in the Pacific Northwest region of the country. The Pacific N.

The Northeast Wildflower Seed Mix contains 27 different annual and perennial wildflowers that thrive when planted in the Northeast. Exceptionally easy to grow, this mix brings a dyna.

The Midwest Wildflower Seed Mix is comprised of 28 different wildflower species, all perfect for planting in the Heartland of the USA. Designed to provide nonstop season-long color, .

3. Scatter Your Wildflower Seeds

  1. Separate your seed into roughly two equal parts. Put each half into a bucket, bowl, bin, or large bag with plenty of extra room.
  2. Mix sand & seeds. Add roughly eight parts dry sand to one part seed, and mix well. (For example: 8 cups sand to 1 cup seed.) Sand helps you spread seed more evenly, and since it is lighter than the soil, you’ll be able to see where you’ve sown seeds. Always make sure that your sand is dry, especially if it has been stored outdoors. Wet sand has a tendency to clump and can cause your seed to be applied unevenly. If possible, starting with new sand helps prevent contamination.
  3. Test out your sowing technique. Your goal is to lay your seed down as evenly as possible, and you’re likely to be surprised by how quickly it leaves your hand or the spreader. When using a seed spreader, always do a practice run first. This will help you get comfortable with sowing, by understanding how much seed comes out how fast.
  4. For even application, scatter your seeds in two sowings. Take the first half of your seeds and sow them as evenly as possible, while walking across your site from north to south. Then take the other half and apply in a similar manner, this time walking in the opposite direction.

How Much Seed Do I Need?

Be sure to use the right amount of seed as recommended for your mix or individual species – more seed does not always mean more blooms! While it may be very tempting to throw extra seed down, but this usually brings the opposite effect you were looking for. Seeds sown too densely can create competition among seedlings, causing them to become leggy or strangle one another out.

  • Our guide shows how to calculate square footage in 3 easy steps: How Much Seed Do I Need?

Wildflower Seeds and Their Application Rates

After timing, the most important consideration when seeding your site is to know and follow the application rate – meaning how much seed, by weight, should be placed over a square foot of soil.

While it may be very tempting to throw some extra seed down, this usually brings the opposite effect you were looking for. Instead of more blooms and more color, you’ll actually be packing young seedlings in so tight together, that they strangle one another out – leaving you with fewer flowers overall.

Additionally, those flowers that survive often become tall and spindly from struggling to reach for the sun through a thick patch of neighboring plants. Tall and spindly flowers have a hard time making it through the season, as their stems are often too fragile to withstand wind and rain.

Application rates are listed on seed packaging, as well as on our website.

How to Scatter Seeds with a Seed Spreader or by Hand:

As soon as you’ve given your soil a final ‘roughing up’, it’s time to plant. Your goal is to scatter the seed evenly over the entire planting area. To make this as easy as possible, many people will use a plastic hand-crank seed spreader, which is commonly used for sowing grass seed.

Another option is to divide your seed into two equal parts. You’ll then toss one portion of the seed over your planting area while walking back and forth in a north-to-south direction. Next, take the remaining portion, and sow those seeds while walking in an east-to-west direction.

When scattering wildflowers by hand, it’s really helpful to add dry ‘play sand’ or ‘sandbox sand’ to your seeds first. Other sands can absorb moisture and become wet, forming clumps with your seed and making it difficult to spread. The light color of the sand will allow you to see exactly where your seed has landed, which will alert you to bare spots and areas of uneven application.

The Split & Sand Method

  • Separate the seed you’re planting, no matter the amount, into roughly two equal parts.
  • Put the first half in a clean bucket (or coffee can, or anything else handy)
  • Then add in roughly eight parts of dry sand to one part of seed. (For example: 8 cups sand to 1 cup seed.) Always make sure that your sand is dry, especially if it has been stored outdoors. Wet sand has a tendency to clump and can cause your seed to be applied unevenly. If possible, starting with new sand can help prevent contamination.
  • Once you have the sand and seed evenly mixed in your bucket, test out your sowing technique. Your goal is to lay your seed down as evenly as possible, and you’re likely to be surprised by how quickly it leaves your hand or the spreader.
  • You’ll have the best chance of an even application if you scatter your seeds in two sowings.
  • Take the container with one-half of your seeds and sow them as evenly as possible while walking across your site from north to south.
  • Then take the other half and apply in a similar manner, this time walking from east to west.

4. Compress Seeds Into The Soil

After you’ve scattered your seed, it’s very important that you make certain the seed is making good contact with the soil.

  • For small-sized patches, you can use your feet to compress seeds into the soil, either barefoot or in shoes.
  • For medium-sized gardens and beds, lay a piece of cardboard or plywood over the soil and walk all over it; this will evenly distribute your weight across the soil.
  • For large, plantings, you can use a seed roller, either as a tractor attachment or as a walk-behind tool.

Why Is Compression Important?

  • Good seed-to-soil contact helps to speed up germination
  • It ensures that moisture and nutrients make their way to your seeds
  • It prevents wind, water, and natural occurrences from moving seeds around, and helps to anchor your wildflowers’ root systems in a good spot

Your Planting Questions, Answered!

“Should Wildflower Seeds Be Left Covered Or Uncovered?”

No matter if you’re planting in spring or fall, there is generally no need to cover the seed. Wildflower seeds are often very tiny, and many require light to germinate. Unlike veggie seeds, which are typically planted in holes and buried within the soil, wildflower seeds are scattered on top of the soil and left exposed.

There are two exceptions to this rule – and in both cases, we recommend covering your seeds with straw (not soil):

  • Seeding a slope or steep bank, where rain can easily carry seeds downhill and reposition them or clump them all together.
  • Seeding an area exposed to strong winds, which can also move seeds around.
“Will Birds and Wildlife Eat My Wildflower Seeds?”

Notice that we didn’t mention covering your seed to protect against marauding birds and critters! In 35+ years of business, we’ve learned that this just isn’t as big a problem as one might think. Maybe that’s because our wildflower seed mixes average 250,000 seeds per pound!

Generally speaking, in cool climates, you’ll be seeding in fall after a few hard frosts. From there, snow and ice should make an appearance and protect your seeds from wildlife. Additionally, many of the seeds in our mixes just aren’t appealing to birds and animals, who are selective about the seeds they choose for food.

In warmer areas (or when sowing wildflowers in spring up north), your seeds will germinate and begin to grow within 2-3 weeks of being planted. This just doesn’t give local wildlife much time to make a big enough dent in your future wildflower patch.

If for some reason you know your area to be a true exception to this rule, with above-average wildlife pressure (barn full of crows next door?), feel free to place a thin layer of straw on top of your seeding as a safeguard.

5. When to Look for Fall-Planted Wildflowers in the Spring

So, you’ve seeded your wildflowers in the fall and are anxiously awaiting their appearance. You will see wildflower sprouts after your soil has reached or surpassed 55F. Even though the air may be warm and balmy for weeks, you’ll need the soil to warm up enough for your seeds to sprout. You can check your current soil temperatures here.

When will they bloom?

Annual wildflowers bloom within 6-12 weeks. Most Perennial wildflowers require a full season of growth to establish root systems, before blooming in their second year, and returning in successive seasons. Biennial wildflowers typically bloom just in the second season.

  • Learn more in our guide: The Importance of Annual and Perennial Wildflowers

Wildflowers vs. Weeds

Another question that arises when gardeners are looking at their planting site in spring, is: “Are those wildflowers or weeds?”. This is really tough, as many young seedlings are hard to identify. We have some advice for you:

  • Get a Wildflower Identification book. This should give you solid ID information on many of the wildflowers that you’ve planted.
  • Learn about your local weeds – and get to know them at every stage of growth. Most gardeners struggle with 5-10 aggressive weeds on their property. Getting to know what they look like as seedlings, teenagers and adult plants will make it easier to spot them within your plantings – so you can pull them without mercy whenever you see them!
  • Grow a wildflower ‘cheat sheet’! Using an egg carton filled with soil or a tray with small planting cells, sow some seeds from your wildflower planting. As they grow, you’ll have an example of exactly what to look for!
  • “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best. We’ve talked a lot of customers out of ripping up their wildflowers after suspecting that their planting sites were filled with young weeds. When in doubt – do not pull your plants. If you give your seedlings some time to grow, you’re likely to find that they were wildflowers all along!

Enjoying Your Wildflowers

After wildflowers are up and growing, many people mow a charming, curving path through their meadow area, so everything can be observed up close. Next, usually comes bird feeding stations, birdbaths, and perhaps a bench somewhere along the path to enjoy your wildflowers!

Choosing the Best Wildflower Seed For Your Planting

With the correct timing, site prep, and planting instructions taken care of, we’re finally at the fun part – choosing your wildflower seed!

We carry the best selection of wildflower seed mixes and individual species for you to plant. Color, height, and bloom time will all help you to narrow things down; however, the most important point to consider is whether or not the flowers you choose will grow and thrive in your area.

We recommend shopping for wildflower seeds by region in order to have the most success with your planting. Simply find your state on our map, and make your selection based upon the recommendations for your area.

Popular Wildflower Seed Mixes and Regional Wildflower Mixes

One of the easiest ways to get gorgeous color from wildflowers that look great together is to plant a seed mix. This is a blend of seeds that an expert (like our very own Seed Man) has created, taking height, color, bloom time, and more into account so that the resulting meadow looks as pleasant as possible throughout the entire season.

What’s the difference between a wildflower seed mix from an industry expert like American Meadows, compared to one that you find in a Big Box Store? Our mixes are made of 100% pure non-GMO seed, without any fillers. Many home improvement centers stock wildflower mixes that contain less than 20% seed. Additionally, we guarantee that all of our seeds and plants will grow in your garden.

Shop Our Most Popular Wildflower Seed Mixes

This favorite wildflower mixture is comprised of 27 different wildflowers, both annuals and perennials, that will thrive in the Western region of the country. The West Wildflower See.

Our exclusive Spring Into Summer Wildflower Seed Mix is our most popular and colorful mix of the season – available for a limited time only! We packed in 45 easy-to-grow species, i.

The Southwest Wildflower Mix is comprised of 26 different wildflowers that will thrive in the Southwest region of the country. Designed to create show-stopping color all season long.

Containing 26 different wildflowers that thrive when planted in the Southeastern US, the Southeast Wildflower Seed Mix brings steady color to the landscape throughout the summer seas.

Partial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix is a colorful, varied mix of 26 annual and perennial wildflowers. A complementary color palette of pinks, reds, blues, and golds will brighten up an.

This favorite wildflower mixture is comprised of 28 different wildflowers, both annuals and perennials, that will thrive in the Pacific Northwest region of the country. The Pacific N.

The Northeast Wildflower Seed Mix contains 27 different annual and perennial wildflowers that thrive when planted in the Northeast. Exceptionally easy to grow, this mix brings a dyna.

The Midwest Wildflower Seed Mix is comprised of 28 different wildflower species, all perfect for planting in the Heartland of the USA. Designed to provide nonstop season-long color, .

The Honey Bee Wildflower Mix features 19 nectar-rich wildflowers and clovers adored by bees. Easy to grow across much of the country (zones 1 – 8), this pollinator-friendly mix inclu.

Our Dry Area Mix is perfect for areas that are out of the way or regions that have water restrictions. It contains 25 different wildflowers, both annuals and perennials, that are dro.

On our site, you’ll find wildflower mixes for planting in shade, dry soil, deer resistance, and even in single-color blends, such as blue and pink. You can also choose mixes made up entirely of annual wildflowers (for fast-color and single-season plantings) or perennial wildflowers (for blooms that reappear every year).

If you’re planting an area that will be seeded for the first time, we recommend browsing our proven regional mixtures. These are popular with fellow wildflower enthusiasts for a couple of reasons:

  • Regional Mixes provide the “best bang for your buck”. Most contain over 25 different species, and will introduce you to a large variety of different wildflowers.
  • Regional Mixes are a nice mix of both annuals for first year color, and perennials for the second year and successive seasons. This means that they bloom within their first season, and will provide lasting color for years to come.
  • Regional Mixes are a great way to learn about the different life cycles of the wildflowers that you’re planting, especially if you’re new to wildflower gardening.

Within our selection of Regional Mixes, you’ll find a few different options. In addition to our classic blend of annuals and perennials, we’ve also created wildflower seed mixes specific to your area that will attract your local pollinators, and that includes a variety of native seeds.

Planting Individual Wildflower Species

If you already have an established wildflower planting, you may be looking to supplement your meadow or patch with additional varieties. Planting individual species can help you bring in more color during a certain month, or can just be a fun way to add flowers that catch your eye to your landscape.

We offer over 225 individual species to choose from, including both annuals and perennials, and provide a wealth of information and planting instructions for each.

Maintaining Your Wildflower Planting

In-Season Meadow Maintenance

During the growing season itself, your meadow will actually be quite self-sufficient (especially beginning in its second year). The work you do during this time can help to reduce the growth of aggressive weeds and can also encourage your flowers to bloom more frequently.

Controlling Weeds That Are Growing Among Your Wildflowers

Part of the attraction of wildflowers is their ease of care; however, when weeds begin to take over your planting (usually an outcome of skimping on-site prep work, or overseeding) it can be difficult to pull the weeds without damaging flower roots and disturbing the overall feel of your planting. The easiest way we’ve come up with to restore balance to your meadow is to cut your weeds with scissors. Just lean in and snip – as low down on the weed plant as you can. A few passes with your scissors every other week will greatly reduce the threat of weeds and put your wildflowers back on top as the dominant species in your meadow. This is especially effective in smaller spaces.

Adding More Wildflowers to an Existing Meadow in Fall

The easiest and most effective way to add more seed is to take a steel rake and rough up small areas, or “pockets,” throughout the planting site. You can then sprinkle the seed directly over these roughed-up areas, giving it a quick compression with your foot to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

A common mistake that people make, is that they’ll just take more seed and throw it out into an established area. This approach is somewhat doomed, as very few seeds will actually make it to an open area on the ground, and those that do will have a better chance if they’re pressed firmly into the soil.

Although you may be hesitant to remove or disturb any of your existing wildflowers, you will need to create some space for additional plants to take hold. In the end, this is the path to more vibrant color in your meadow!

End of Season Meadow Maintenance

A hard frost signals the end of the season for many flowers, but there is no one perfect time to mow your wildflower meadow. You can determine a mowing schedule that works for you.

Many gardeners will mow once a year. Wait until late fall, until all your flowers have ripened and dropped their seeds. Then with a weed trimmer or your mower set on a high setting, mow the whole area. (This can be accomplished with a mower, brush hog, or even a weed wacker. It can be cut to 3” or 8” and both accomplish the same end result.) Be sure to leave the clippings in place to break down and feed the soil. This way, it will be primed to come up green and new the following spring. If possible, in spring, rake the clippings and debris away then to open up the ground to some much-needed sunlight.

You may prefer to leave your meadow standing as important habitat for local wildlife and pollinators. In this case, you can adopt a looser mowing schedule. Some mow every other year, alternating which half of the meadow they leave standing as undisturbed habitat. Others mow 1/3 of their meadows every third year so that each section is only trimmed back every nine years.