Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

Wild for Wildflowers

by Michael MacCaskey

Roadside wildflowers grace highways throughout the U.S.

Wildflowers are pretty and charming, and they grow with a minimum of fuss and bother. They are hardy and well adapted, surviving admirably with little gardening effort. There's no watering and no bugs to compete with, and in many cases, they will come back year after year. That much we all take for granted. But perhaps best of all, you can bring these brilliantly colored, delicate flowers indoors for bouquets: Many make beautiful cut flowers.

Buying Seed

Most gardeners buy wildflower seeds in mixes, which are usually designed for specific regions. Mixes designed for cut flowers are also available, or you can buy seeds individually. The listing of wildflowers below will help you understand the ingredients of a mix and guide you in making your own.

One important reason to sow a mix of seeds is that it's impossible to know which wildflowers will grow most successfully in your area's conditions. If you sow several kinds, it's likely that at least one type will thrive. A planting of one kind of seed can be very dramatic, but the risk of a complete failure is greater. Enough seed for 1,000 square feet costs from $10 to $40 or more.

When and Where to Plant

You can sow wildflower seeds in fall no matter where you live in North America. However, if you've chosen wildflowers that are not native to your region, there's a possibility that the seedling plants will be damaged by winter cold. Therefore, wait until spring — two weeks prior to your last expected frost — to sow seeds if you live in the North or Northeast (USDA Zones 2 to 6).

Sow seeds in fall if you live in the West, Southwest or Southeast (zones 8 to 10). Sowing seed at this time gives plants the benefit of moderate soil temperatures and winter rains. Seeds will germinate and develop root systems, then enter a dormant period until spring.

All the bouquet wildflowers below need full sun and well-drained soil. Sow wildflower seeds wherever you desire a wild, uncontrolled effect or where growing other kinds of plants is difficult or awkward. Parking strips and slopes are common locations, but don't stop there. Try wildflowers instead of bedding plants in corners and borders, around fruit trees or to fill in the gaps between still-spreading ground covers. You can even replace your lawn with wildflowers!

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