In today's gardens often populated by geraniums, roses, and zinnias, wildflowers can provide a simple and graceful flair. Almost any garden or landscape can be beautified by their presence. Not only are wildflowers easy to grow but they possess a natural resistance to pests, disease, and harsh climates. They can survive in clay soil, nutrient poor soil, sandy soil, and practically no soil at all. Once established in their preferred habitat, wildflowers can survive on their own without pruning, weeding, primping, and little or no watering.
The easiest way to create and grow a wildflower garden is to sow the seeds (to plant seeds by scattering) on well-prepped ground where they will not be in competition with weeds and grasses. The basic steps are as follows:
1. Decide when to plant (sow) the seeds. Wildflower seeds like warm soil and they can be planted in either spring or fall, depending on the species and where you live. They typically germinate best with a soil temperature of 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, if you live in zones 1-6 you should plant in the spring and if you live in zones 7-11 you should plant in the fall. For best results, follow the instructions on the seed packet or ask your local nursery.
2. Choose a sunny, well-drained gardening site. Most wildflowers need at least five to eight hours of sunlight a day and well-drained soil.
3. Prepare the ground by removing any existing vegetation and/or weeds.
4. Plant (sow) the seeds. Before spreading, mix the seeds in a bucket with fine-grade builder's sand. Use four parts sand to one part seed. This will help to ensure even coverage. Spread the seeds in a sweeping motion either by hand or by using a handheld broadcast seeder.
5. Tap in the seeds. A seed that is buried too deep will not germinate. To ensure good contact between the seeds and the ground, walk over the seedbed and tap it down with your foot or use the head of a garden rake.
6. Water seeds. Wildflower seeds need water to germinate. Water frequently until the plants grow 1 to 2 inches tall. After that, only water the wildflowers if they look wilted or stressed.
7. Pull weeds. If weeds grow in the midst of your wildflower garden, pull them by hand before they have a chance to flower and populate. If your wildflowers grow thickly, they will eventually choke out most weeds.
The types of wildflowers or native plants you can grow basically depend on the characteristics of your garden and environment. Typically, it's easier to grow native wildflowers that are already adapted to the climate and growing conditions in their native range. However, there are wildflowers that will survive in virtually any setting and adaptable enough to grow in many regions of the country. A few of the most popular wildflowers that grow in North America are Texas Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Butterfly Weed, Autumn Sage, Goldenrod, Sunflower, Black-eyed Susan, Winecup, and the California Poppy.
Wildflower seeds or plants can be purchased from a local nursery, mail order, or on the internet. Normally, wildflower seed mixes contain seeds of both annual and perennial plants. This is done so that the annuals grow rapidly and cover the ground, while the perennial plants are taking time to get established.
Growing wildflowers from seeds can be more economical than buying mature plants. However, one disadvantage of growing wildflowers from seeds is that many native plants require a long time to germinate and mature. Also, the seeds of some species require pretreatment before they can be planted. This process involves stratification, which is placing seeds in a refrigerated storage in a non-soil growing medium for one to two months and sometimes longer. So, if you are not proficient at growing plants from seed, it may be best to start your wildflower garden by purchasing a few mature plants from a reputable nursery.
Whether adding wildflowers to your existing garden or creating a little garden unto itself, it can be a lot of fun to experiment with seeds and mature plants and learn which species adapts the best to your garden. To further research wildflowers, visit a few of the wildflower organizations that can be found on the internet.
Lesley Dietschy is a freelance writer and the creator/editor of The Home Decor Exchange and the Home & Garden Exchange. The Home Decor Exchange is a popular home and garden website featuring resources, articles, decorating pictures, free projects, and a shopping marketplace. The Home & Garden Exchange website is a link exchange program and directory dedicated to the home and garden industry, as well as offering free website content and promotional ideas. Please visit both websites for all of your home, garden, and website needs.