There are a number of factors that go into a successful wildflower planting. A couple of important factors that surface quite often when talking with customers are soil composition and sunlight conditions. In a perfect world we’d all get 6 hours of sun and have well balanced soil with perfect amounts of silt and clay. But the nature of growing conditions means that some variability is to be expected.
Let’s first take a look at sunlight. When we refer to “full sun” we’re usually taking about 6 or more hours a day. Customers are often nervous that they’re not getting enough sun and when I ask them how many hours they proceed to tell me 10-12 hours. Now that’s a lot of sun so they’re usually relieved when I tell them they’re getting plenty. But what happens when you’re only getting 3-4 hours? These situations are certainly more challenging for not only the avid gardener, but the novice alike.
Through my 20 years of consulting I’ve come up with a very easy first step in this process and that’s to simply go out to the area in question and see what’s currently growing. This is a very fast, cost effective way of understanding your situation. Some things to looks for:
How much growth are you currently seeing in your shaded area? This could tell you immediately if wildflowers might work or not. If the area in question is so shaded that you’re seeing very limited growth with a lot of bare patches that’s a pretty good sign that this area might not be a good choice for starting a wildflower planting. Ideally we want to see lots of growth in the area prior to planting. This is where, just for a little while, we welcome weeds and grasses growing. This tells us two important things; you’re getting enough sun and the soil conditions will work.
“I spread the seeds in a long partially shaded piece of the property, previously covered in weeds. turned over the soil, threw the seeds and watered... 2nd year is looking better than the first!” – LTW – Pittsburgh, PA
Do you see similar plants growing in your shaded area that are also found on sunny parts of your property? If this is the case, you’re probably getting more sun that you think and wildflowers would be a good option. If you see the landscape drastically change from grasses/weeds in the sunny areas to damp, ferns and different vegetation found only in your shaded areas, that’s usually a sign that it might be too shady.
Sounds too easy, right? These simple observations can go a long way in determining your success. We’ve formulated our Partial Shade Mix with limited sunlight in mind. This mix is a hardy blend of annuals and perennials that should succeed in areas that may only get 3-4 hours of sun daily. Under proper conditions you should see germination and seedling in 7-10 days with flowers in 4- 6 weeks. If you’ve sown this mix and after 2 or more weeks you’re yet to see germination, we may have underestimated sunlight.
“Very low production in first year. Seems to have kicked into at least low gear this spring. But the shady mixture may have needed a little more light. Recommending only because it is at least doing something in the shade.” – RoPo - Kaw River Valley, KS
Look for a related post on our Dry Area Mix for planting wildflowers in dryer soil conditions.