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What is this To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’.

How Our Wildflower Mixtures Are Made: A Q&A With The Seed Man

deer resistant wildflower mixture

Our Deer Resistant Wildflower Mixture.

American Meadows is famous for — not surprisingly — our wildflower seeds, especially our specialty wildflower mixtures. But how do these mixtures come to life and what sets them apart from wildflower mixtures found at big garden centers? I sat down with our wildflower expert, Mike “the Seed Man” Lizotte, to find answers to these questions and much more.

What are the steps to creating a wildflower mixture?

What I first like to identify are the objectives of the mix. Are we looking for quick color, are we looking for longevity, or is there any kind of color theme to the mix? Are we trying to create something for attracting pollinators or is there a special situation like shade or drought? I try to identify one to three of those types of things that we might be trying to achieve and start from there.

Once I’ve identified a few of these special uses, I begin putting a list of species together. If I’m working on creating a pollinator mixture, there are aspects to take into consideration such as the life cycles. Is it going to be a mix of annuals and perennials or is it going to be exclusive to one life cycle? Also, if I was creating a mixture for pollinators, I look at the ratio of native to non-native species going into to. It really varies depending on the type of mix.

How do you create a seasonal wildflower mixture that changes every year?

When formulating our summer splash mix, there are a couple of things I take into consideration. We always want to have a lot of variety in this mixture. I think that’s a big appeal to our customers; it’s kind of like an all-inclusive mixture. We’re usually looking for a variety count of over 40 species for our Summer Splash mixture, which is really unique. You’re not going to find any other company, whether it be a big box store or one of our direct online competitors, that offers a mixture with that type of variety in it.

summer splash wildflower mixture

A customer photo of our Summer Splash seasonal Wildflower Mixture.

I like quick color, I like annuals and perennials in that, and I also want a fair price point for gardeners. If you’ve never done wildflowers before, it’s a nice introductory mix, but even for our tried and true customers, it’s a nice addition to their landscape.

How do you make sure the wildflower mixtures are going to thrive in different climates throughout the country?

When we identify the varieties we want to use in mixtures, the nice thing about wildflowers is most of them are hardy across multiple zones. Obviously in gardening you hear the word zone a lot, especially when dealing with live plants, some varieties tend to be more specific for certain zones. But one of the most attractive things about wildflowers is they aren’t so zone specific. For example, if i’m going to use Echinacea, which is a hardy perennial that most people know as Purple Coneflower, it’s hardy across multiple zones. You could grow it from a zone 2 to a zone 9.

Once we formulate a mixture and have a shell of about 30 species, I then go in there and examine the hardiness of each species. I begin to pull them out until I feel really good about a mix that is hardy enough to grow in a large geographical area in the United States.

What sets American Meadows’ wildflower mixtures apart from something you can buy in the big box store?

100% Pure Seed

There are few aspects. First and foremost, everything that we sell at American Meadows is 100% pure seed. When you go into the big box stores and you see a wildflower blend, usually they have beautiful packaging, which is great. But then when you turn the package over, it’s going to tell you what’s in it and you’ll find that those big box mixtures are anywhere from 75-90% filler and only about 25% or less of actual seed in there. So you’re getting a much better value when you buy seed from American Meadows.

 wildflower mixture comparison

Our seed mixture (left) versus the big box store (right)

Variety Is Key

Second, many of the mixtures from big box stores don’t have a lot of variety. Most of them might average 10-15 species, where one of our regional mixtures will have upwards of 20-25 species in them. And most of the varieties they put in the mixes in the big box stores are designed for instant gratification; there’s not much longevity, so there’s a lot of annuals in there. Although you may get nice color in the first year, that’s about it. You’ll have to replant every year. Again, some of our more popular mixtures, such as our regional blends and summer splash mix, have a nice variety of annuals and perennials. So you’ll not only enjoy that nice color in the first season, but you’ll also get the longevity of the perennials for the second and successive seasons.

To sum it up, we only sell 100% pure seed and the varieties we have in our mixtures are head and shoulders above what you’ll find in the big box stores.

What is our most popular wildflower mixture?

Our six regional blends that we’ve formulated for the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, West, Pacific Northwest and Southwest, are definitely our most popular. They were the first mixtures we created 35 years ago and have been a customer staple since then. Each have 25+ annuals and perennials and are by far our most popular.

pacific northwest wildflower mixture

A customer photo of our Pacific Northwest Mixture planted in a small space garden.

Recently we’ve all realized the importance of helping pollinators so we’ve been focusing on that. Two years ago we created a national pollinator mixture and this year we’ve taken it one step further with six new regional pollinator mixtures. Those have been a huge hit with our customers; we’ve been selling hundreds and hundreds of pounds of them. I think right now we’re doing everything we can to support pollinators on our end, and sales are telling us that our customers are very interested in helping create these important habitats, as well.

What are the biggest challenges gardeners have with our wildflower mixtures?

Follow The Instructions

There are a few things. The biggest thing is to make sure you follow the instructions that come with our mixtures. This is really important. All of our products come with full instructions and our website is full of endless information, planting videos and guides. But whenever you receive seed from us, the first thing you should do is open it up and read the instructions and get a sense for the process before you start.

Don't Cover Wildflower Seeds

Another common mistake is people end up planting the seed too deep. The right way to plant wildflowers is to broadcast the seed on the top of the surface and people are actually planting it or covering it with mulch or dirt. Wildflower seed is very small compared to grass or vegetable seed, and the wildflower seed really wants to be just laid on the surface. Even if you rake the seed in or cover it lightly with mulch, it’s going to prohibit germination.

Another less common mistake, but one that is important to take note of, is overseeding. Make sure to measure the area you are seeding and purchase the correct amount of seed. To make planting go easier, mix the seed with sandbox sand to help spread it evenly.

Preparation Is Important

Another thing that is the most important part of planting wildflowers is the preparation beforehand. If you choose not to get rid of the grass, or you think you can just throw the seed on your front lawn and expect it to take over, you’re kind of setting yourself up for minimal results.

wildflower mixture planting

The seed man planting wildflower last year. You'll have the best success if you plant wildflowers on bare ground. Preparation is key!

Those three things are the more common gardener mistakes: not reading the instructions, not preparing the area enough, and covering the seeds.

What is your favorite part about creating wildflower mixtures that you know thousands of gardeners will enjoy in their gardens?

I enjoy creating the mixtures every year, especially some of our seasonal mixtures including Summer Splash and Fall Max Mix. I like reading the feedback we get throughout the year from gardeners and taking that feedback and incorporating it in these mixtures. If people ask for a specific variety we may not carry, we could then source it and add it to the mixture.

wildflower mixture, butterfly

Customer photo of Zinnia.

With supporting pollinators, I always push myself to improve and make a mixture that could be that much better and helpful to pollinators than anything else available on the market.

For me, the fun is about challenging myself to improve every year and thinking about how we can do better each year. Always tinkering with our mixtures, always trying to improve, it’s a lot of fun in the process.

Browse Wildflower Seed Mixtures

  • Fall Maximum Wildflower Seed Mix

    Starting at $9.95

    Sale: $7.95

    Per 1/4 Pound

  • Northeast Wildflower Seed Mix

    Starting at $9.95

    Per 1/4 Pound

  • Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix

    Starting at $15.95

    Sale: $13.56

    Per 1/4 Pound

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