Understanding the life cycle of your wildflowers is an important step toward growing a meadow successfully! Annual, perennial, and biennial wildflowers have different timelines for growth and flowering, each contributing to the vitality of your local ecosystem. We believe that planting a wildflower meadow (aka Meadowscaping) is more than just sowing seeds. It is the process of envisioning, cultivating, and fostering a naturalistic planting, anywhere. Inspired by nature, meadows transform our lives, yards, and the world for the better.
Read on to learn about each type of wildflower life cycle, and how they can work together to create a thriving garden or meadow.
Blooming Time For Established Plants
What most gardeners are looking for in their wildflower meadow: color that lasts as long as possible!
- The average annual flower blooms for 2 to 3 months or longer, typically until frost, in the first growing season.
- The average perennial flower plant blooms for 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes longer, typically starting in season 2 and coming back for years after.
- Like annuals, biennials bloom for 2-3 months or until frost, but only in their second season.
When comparing individual plants, in the course of one season, annual wildflowers add longer-lasting color than perfectly grown, mature perennial wildflowers. Perennials mature into larger groupings of flowers each year, however, they are typically in bloom for less time than annuals.
When you plant a wildflower seed mix that contains annual, perennial, and biennial wildflower species, like many of our mixes from American Meadows, here is what you can expect from the life cycle of your meadow.
- Annual wildflowers deliver bold and colorful blooms the first year.
- Perennials typically just grow foliage and establish a root system.
Annuals are there for more than color! Since the Perennials in the mix make small growth in the first season, annual plants fill in your meadow in the first season, warding off weeds during the first year. (After all, anywhere you leave open soil, nature will quickly plant a weed.)
- Then during your second spring, the annual wildflowers that filled the spaces are most likely gone. (You may see some annuals reseed in your meadow and bloom in the second or subsequent seasons.)
- Perennials will return from their established root system. Some will be ready to bloom, but others may not be fully mature and blooming at full potential. This can sometimes be known as the "Sophomore Slump" in a meadow. That's where biennials come in for support - they'll also return from their established root systems and fill in your meadow with color in the second season.
- You can also top seed with some annuals in the second and successive years to add a pop of color to the bare spots of your meadow. Just rough up the soil and lightly sow (don’t overseed!) with annuals, and compress the soil like you did the year prior. Your annuals will fill in the spots where the perennials haven’t yet matured.
Year 3 & Beyond...
- By year 3, the perennials will be taking over and reaching their full potential, offering shifting colors and abundant blooms all season!
- Some annuals and biennials may have reseeded, but most have probably passed.
- Over time, if you want to layer in additional color, you always have the option to plant new annual wildflower seeds into your established perennial meadow or garden.
Finding The Perfect Mix
That's where we can help! American Meadows has become famous for our wildflower seed mixes. With more than 40 years of experience, we carefully craft our wildflower seed mixes to make it easy for you to grow a wildflower meadow that offers season-long color, year after year.
There are many factors to consider when creating or choosing, a wildflower seed mix. A fine wildflower seed mix is artfully blended to bloom over the entire growing season, from spring to fall. Even better, since no one is cutting back dying flowers, a carefully crafted mix will include various species that bloom roughly from shortest flowers to tallest; that way, new, fresh, taller flowers will cover the fading shorter flowers as the meadow evolves through the year. Furthermore, most gardeners are looking for a wildflower meadow that can be planted once and offer colorful flowers for years to come!
The majority of our wildflower seed mixes include a balance of annual, perennial, and biennial wildflower varieties to take advantage of the benefits of each type of plant.