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Tips For Planting Wildflowers In Partial Shade

Here are tips that will help you be successful when planting wildflowers in partial shade conditions. 

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By Mike "The Seed Man" Lizotte

There are several factors that go into a successful wildflower planting. A couple of important elements that I discuss often with our customers are sunlight conditions and soil composition. In a perfect growing situation, we would all get 6 hours of sun and have well-balanced soil with perfect amounts of silt, clay, and nutrients — but in nature, and in our own yards and meadows, some variability is to be expected. Here are tips that will help you determine if your area will be successful when planting wildflowers in partial shade conditions.

Sunlight: Defining Partial Shade

Let’s first discuss sunlight.

  • Full Sun is defined as six or more hours a day of sunlight. So when you are planning your meadow or wildflower planting, if the area gets 6 or more hours of sun, we would consider that ‘full sun’ and you can grow just about any of our mixtures and species that we sell. 
  • If the area you are thinking about planting wildflowers gets 3 - 4 hours of daily sun, what we would define as Partial Shade, we offer several wildflower mixtures and species for partial shade.
  • If you have less than 3-4 hours of sun daily, which we consider Full Shade, don't be discouraged! We offer a wide range of shade-loving perennials, shrubs, and woodland wildflowers that thrive in full shade. Wildflower seeds need at least 3-4 hours of sunlight to germinate, so we don't typically recommend planting from seed in full shade areas.

Not Sure How Much Sunlight Your Planting Area Receives?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to understand your site and determine if your partial shade area will support a wildflower meadow. These simple observations can go a long way in determining your success. 


How much is currently growing in the area you're thinking of planting?

This is a good indicator that can help determine if your wildflower planting will be successful or not. Ideally, we want to see existing growth in the area you are thinking about planting.  Existing growth tells us two important things; you are getting enough sun and the soil conditions will workIf the area currently supports growth, such as weeds or grasses, that is a good sign that your wildflowers should grow and thrive there as well.

On the other hand, if the area you want to plant has very limited growth, with lots of bare spots, that is a pretty good sign that this area might not be a good choice for starting a wildflower planting.  This would indicate that that area is probably getting less than the 3-4 hours of sun needed to successfully grow and establish a wildflower meadow.


Are plants growing in your ‘partially shaded’ area also found on sunny parts of your property?

If this is the case, you are probably getting more sun than you realize, and wildflowers would thrive very well.

However, if you see the landscape drastically change from grasses and weeds in the sunny areas to damp soil, ferns, and/or plants that are found only in your partially shaded areas, that is usually a sign that it might be too shady.

Soil: Wildflowers Are Adaptable

The second element I always discuss is soil composition. Well, the great thing about planting a wildflower meadow is that wildflowers do not need ‘perfect’ soil conditions. If we were planning a vegetable garden, we would want to make sure we are using the best soil we can find, loaded with compost and microbes, in hopes of growing that prized tomato and having a bountiful harvest. Unlike tomatoes, wildflowers can tolerate a wide variety of soils, from clay to sand to silt. If the area currently supports growth, your wildflowers should thrive just fine!

Better Yard Solutions: Our Exclusive Seed Mixes For Partial Shade

We have formulated our Partial Shade Wildflower Seed Mix and our new Native Woodland Edge Wildflower Seed Mix for gardeners with limited sunlight.

These mixes include a blend of both annuals and perennials that should succeed in areas that may only get 3-4 hours of sun daily. Annuals provide color in year one, while perennials establish and bloom in year two and for many years to come.

Under proper conditions, when soil temperatures over 55°F and adequate water, you should see seedling 7-10 days after germination, followed by flowering starting in 4- 6 weeks.

Follow our Wildflower Planting Guide to grow your meadow!

Wildflower Seeds For Shady Areas

Wildflowers that tolerate part shade can add color to areas that may receive just morning or afternoon sun, and can be a good choice for planting under trees and along fencelines.

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