Part Of The American Meadows Wildflower Learning Center
HOW TO GROW WILDFLOWERS
Ready to grow a wildflower meadow bursting with blooms and buzzing with life? This guide covers everything you need to know about planting wildflower seeds. Planning and preparation are key for success. Let’s dig in!
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Plan Your Wildflower Planting
Planning your wildflower planting includes determining where to plant, when to plant, and how much seed to use.
Where To Plant Wildflowers
- Full sun is essential for most wildflower varieties, especially to encourage good seed germination. For full-sun wildflowers, choose a spot that receives at least 6+ hours of sun. For partial-shade wildflowers, choose a spot that receives 3-4+ hours of sun.
- Good soil drainage is a requirement for healthy root growth.
- The test is simple: If anything is growing in the area, even if it's just grasses or weeds, the area should support wildflowers without concern.
When To Plant Wildflower Seeds
When To Plant Wildflowers In Spring: Plant wildflower seeds after your last frost date. Seeds will germinate as soon as your soil temperature has warmed to 55°F or warmer.
When To Plant Wildflowers In Fall: Plant wildflower seeds after 2-3 killing frosts, and the ground is below 50°F and has begun to freeze. Seeds will lay dormant for the winter and germinate in spring.
How Much Seed Do You Need
- Measure the area where you will plant your wildflowers and calculate the square footage of your planting area.
- Then, reference the seed coverage rates for your wildflower seeds or wildflower mix. This information is listed under the “Key Features” of every product page.
All of our wildflower seed mixes are conveniently crafted to use the same coverage rate, however, seed coverage rates vary greatly with individual wildflower species.
It’s important to plant the recommended amount of seed for the best results. Too little, and your planting will be sparse. Too much, and your seedlings may be crowded, resulting in poor growth and flowering. (Too much seed is one of the biggest problems we see with new meadows.)
Prepare: The Key To Success
Removing existing growth, including grass and weeds, is a critical step before planting wildflowers for the best results in your meadow! Do not sow seeds into your lawn without preparing your soil – grasses and weeds are vigorous growers that can out-compete wildflower seedlings, so removing them gives your seedlings the best chance to thrive.
You can use hand tools, a sod cutter, a rototiller, solarization/smothering, or organic herbicides to clear your soil of weeds and grasses.
Don’t overlook this step! Why? Preparing your site by removing growth and loosening soil means:
- good seed-to-soil contact for better seed germination,
- less stress for young seedlings,
- better root growth.
Are you adding to an existing meadow, and don’t want to remove your wildflowers to prepare?
Plant: Sow Your Wildflower Seeds Like A Pro
Learn how to plant wildflower seeds with this tried & true technique from The Seed Man.
- Mix your seeds with sand. Put your seeds into a bucket, bowl, or bag with plenty of extra room. Mix in roughly eight parts dry sand to one part seed. (For example: 8 cups sand for 1 cup seed.) Sand helps you spread seeds more evenly, and you'll be able to see where you've sown. Use clean, dry, bagged sand to avoid weed seeds and clumping.
- Then, sow your seeds in two batches. Separate your seed & sand mixture into roughly two equal parts. With the first half, walk back and forth across your site from north to south, spreading the seeds as evenly as possible. Then, take the second half and walk east to west, spreading seeds in a similar manner.
- Next, compress your seeds into the soil. After you’ve scattered your seeds, it’s important to compress them for good seed-to-soil contact. Compression helps germination; ensures access to moisture and nutrients; prevents wind and water from moving seeds around; and helps anchor your wildflowers' root systems.
- In small spaces, you can use your feet to compress seeds into the soil, either barefoot or in shoes. In larger areas, lay a piece of cardboard or plywood over the sown seeds and walk all over it to evenly compress a larger area. For the largest plantings, use a seed roller walk-behind tool or tractor attachment.
- Water your seeds. If possible, give your seeds a thorough, gentle soaking. (See What To Expect below for more watering tips.)
- Leave seeds uncovered. Unlike vegetable seeds, tiny wildflower seeds require light to germinate.
Patience: Watering & What To Expect
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Watering Your Wildflower Seedlings
Water as needed to keep soil and seedlings moist until they are 6 - 8 inches tall, which typically takes 4 - 6 weeks. At that point, they will be able to absorb groundwater through their roots to grow strong and healthy all on their own. Water supplementally as needed.
Watering your planting is essential for the best results! Since wildflower seeds are not buried beneath wet soil, they have constant exposure to the sun. For the best results, young seedlings will need your attention and regular watering.
What can you do in areas where you cannot water?
- Time your planting with rain in the forecast, and sow your seeds on a rainy day. If you're lucky, Mother Nature will step in and provide your plants with some rain, or at least keep the weather nice and mild so that the sun doesn't evaporate all of the moisture from the soil.
- Or, you can plant seeds in fall when you can take advantage of winter precipitation.
- Seeds will lay dormant until they have enough moisture to germinate, so lack of moisture can slow down germination. Be patient - at some point, you should have enough rain or precipitation to germinate your seeds. In the heat of the summer, if you can’t water, you may see reduced flowering.
- Don’t worry! Think about wildflowers growing in the wild - follow Mother Nature’s lead and “adopt the pace of nature.” It may take more time than in an area where you could water with a hose, but you will still have a beautiful meadow.
What To Expect While Your Wildflowers Grow
Seedlings will grow quickly when the soil temperature is warm enough, there is adequate moisture, and the seeds are sown in properly prepared soil. Less than optimal conditions can slow down germination and growth.
When will your wildflowers bloom? This will vary depending on the season and your climate.
Spring Planting: Seeds will germinate as soon as your soil temperature has warmed to 55°F or warmer. As long as the soil is warm, and there is enough sunlight and moisture, you'll begin to see growth appear in about 1-3 weeks.
Fall Planting: Seeds will lay dormant over the winter. Then, in spring, seeds will germinate as soon as your soil temperature has warmed to 55°F or warmer. See notes on spring growth above.
Know Your Wildflower Lifecycles To Know Flowering Times
- Annuals have a one-year lifecycle. Annuals bloom about 6-8 weeks after germination and will continue to bloom until frost.
- Biennials have a two-year life cycle. In the first year, they establish foliage, and in the second year, they bloom.
- Perennials live for many years, returning year after year from the same root system. In the first year, perennials will establish their foliage, but most will not start blooming until their second year.
Growing a wildflower mix? Some of our wildflower mixes are all annuals, and some are a mix of annuals, perennials, and/or biennials.
- What type of flower are you growing? See “Seed Life Cycle” and “What’s In This Mix” on the product page to review the lifecycle of your seeds.
Protecting Wildflowers From Critters & Pests
Birds and wildlife eating seeds doesn’t typically affect wildflower seedings – probably because our seed mixes average 250,000 seeds per pound! We don't recommend covering seeds to protect against them. If your area is a true exception with above-average wildlife pressure, you can place a thin layer of straw on top of your seeding as a safeguard.
If you have lots of deer or rabbits in your area, it is important to protect seedlings from critters. Even deer-resistant plants need time to grow to establish their natural defenses, such as fragrant oils or bitter sap.
Wildflowers Vs. Weeds
With good preparation and sowing the proper amount of seeds, you should avoid seeding too many weeds in your meadow. We include annuals in all of our wildflower seed mixes because their quick growth helps crowd out and deter weed seedlings.
When removing grass from areas where there was regularly mown lawn, there is often less weed pressure and fewer weed seeds in the soil. On the other hand, in more rural or agricultural settings, or when removing grass in areas that have not been mowed regularly, there can be a large amount of weed seeds collected in the soil. When planting in these areas, you may need to do extra weeding as your wildflower meadow establishes.
When your wildflower seedlings are young, you may wonder, “Are those wildflowers or weeds?” When in doubt, do not pull the plant. If you give your seedlings some time to grow, you may find that they were wildflowers all along. If you do identify a weed, you can gently pull it up from the ground, careful not to disturb surrounding plants or seedlings. Or, cut it back before it goes to seed. Just lean in and snip as low down on the weed plant as you can. A few passes with your scissors every week or two will greatly reduce the threat of weeds proliferating in your meadow.
Purpose: Make The Most Of Your Meadow
Meadowscaping makes it better: better for you, better for your community, and better for our world.
Better You: There are so many ways you will enjoy the magic of your wildflower meadow!
- Studies show that spending time tending a garden reduces stress and improves overall health
- Add a curving path or garden bench so you can relax, unwind, and enjoy each bloom and butterfly up close.
- The more meadow you have, the less mowing you'll have to do in your yard, and the more time you can spend connecting with the beauty of nature in your own yard.
Better Community: Your meadow will also brighten your neighborhood and connect you with others.
- Your meadow is a season-long source of glorious bouquets. Keep an eye out for vintage vases at garage sales and thrift stores, and fill them with flowers! Drop off bouquets to the people you love to bring a spot of cheer.
- Save your small jars, and you (or your kids) can make small bouquets to sell or give away! Set up a lemonade stand in the heat of the summer, or put a flower stand up near your driveway to share the bounty of blooms.
- Your friends and neighbors will enjoy the natural beauty of your meadow, and they’ll be sure to share a compliment and a smile! You can share seeds, plants, and advice with other plant lovers in your community.
Better World: Wildflowers help transform your yard into a celebration of biodiversity.
- Native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are the tiny heroes of ecosystems everywhere — and your wildflower meadow will be abuzz and aflutter with them! Your lush meadowscape will become a safe haven for scores of species of pollinators and other beneficial insects and provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife.
- Make your home their home too! Enhance your bird and beneficial insect habitat with a birdhouse, birdfeeder, bee hotel, or water feature to help support happy wildlife in your yard.