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How to Plant Wildflowers
Step by step instructions on how to plant your wildflower seeds.
Find mixtures for your region, or for special uses such as dry areas, partial shade, attracting animals, low growing, and more.
Over 75 choices that will bloom in the second year and for years to come.
Over 110 choices for fast color, such as poppies, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnia, and many more.
Help the birds, bees, butterflies & hummingbirds by planting wildflowers.
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1. Identify the correct planting time for your geographic area.
2. Choose a site with a minimum of 6 hours sunlight (or plant our partial shade mix) and prep your soil by removing all existing growth and debris.
3. Scatter your seeds according to the directions on your packaging.
4. Compress the seeds into the soil by walking directly on top of the planting area, or by using a seed roller. Never bury or cover wildflower seeds with soil!
5. Water so that the soil is moist, not soaking wet, until the seedlings are about 4-6" tall. After that, the seedlings will survive on natural rains.
6. Wait for growth & blooms to appear in late spring or early summer. Sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy your wildflowers!
When planting seeds in cold climates that experience snowfall and freezing temperatures, you must wait until after all threat of frost has passed. Even after warm weather arrives in spring, there is still a lingering danger of 'late spring frosts' that can kill off freshly-sprouted seeds and young plants.
The greatest threat to spring-planted wildflowers in cold climates is late spring frosts that can kill tender young seedlings.
To avoid the risk of a cold snap harming your planting, it's best to consult a last spring frost date chart for your area. This nugget of information will tell you when it is safe to plant.
Even after the risk of frosts has subsided for the season, you'll still want to wait for the soil and air to warm up enough to provide favorable conditions for your plants to grow without being exposed to stressful conditions. For fast growth and strong, healthy plants, your best bet is to wait for your soil temps to reach a minimum of 55 degrees F.
If you live in a heatwave-prone area where grass lawns typically turn brown in the summertime, wildflowers should be planted in early spring. This will prevent young plants from being exposed to excessive heat during their first season of growth.
When planting seeds in warmer climates with intense summertime heat, it's important to plant your wildflowers in early spring.
This will allow your perennial wildflowers to become established under stress-free conditions, making for stronger and longer-lived plants. Annual wildflowers will bloom before intense heat arrives and threatens to fade their color.
While there are a few practices that can help all plants do better in excessive heat, such as prudent watering, mulching and providing shade, many of these methods don't make much sense for wildflower plantings - especially meadows and large areas. For gardeners living in these climates, choosing native wildflowers and/or drought-tolerant species and mixes will bring the best results.
All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is 100% pure, non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
One thing to note as you zero in on a planting site is that full sun is a must. For all but our Partial Shade Mixture, you'll want to choose a sunny spot for your planting. In fact, for wildflowers, the sunnier the better!
Seed Man's Planting Tip: A minimum of 6 hours of sunlight is necessary for wildflowers to grow.
Whether you're filling in a side yard, seeding a small space garden or planting across acres of land, wildflowers are a great choice. Depending upon the varieties that you choose to plant, they can lend a wild and natural look or a more formal feel. And because they're easy to care for, wildflowers are often labeled as 'problem-solving plants'. This means that you can actually put them to work in your landscape while you're enjoying their beauty. Here are some of our favorite ways to solve problems with wildflowers:
Replace Your Lawn: Unlike turf grass, low-maintenance wildflowers need very little mowing - once a year or less. They can usually survive on natural rains and don't require chemical fertilizers and herbicides to look their best. We're excited to see eco-friendy wildlower lawns growing in popularity!
Plant A Gorgeous View: Even if you don't live near the ocean, you can plant a sea of color with wildflowers to enjoy from your deck, or through the window from your favorite indoor sitting spot. You can even make it change color with the seasons by choosing varieties with different bloom times.
Define A Lot Line: Properties big and small can benefit from a pretty planting that marks where one yard ends and another begins. Just like a fence, a wildflower planting can also say "Do not enter", but in a softer, nicer way.
Control Erosion: Steep banks and slopes are hard places for short-rooted grasses to take hold, leaving soil exposed to rain and wind. To prevent weather from stripping away and destabilizing your land, plant gorgeous wildflowers - they'll hold things together.
Plant A Defensive Buffer: Many wildflowers have special powers - some deter deer and rabbits (like the perennial lupine seen in this photo), others are low enough in oil that they won't catch fire, and others are tolerant of drought and can be strategically planted outside of the hose's reach.
Create A Beautiful Oasis: If you have an open space in your yard or field, you can plant an island of beautiful color with wildflowers. Just set some boundaries to create your favorite shape and mow around your planting.
After wildflowers are up and growing, many people mow a charming, curving path through their meadow area, so everything can be observed "up close." Next, usually comes bird feeding stations, birdbaths, and perhaps a bench somewhere along the path at a favorite spot!
Unless your soil is actually sterile, which is rare, it's recommended that you use your soil just as you find it. Wildflowers, as we see on every roadside, are extremely adaptable and do well in poor soils.
Of course, if yours is heavy clay, you can till in sand or peat moss to loosen it. And if it's sandy, you can till in humus or compost to make it heavier and more moisture-retentive. But 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.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: If you can grow weeds, you can grow wildflowers!
The only absolute requirement is good drainage; this means you'll need to choose a place where water does not stand for longer than one hour after a rainfall.
Wildflowers do not demand fertilizer to grow well; just take a look at the healthy wildflower plants found along most country roads - no one fertilizes there. Wildflowers are famous for growing in poor soils.
Mike 'The Seed Man' Lizotte, began working at American Meadows when he was just 13 years old, mowing meadows and painting fences. As a young teenager, he began working with wildflower seeds and learning how to identify and care for the different varieties that grew in our test meadows. It was during these early years that Mike discovered his true passion for working with wildflowers and helping people all over the US and Canada experience the joy of meadow gardening on any scale. In 2008, after nearly 20 years as an employee, The Seed Man fulfilled his lifelong dream by purchasing American Meadows from the company's founder. To date, The Seed Man has advised more than half a million customers on growing wildflowers and has sold hundreds of tons of wildflower seeds. His expertise and approachable manner have made him our greatest asset.
p>Preparing the planting area is a task that many people tend to overlook or cut short. Maybe it’s the thought of having to fire up the roto-tiller or work the ground with a spade for a few hours that doesn’t appeal to most folks, but trust us, it’s the most critical step for success.
No matter if you’re sowing 5 acres or 5 square feet, the more time you spend prepping the area before seeding, the better results you’ll have.
While we wish we could tell people to "just throw the seed out in the field,” we know that to be terrible advice. Anyone who’s ever tried scattering seed without removing other plants has been sorely disappointed when their wildflowers don’t come up.
You’ll need to get rid of weeds, grasses, and other plants (roots and all) to make plenty of room for your wildflowers to grow and thrive. There’s a set amount of water, nutrients, and sunlight available in every planting space and it’s your job to remove any plants that will compete with your wildflowers before sowing your seeds.
What could be a thick, lush planting of wildflowers will struggle to grow if it’s left to compete with existing root structures in the soil. The better you prep the area, the more easily two very important things will happen:
By leaving other plants in place before sowing your seeds, you'll risk creating a competitive environment where your wildflowers will become stressed as they fight for resources. Competitive circumstances can encourage leggy growth (extra-long, floppy stems) and weak plants - both of which can jeopardize the lifelong health of your planting.
So, take your time and be thorough. After your hard work is over, you'll get years of low-maintenance enjoyment from your planting!
While you have a few choices to consider around how to clear your soil, there are two factors that will help you to decide which one is the best for you. The first is size; large spaces are more apt to require equipment like rototillers (or even tractors if you're planting 1/2 acre or more), while hand tools will be just fine for prepping small gardens and containers. The other important factor is lead time.
With a few weeks, a few months, or even an entire season ahead of your planting date, you may be able to prep your soil using labor-saving, cost-effective and/or eco-friendly methods. Here are some soil prep approaches that work with different schedules:
For larger areas, a rototiller can be used to break up the ground and soften the soil. These are often very affordable to rent if you don't own one. It's important to "till" only as deep as necessary to remove old roots. 4 to 6 inches deep should do the trick.
The deeper you till, the more dormant weed seeds you'll turn up near the surface where they can sprout along with your wildflowers. If your area has been an old field that has grown and seeded itself for years, expect plenty of weed seeds in the soil.
If you're tilling a lawn that's been mowed for years, chances are your weed seed count will be low. Careful rototilling works well for three reasons:
Both of these methods are aimed at killing weeds by laying materials over your planting site.
Solarizing Weeds: lay clear plastic, like a painting drop cloth, over your soil. The sun will shine down on the plastic, trapping an excessive amount of heat and moisture underneath, which will kill any existing plant life. An added benefit of solarization is that some weed seeds may be encouraged to germinate in the sunlight before the heat kills them off.
Smothering Weeds: (also called 'occultation') lay a heavy tarp, blanket or sheets over the planting site for 4-6 weeks. This cuts plant life off from available sunlight and also introduces a whole lot of warmth. Weed seeds that germinate in darkness will sprout under the heavy fabric, but will then die off from lack of sunlight.
An added benefit of smothering is that it creates the perfect environment for earth worms and other soil life to eat the decaying plant growth and loosen up the soil.
For a small area, the project is the same as preparing for a new vegetable garden, and a shovel or spade and rake is usually all that's needed.
Simply dig out everything that's growing there, turn the soil, and rake the area flat and free from rocks and roots. (By the way, here's one advantage of meadow gardening over vegetable gardening. A few rocks and some uneven spots won't bother a wildflower planting, so there's usually less to do.)
Old grass roots are especially important — be sure to remove them or they'll grow back along with your new wildflower plants. If neccessary, use a pick axe - or the smaller, handheld version called a mattock, or even a sharp spade.
Unless you're trying to create a prairie environment, which includes certain grasses, it's important to understand that grasses and weeds are the enemy in establishing a wildflower meadow.
Your objective is to get the flower seedlings dominant over the grasses, instead of the reverse.
If seeing grasses growing among your wildflowers is maddening to you, and you'd like to reach for a natural herbicide spray - be sure to choose one that is intended to control 'monocots', or single-blade plants (like grasses). Herbicides intended to kill 'dicots' (also called broadleaf plants) will likely kill off part of your intended planting.
After making certain that you've delayed your planting long enough to miss any late-spring frosts in cold climates, or that you've planned to sow your seeds early enough to bloom before the scalding summer sun arrives in hot climates, you should still keep one eye on your soil temperature. Until your soil warms up enough, your seeds are unlikley to sprout.
One of the easiest mistakes people make with their wildflower planting is to sow their seeds when the air has warmed up but the soil is still cool. Just like a big body of water, the soil is slow to change its temperature. Although air temperatures may rise quickly it will take time for your soil to catch up.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: The Ideal soil temperature for wildflower seeds to sprout and develop is 55F.
You can check your current soil temperatures here.
The time of day that you choose to sow your seeds will not make a huge difference; however, on exceptionally hot and sunny days, it may prove difficult to keep the seed bed moist throughout the day. If you are unable to manage moist conditions, you may choose to plant at night when the sun can't evaporate water from the seed bed as quickly. You should also give a through watering the next morning before you head out for the day.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: Sowing seeds and watering them thoroughly after dark means that the sun can't immediately dry out your planting.
Otherwise, you may want to water your site well before scattering your seed, and/or make yourself available for daytime watering on hot, sunny days.
One of the best things about wildflowers is their ease of care. For the most part, the only 'work' required of the gardener falls to soil prep, caring for young seedlings, and the occasional mowing down of mature meadow plantings. Second only to soil prep, watering after you sow your seeds is the most vital task that you'll need to give your attention to.
During the growth phase, seedlings must be kept well-watered until they are 4 - 6 inches tall. A sprinkler attached to a timer is an easy, convenient and affordable way to keep seeds and young wildflowers moist.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: If possible, watch the weather and time your planting to coincide with rainy days. Let Mother Nature water your seeds!
While high winds and driving rains should be avoided (they can easily wash your planting away), regular ol' rainy days are a perfect way to care for your plantings without needing to reach for the hose.
One tricky piece of wildflower 'math' that has tripped up many gardeners is that more seed does not always mean more blooms. Seeds sown too densely can inhibit growth and cause fierce competition among seedlings, causing them to become leggy and even strangle one another out.
With a rough idea of your site's square footage, you can easily calculate the correct seed quantity you need to use.
Once your ground is bare and loose, you'll want to choose a nearly windless day for your planting so that seeds stay put where you'd like your plants to grow.
Here is a surefire method of sowing seeds that encourages an even application: Separate the seed you're planting, no matter the amount, into roughly two equal parts. Put the first half in a clean bucket (or coffee can, or anything else handy), and then add in roughly eight parts of dry sand to one part of seed. (Always make sure that your sand is dry - especially if it has been stored outdoors. Wet sand has a tendency to clump and can cause your seed to be applied unevenly.)
There are two good reasons for the sand. First, the sand "dilutes" the seed and helps you spread it more evenly, without throwing it down in clumps. More importantly, since it is lighter-colored than the soil, you'll be able to "see where you've been" as you sow.
Once you have the sand and seed evenly mixed in your bucket, you'll first want to test out your sowing technique. Your goal is to lay your seed down as evenly as possible and you're likely to be surprised by how quickly it leaves your hand or the spreader.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: When using a seed spreader, always do a practice run first. This will help you get comfortable with sowing, by understanding how much seed comes out how fast.
You'll have the best chance of an even application if you scatter your seeds in two sowings. To do this, take the container with one half of your seeds and sow them as evenly as possible while walking across your site from north to south. Then take the other half and apply in a similar manner, this time walking from east to west. This Split and Sand Method, along with some time spent 'practicing' really helps wildflower gardeners get the most even application of their seeds.
After you’ve scattered your seed it’s very important that you make certain it's making good contact with the soil. Good seed-to-soil contact helps to speed up germination.
Compressing your seeds into the soil will help to ensure that moisture and nutrients make their way to your seeds before they germinate, and will also help to anchor your wildflowers’ future root systems into a good spot. Otherwise, wind, water, and natural occurrences can move seeds around.
You have some choices with regards to how you press your seeds into the soil:
No matter if you’re planting in spring or fall, there is generally no need to cover the seed. Wildflower seeds are often very tiny, and many require light to germinate. Unlike veggie seeds, which are typically planted in holes and buried within the soil, wildflower seeds are scattered on top of the soil and left exposed.
There are two exceptions to this rule – and in both cases, we recommend covering your seeds with straw (not soil):
Learn how 2 homeowners successfully used wildflowers on a steep bank.
Notice that we didn’t mention covering your seed to protect against marauding birds and critters! In 35+ years of business, we’ve learned that this just isn’t as big a problem as one might think. Maybe that’s because our wildflower seed mixes average 250,000 seeds per pound!
Most often, your seeds will germinate and begin to grow within 2-3 weeks of being planted. This just doesn’t give local wildlife much time to make a big enough dent in your future wildflower patch.
If for some reason you know your area to be a true exception to this rule, with above-average wildlife pressure (barn full of crows next door?), feel free to place a thin layer of straw on top of your seeding as a safeguard.
Although wildflowers are some of the lowest-maintenance plants you can grow, the seeds must remain moist in order to sprout. While this is true of most seeds (including many vegetable seeds), the difference lies in the fact that wildflower seeds do not have the luxury of being buried beneath wet soil. With constant exposure to the sun, they'll need your help staying moist!
Wildflower seeds and seedlings must stay moist until they are 4 - 6 inches tall (4 - 6 weeks.)
Throughout the weeks following germination, your tender seedlings may need your attention on dry days. Until they are 4 to 6 inches high, they are still unable to access enough groundwater via their roots to grow strong and healthy all on their own. 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. If instead you have hot, sunny and/or dry weather, you'll need to provide water to your planting.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: A sprinkler attached to a timer is an easy and affordable way to water your planting without disrupting your regular schedule.
Wildflowers can still be planted in areas where the hose doesn't reach. We've all seen gorgeous, large scale meadows after all! To accomplish this feat, large-area gardeners either time their plantings with the weather, or choose to plant their seeds in fall when nature and its precipitation schedule are on their side.
After seeding your wildflower planting, the fun part begins! Within 1-3 weeks time (depending upon the varieties you've planted and your growing conditions) you'll begin to see growth appear. Blooms themselves follow more unique schedules, with annual varieties appearing within 6 -12 weeks and perennials requiring a full season of growth before coming into flower in their second year.
The most important thing to remember here is that germination can’t occur under 55 degrees F soil temperatures. Even though the air may be warm and balmy for weeks, you’ll need the soil to warm up enough for your seeds to sprout.
Seed Man's Planting Tip: Germination is unlikley to occur when soil temperatures are below 55 F.
After 3 weeks, if you're still not seeing sprouts, it's time to give us a call. Wildflower seeds should germinate within 21 days.
Another question that arises when gardeners are looking at their planting site in spring, is: “Are those wildflowers or weeds?”. This is really tough, as many young seedlings are hard to identify. We have 4 pieces of advice for you:
Before the start of the growing season, there are some chores that can increase the health and beauty of your meadow. For the most part, these tasks are limited to mowing, raking and seeding.
If you did not mow your planting in fall: you still can! Many wildflower enthusiasts and nature lovers prefer to leave their plants standing throughout the winter as habitat for insects. This population forms the bottom of the food chain, feeding birds and other wildlife. If you left your meadow up over the winter, spring is a fine time to mow. Directly after mowing, follow the same instuctions as though you'd mowed in fall (below).
If you mowed your planting the previous fall: we recommend combing through your planting site with a rake to remove excess plant materials. Raking away the clippings will open things up at ground level, which allows sunlight to penetrate young perennial plants. You'll likely be amazed by the young wildflower seedlings that you find ready to grow down there! Further, removing the debris after mowing makes it easier for the ground to receive new wildflower seeds. Many wildflower gardeners like to scatter extra seeds, especially single-season annuals, to add more color to young meadows.
Adding More Wildflowers to an Existing Meadows in SpringThe easiest and most effective way to add more seed if you have not recently mowed, is to take a steel rake and rough up small areas, or "pockets," throughout the planting site. You can then sprinkle the seed directly over these roughed-up areas, giving it a quick compression with your foot to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
During the growing season itself, your meadow will actually be quite self sufficient (especially beginning in its second year). The work you do during this time can help to reduce the growth of aggressive weeds and can also encourage your flowers to bloom more frequently.
Controlling Weeds That Are Growing Among Your WildflowersPart of the attraction of wildflowers is their ease of care; however, when weeds begin to take over your planting (usually an outcome of skimping on site prep work) it can be difficult to pull the weeds without damaging flower roots and disturbing the overall feel of your planting. The easiest way we've come up with to restore balance to your meadow is to cut your weeds with scissors. Just lean in and snip - as low down on the weed plant as you can. A few passes with your scissors every other week will greatly reduce the threat of weeds and put your wildflowers back on top as the dominant species in your meadow. This is especially effective in smaller spaces.
Seed Man's Planting Tip:A quick and simple 'snipping' every other week will greatly reduce the amount of unwanted plants in your meadow, and will put your wildflowers way ahead of the game.
Have fun with this! Bring a friend and a glass of wine so you can Snip n' Sip your way through the wildflowers.
We don't recommend using chemical sprays at this time, as you'll risk accidentally spraying the plants you'd like to see growing. Further, many important pollinators and other beneficial insects are likely to get caught in the crossfire.
Deadheading Wildflowers to Encourage Blooms'Deadheading' is the practice of cutting back spent flower blooms. This helps to keep your plants looking fresh and healthy throughout the season. Addtionally, when you cut back dead and dying flowers, you're sending a signal to the plant that it should focus its energy on producing even more blooms.
Once a year, you'll need to mow your meadow area. Wait until late fall, until all your flowers have ripened and dropped their seeds. Then with a weed trimmer, or your mower set on a high setting, mow the whole area. Be sure to leave the clippings in place to break down and feed the soil. This way, it will be primed to come up green and new the following spring. If possible, rake the clippings and debris away then to open up the ground to some much-needed sunlight.
If you would prefer to leave your meadow standing as important habitat for local wildlife and pollinators, you can adopt a looser mowing schedule. Some mow every other year, alternating which half of the meadow they leave standing as undisturbed habitat. Others mow 1/3 of their meadows every third year, so that each section is only trimmed back every nine years! The important bit to remember here is that not mowing at all leads to natural succession; eventually, tree and brush seedlings will creep into any open field and take over, turning them into woods.
Download Printable Wildflower Planting Instructions
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