Planting a Wildflower Garden: The Basics

A wildflower garden is a beautiful landscape choice for any property. From “where to plant” to “what to plant”: this article answers the top 6 questions on the basics of planting and maintaining a wildflower garden.

Question 1: Where should I plant a wildflower garden?

Wildflower gardens look best when you mimic the organic settings that they are normally found in: by the roadside, in a meadow, against structures. Use the flowers to create a natural fence to frame your property line from the road, line the side of your shed or house, or hide unsightly utility boxes. Try to avoid straight lines when designing your flowerbed; curved and abstract border shapes work best to showcase the natural beauty of the wildflowers.

If you have the land and are looking to make a statement, consider creating a meadow. Transforming your yard into a wildflower garden can result in less work than maintaining a regular grass lawn: there is no mowing, the flowers camouflage bare spots, and it adds beautiful color. However, be aware of the structures surrounding the meadow, as this organic look only works with traditional style exteriors.

Regardless of the shape and size you have chosen for your wildflower garden, choose an area with adequate drainage. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center suggests that if your flowerbed has less than favorable conditions that you add either sand or gravel to the soil to encourage better drainage.

Question 2: When should I plant a wildflower garden?

If you live in an area with harsh winters, then you should plant your wildflowers in early spring. According to it will take between 2-6 weeks for your wildflowers to sprout. So keep in mind that if you plant in April, it may take until June for you to see any progress.

Planting in the autumn is another option. By planting in the fall you give the seeds a longer time to work into the soil and they will bloom earlier in the spring.

If you live in a climate with mild winters, you can plant a wildflower garden at any point throughout the year. Just avoid planting during scorching summer temperatures as moisture plays a big role in the success of your seeding.

Question 3: What should I plant in a wildflower garden?

The location of your wildflower garden becomes very important when picking out which native grasses and flowers to plant. The amount of sun the flowerbed receives during the day should dictate what plants you choose.

For example: if your garden site receives full sun exposure then you may want to go with black-eyed susans or cosmos: both of which do best with lots of sunlight. Or, if your location is shaded by a structure or trees, then shade-loving forget-me-nots would be a better choice. For additional help in deciding which types of wildflowers to choose, has a great chart on “Wildflowers Categorized for Sun and Shade.”

In addition to light requirements, you may want to consider plants native to your location. By choosing wildflowers and grasses that naturally grow in your area, you know that they will do well in the same soil type and weather conditions.

Planting a Wildflower Garden: The Basics
Planting a Wildflower Garden: The Basics

Question 4: Where should I buy seeds for a wildflower garden?

It is recommended that you purchase your wildflower seed from local garden centers. Buying local helps to make sure that you are getting an assortment of seeds that are more fertile with a successful history in your climate. You also get the benefit of local experts who can provide tips on gardening in your area.

Many chain home and garden stores carry commercial “wildflower” seed mixes. They are marketed as inexpensive and convenient, but be sure to look on the label to see what plants are actually included in the package. You want to make sure that the mix has varieties that will work with the sun exposure of your flowerbed and that they don’t contain any invasive plant fillers.

Question 5: How should I plant a wildflower garden?

When you get ready to plant your wildflower garden there are only a few little preparations that will help your garden flourish. First, it is advised that you prepare your flowerbed by removing weeds and loosening the top soil with a shallow rake.

Since many wildflower seeds need sunlight to germinate, you don’t need to dig holes or loosen the soil beyond an inch deep. Loosely scatter the seeds on the top soil, gently pat to prevent fly-aways, then water. Avoid planting your seeds in rows or tight formations: keep the shape and feel of your space as organic as possible to enhance the natural beauty of the wildflowers.

For the first two weeks, water your garden as frequently as needed to keep the soil slightly moist to the touch, as moisture plays an important role in germination.

Question 6: How do I maintain a wildflower garden?

Wildflower gardens are extremely easy to maintain. After you have planted your garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center advises adding a thin layer of mulch around your seedlings to help control weeds and provide additional drainage. Occasional watering is really the only upkeep that your wildflowers need on a regular basis and, depending on the plant variety, pruning may encourage healthy growth.

For additional guidance with planting a wildflower garden, consult your local seed provider for planting and maintenance tips specific to the types of wildflowers you choose.

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