Planting wildflowers in the spring can bring a flush of summer beauty and color to your landscape, not to mention all kinds of sensational birds, bees and butterflies flying about as well.
There truly is something magical about wildflowers. Especially when they reach the peak of color as their thin and wispy foliage produce a mass of flowers that light up the landscape.
Although sowing and growing wildflower seed isn’t necessarily difficult, there are a few key tips that can help your plants to germinate and establish successfully in the soil. And two of the biggest? Knowing when and where to plant them to give them the best chance for big flowers and lasting success!
Unfortunately, many gardeners try to cover the poorest spots of their landscape with wildflowers. Most often, they think it might be the easiest way to spruce up a bad area. Sadly, it often results in poor germination, poor growth, and results that are less than desirable.
It’s not that the soil for wildflowers needs to be super rich and fertile, but it does need to have enough nutrients to supply the wildflowers with energy. Without some type of nutrient and soil base, you are literally throwing your seed and money away.
With that in mind, here is a look at when and where to plant wildflowers, and how to prepare the soil and plant your seed for big success!
How To Plant & Grow Wildflowers In The Spring
When To Plant
The seeds of wildflowers germinate best when the temperature of the soil is somewhere in the range of 55 to 60° Fahrenheit. It is important to remember that the soil needs to be that warm, not the air temperature.
One of the biggest mistakes made when planting wildflowers in the spring is planting too early. Even though you may have a few days where temperatures reach into the 70’s, the soil may still be too cool for germinating.
When any seed sits in cool soil, it can rot with ease. This is especially true for tender wildflower seeds. Cool soil can also slow or even stop its ability to germinate. Finally, planting too early puts young seedlings at risk of a late frost or freeze as well.
As a general rule of thumb, it will take a week or more of 70 to 80° (F) temperatures to warm chilled soil to a proper planting temperature. A soil thermometer is a great way to check your soil’s temperature in an instant. In addition, never plant seed until the threat of a late frost has passed.
One final note on planting times – it is also important to not wait too late in the season. Wildflowers need to establish themselves well before excessive heat occurs. Unfortunately, waiting too late in the spring or early summer can be just as devastating to your crop.
Young seedlings can quickly dry out in excessive heat or drought, while more mature and established plants can withstand those difficult conditions.
Selecting A Location & Preparing The Soil – How To Plant Wildflowers In The Spring
Just as important as when you plant wildflowers is where you plant them. The large majority of wildflower varieties need full sun to grow and bloom to their full potential.
Although there are a few mixes with plants that can handle shadier locations, they tend to be less colorful with their blooms. Select a growing site that will receive at least 8 hours of sun each day. This will ensure good germination, growth and most importantly, flowering!
Preparing The Soil
Soil preparation is another big key to success for wildflowers. Simply scattering seed over the soil or a weed-filled, rocky patch of land will not result in good growth.
Just as with all plants, wildflowers will struggle if they have to compete for nutrients, light and water. And when weeds are present in excessive quantities, they will usually crowd out the growth of wildflower seed.
Before planting, clear the area you will be seeding from all vegetation. This can be done by tilling the soil, or by laying down a thick, black plastic layer over the area you will seed to snuff out the growth from below.
This process is called “solarizing” the soil as the heat through the plastic kills off the weeds below. The black plastic also heats from the sun and helps to kill of the vegetation as well.
This process works well, but it can take a month or two depending on temperatures to kill off all of the vegetation below.
Once your area is cleared from previous weeds, it is time to add a bit of compost to help energize the soil. Wildflowers do not need excessive nutrients to grow well, but compost can give them a boost, and help them retain the moisture they need for germination. See : How To Make Great Compost
It won’t take a lot to do the trick, simply scatter a thin layer (1/8 – 1/4″) of compost on top of the soil. This layer of compost will also make “planting” the seed a much easier task.
Planting – How To Plant Wildflowers In The Spring
Once the soil has been prepared, it is time for planting. It is best to select a day with little wind and with no heavy storms in the near forecast.
High winds can make spreading the lightweight seed quite difficult. Driving rains and or high winds can also easily wash or blow away seed before it has a chance to set. Light rain in the near forecast is fine, and can actually provide the newly planted areas a wonderful watering to help soak the seed in.
The Sand Planting Trick
A little trick to planting wildflower seeds is to place them in a large bag or bucket and mix with sand. For best results, use a ratio of about 6 to 8 parts sand for every 1 part seed.
The use of sand will ensure that the seeds are well spread, and you can also see the area you are planting since the sand will stand out against the soil. Be sure to use dry sand as wet sand will easily clump together with the seeds.
Finally, when seeding, choose a mix that is designed for your region. This gives you the best opportunity for success when growing mixes designed to do well in your climate.
All of these (and other) regional mix seed links below can offer wildflowers of varying colors and different heights. For planting rate coverage, always follow the instructions on the back of each seed packet.
Compressing the Seeds in the Soil – Planting Wildflowers In The Spring
Once you have scattered your seeds, pressing them into the soil/compost layer a bit will help set the seed for good germination.
Compress the seeds well enough so that they are in good contact with the soil. They do not need to however be buried completely. For small areas, you can compress the seeds by using your shoes to lightly press them in.
For large areas, a roller or even tamping down a rake as you walk will do the trick. Seeds that are in good contact with the soil will germinate better and faster. Adequate soil contact will also provide better nourishment to the seeds as they can better intake nutrients and moisture.
Lastly, seeds that are compressed in the soil are not disturbed by natural occurrences, water, and wind, nor do they move around easily.
To finish seeding, scatter a light (1″) layer of loose straw on top of the seed and soil. This will help hold in moisture and keep competing weed seeds from blowing in and taking hold.
Watering – How To Plant Wildflowers In The Spring
A gentle and thorough soaking of water will provide for good growth and help set the seeds in place. The wildflowers may need regular watering until they are approximately 4 to 6 inches tall to establish completely.
While mother nature may provide rain, you should be watering your wildflower patch regularly if conditions remain dry. Once plants reach four to six weeks in growth, they should be established well enough to handle drier times.
Annual wildflowers will bloom somewhere between 6 to 12 weeks after planting. Biennial flowers will bloom in the second season. Meanwhile, most perennials will bloom in the second year once their root system has a second year of growth.
The good news is that once they are growing, the will require very little care. There is no need to apply fertilizer to the area as they can bloom and grow without additional nutrients.
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