Wildflowers are rising in popularity in gardens and landscape. They add beauty to any landscape as well as attracting forms of wildlife. Some wildflowers are ideal for cut or dried flower arrangements.
A wildflower is a flowering plant that grows in a natural uncultivated state or survives in a given area with little care. Wildflowers include annuals, biennials, or perennials.
Although wildflower gardens require little maintenance, especially compared to traditional cultivated gardens, they do require some level of effort. Select wildflowers for a given habitat. When selecting different species, be aware of the specific needs regarding soil, light, and moisture. Most wildflowers thrive in areas that receive full sun throughout the day. They do well in open areas with few trees, but can be attractive in smaller areas if space is limited. Woodland wildflowers do well in lightly shaded areas and soils with high organic matter. Meadow species prefer less fertile soil. To improve the growing conditions for wildflowers, maintain the proper soil pH by having the soil tested through your local Extension Office.
Moisture loving wildflowers such as cardinal flower, rose turtlehead, and pale gentian are best cultivated in low, moist areas in the garden like bogs and stream banks. Drought-tolerant wildflowers like black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, and woody mullein like dry habitats.
Annual wildflowers are quick to germinate and establish when sown in the spring after frost. Perennials can be sown in the fall or spring, but they can be slower to bloom in the spring. Perennials become fully established in their second summer when they provide plenty of seeds for the following fall. Once established, wildflowers will typically not require supplemental irrigation unless they are going through a prolonged drought.
Sow seeds from September through November when the soil temperatures drop below 40°F. This is the ideal time for spring and early summer flowering wildflowers. Seeding in the fall allows young plants to take advantage of cooler soil temperatures and rain. Hardy winter annuals and perennials seedlings become established at this time.
Seeding plants from March to late April is okay if the moisture demand is met. Perennials planted in the spring generally will not flower until the second growing season. Spring planting of wildflowers may result in competition with weed seeds if the soil is not prepared properly. Transplants or container-grown wildflowers that flower in early spring are normally best transplanted in the fall. Wildflowers that flower late in the year are best transplanted in spring. Late spring and summer flowering species are typically planted in spring or fall.
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