Q. When should I plant my seeds?
Q. What is the difference between annuals, perennials and biennials?
Q. How do I store my seeds?
Q. How much do I need to water my wildflowers?
Q. How much sun do my wildflowers need?
Q. Should I fertilize my wildflowers?
Q. I want to plant a wildflower meadow. How do I begin?
Q. Some of my seeds didn't germinate. What can cause this?
Q. How do I prepare my wildflower site and sow the seeds?
Q. Where can I get planting zones and schedules?

5 Easy Steps to a Successful Wildflower Garden or Meadow

Growing wildflowers is not difficult. You don't need any special skills or training, but you do need to know a few things that will make your wildflower garden or meadow a success.

Plan your garden before you plant. Make note of the amount of sunshine the area gets, and what time of day it gets sun. Is it early morning sun or harsher afternoon sun? Take a look at your soil, too. Is it sandy? Rich? The varieties of seeds you decide to plant need to be selected to fit the type of area that is your garden. All Earthly Goods' seeds have sun and soil requirements listed after their descriptions to help you pick the best ones for your area.

  1. Make sure your garden area is weed-free. Weeds will compete with your wildflowers and inhibit their growth. If you spend some time at the beginning of your garden project eliminating weeds before you sow seeds, you will have a much easier to maintain garden site with better germination and growth of seeds. See site preparation and planting instructions for more details on weed control and elimination.

  2. However, don't expect wildflowers to grow in an area that has no vegetation growing in it now. If the soil is too poor for weeds, it will not support wildflowers either.

  3. Sow your seeds at the proper depth. Most of Earthly Goods' seeds need to be sown on the soil surface or no deeper than 1/8". When you order your seeds, you receive detailed, easy-to-understand planting instructions.

  4. Water your seeds regularly and gently. Germination can take place in just a few days, or can take several weeks. Whatever the case, your seeds need moisture on a daily basis in order to sprout, and for 4-6 weeks afterward, too.

  5. Remove weeds on a regular basis. You can pull weeds by hand or use a spot herbicide in smaller gardens; in larger plantings or meadows, you may want to mow the area to a height of 4-6 inches during the first year, in the fall. Either use a flail-type mower or a Weed-Eater, not a power mower. The reason for mowing is to keep weeds from setting seeds and from smothering out your seedlings.

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Q. When should I plant my seeds?

A. It depends on your site location and weather patterns. Generally, it's best to go by the amount of seasonal precipitation in your area rather than temperature. However, wildflower seeds can be planted in either the fall or spring throughout all regions of the United States.

In USDA Zones 1 through 6, an early spring planting is recommended. However, if you decide to plant your seeds in the late fall, they will simply remain dormant throughout the winter and germinate in early spring.

In USDA Zones 7 through 11, the late fall (September through December) is the optimum planting time, as some of the species will have time to germinate before going dormant. However, you may also plant your seeds in the early spring if you desire.

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Q. What is the difference between annuals, perennials and biennials?

A. Annuals grow from seed to flower to seed all within one growing season. In other words, the plant will only last for one season. However, many annuals drop their seeds and then new plants come up from the seeds the following year.

Perennials last for many seasons. However, during the first year (the year the seed is planted) the plant generally will not bloom. During the first year, the plant grows its root system and foliage only. It will die back in the winter (although some species keep their leaves in the winter) and then will come back out and bloom the following year.

Biennials last for two years. The first year the plant grows its foliage, and the second year the plant produces stems, blooms and seeds, then dies.

Please note that depending on the part of the country you live in, some annuals will behave like perennials and vice versa. For example, Candytuft will behave like an annual in the south, but in the north it might behave as a perennial.

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Q. How do I store my seeds?

A. Seeds should be stored away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations in a water resistant container. If stored in this manner seed can last for many years. If you gather seeds from the wildflowers you've grown, make sure you air dry the seeds completely by laying them out on newspaper for several days before you store them. Try to remove as much chaff and litter from the seeds as possible before storage.

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Q. How much do I need to water my wildflowers?

A. When you plant your seeds, it is important to keep the area moist for 4-6 weeks to ensure germination and development of seedlings. If there is not enough rainfall, be sure to water lightly with a garden hose. After the seedlings are established, don't let the area dry out completely, but don't saturate the area either, as this could starve the root system of oxygen. Once seedlings are about 2 inches high, you can provide water if the plants show signs of wilting or stress, or if there is a dry period in your area.

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Q. How much sun do my wildflowers need?

A. As a rule of thumb, most wildflowers do best with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If a species needs shade or part shade, that means they will need at least 5 hours of sun per day. If you notice that your wildflowers are spindly and have very few blooms, it's a sign that they aren't getting enough sunlight.

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Q. Should I fertilize my wildflowers?

A. Generally it's not recommended that wildflowers be fertilized unless the soil is depleted of nutrients. If that is the case, use a low nitrogen fertilizer with a ratio of about 1-3-2 (1 part nitrogen, 3 parts phosphorus, 2 parts potassium). Wildflowers that are unnecessarily fertilized tend to produce lots of foliage but few blooms.

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Q. I want to plant a wildflower meadow. How do I begin?

A. Site preparation is an important part of planning any wildflower planting. Go here to read our site preparation instructions.

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Q. Some of my seeds didn't germinate. What can cause this?

A. The most common cause of poor germination is improper planting depth. Small seeds should be sown on the surface of the soil and then pressed or rolled into the soil. Larger seeds generally should be planted no deeper than 1/4 inch.

Also, remember not to let the soil dry out, especially in the first 4 to 6 weeks.

Some seeds may be more difficult to grow from seed than others. The name of the game in many cases is patience.

All Earthly Goods' seeds have recommended planting depths listed within each seed description. All our seed is lab tested for purity and germination before we ship it to you, so you can be assured of the highest quality seed.

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Q. How do I prepare my wildflower site and sow the seeds?

A. Following are Earthly Goods site preparation and planting instructions:

When To Plant
The best time to plant in your area depends on the climate and rainfall patterns as well as the species you are planting. In cool climates, plant annuals, perennials or mixtures of annuals and perennials in spring, early summer or late fall. Fall planting should be late enough so that seeds do not germinate until spring. Perennials can also be sown in early fall provided that there are at least 10-12 weeks of growing time before the plants go dormant for the winter. Late fall plantings are advantageous when supplemental irrigation can't be provided and adequate rainfall is anticipated in the spring.

In mild climates, plant during the cooler months of the year, fall through spring, for best results. Fall plantings done prior to periods of rainfall will insure an early display of flowers the following spring.

Site Selection
Sowing wildflower seeds without proper planning usually produces less than satisfactory results. Here are some important factors to consider:
    1. Does the site support plants now? If you have a site where nothing, including weeds, is growing, the site is unlikely to support wildflowers.

    2. Will there be adequate moisture during germination and establishment? Can you supply supplemental water if necessary?

    3. What weed seeds are likely to be present in the soil? Will weeds spread to your site from adjacent areas? Assessment of these factors will enable you to make a realistic choice of a site where wildflowers will prosper and to decide what action will be necessary to ensure your success.
Site Preparation
Proper site preparation is important for prompt germination of seed and healthy growth of seedlings. Best results will be obtained by planting on cleared ground. Remove existing vegetation to avoid competition from other plants. This may be done by pulling, tilling under, spraying with a general herbicide or by a combination of these methods, depending on the size of the area, type and density of vegetation and other factors. Loosen soil by scraping, tilling, or scarifying. Tilling should be utilized only when soil is very compacted and further weed control measures can be taken.

Seed Application
The most common cause of poor germination associated with wildflowers is the depth at which the seeds are sown. Small seeds should be planted on the soil surface and pressed or rolled in for best results since they contain only enough stored food for a limited period of growth. If the seedling is to survive, it must emerge from the soil and quickly begin to produce its own food. If seeds are too deeply buried beneath the soil surface, the seedling will either exhaust its food reserve prior to reaching the soil surface, causing its death, or lack of sufficient oxygen will prohibit germination altogether. There are, however, a few seeds that must have darkness to germinate, and therefore must have a covering of soil–specifically Johnny Jump Up, Red Drummond Phlox and Scarlet Sage.

Method of seed application depends on the size of the area and the terrain. On small areas, broadcast seeds evenly by hand or by the use of a drop or cyclone spreader. It is helpful to mix a carrier such as clean, dry sand with the seed–sand adds volume and aids in even distribution. We recommend using a ratio of 1 or 2 parts sand to 1 part seed. Rake in lightly, covering seeds to a maximum depth of 2-3 times their thickness. Or drag the area lightly with a piece of chain link fence to mix the seed into the surface of the soil. For seeding large areas, i.e., over one acre, specially designed drills are most effective. Drill to a maximum depth of 1/4 inch and firm soil with a cultipacker; this maximizes soil/seed contact. Hydroseeders are also effective, especially for steep slopes, rocky terrain and other areas where conditions make it impractical for driving equipment.

Moisture
All seeds, including wildflowers, need ample moisture to germinate and to develop into healthy seedlings. Best results will be obtained by soaking the planted areas thoroughly and maintaining consistent moisture for 4-6 weeks–then gradually reducing waterings. In non-irrigated situations, plant in the spring or before periods of anticipated rainfall. After seedlings are established, watering may be reduced depending on climate and rainfall. In arid climates or during drought conditions, up to 1/2 inch of supplemental water per week may be required to maintain an optimal display. If weeds are present, remember that they benefit from moisture as much as the wildflowers and may dominate overwatered areas.

Fertilization
Do not fertilize wildflowers unless the soil is extremely depleted of nutrients. Fertilizers encourage weed growth and lush foliage rather than flowers. If the soil needs improvement, we suggest adding organic matter such as weed-free grass clippings or straw, well-rotted compost, peat moss or leaf mold. In addition to adding nutrients, organic materials enhance soil texture and encourage beneficial microorganisms.

Weed Control
Weed control is one of the biggest problems facing wildflower establishment and one which has no easy solution. Weed seeds may lie dormant in soil for many years. A weedy area converted to wildflowers will have a large reservoir of weed seeds in the soil which may germinate if conditions are favorable. In most cases, weed control is a two-phase process–as part of site preparation and as an important component of the post-germination maintenance program.

Before planting, remove existing weeds by pulling, tilling under, applying a general herbicide such as Roundup or KLEENUP, or by a combination of these methods. For additional weed control, a soil fumigant may be used, or the area may be irrigated to encourage weed growth and then sprayed with a general herbicide.

In very weedy areas, the following method is suggested:
    1. Till soil or spray vegetation with Roundup or KLEENUP. When using an herbicide, allow vegetation to die, then rake out the dead debris. If perennial weeds such as bindweed are present, using an herbicide is more effective than tilling.

    2. Irrigate to encourage germination of weed seeds near the surface; most seeds will germinate within two weeks if consistent moisture is available. Do not till the soil again because this will bring even more weed seeds up to the surface.

    3. Spray any new growth with Roundup or KLEENUP.

    4. After raking out dead vegetation, allow soil to recover for 3-4 weeks before planting with wildflowers.

    5. Once the wildflowers have germinated, further weed control is usually necessary. If practical, pull all weeds as soon as they can be identified. Other successful methods are spot spraying with a general herbicide or selectively cutting weeds with a string trimmer. Be sure to remove weeds before they reseed.
What To Expect
Wildflowers can provide an excellent, low cost alternative in large-scale, high-maintenance situations, as well as a satisfying alternative to traditional urban landscaping. However, during their initial establishment period, wildflowers require as much maintenance as traditional plantings.
A smooth, weed and vegetation free planting bed is important for good seed-soil contact and prompt germination. Avoid seeding more than the recommended rate since over-seeding can result in crowded conditions the first year and poor establishment of perennials. Cover seeds lightly to protect them from drying out and to prevent them from being eaten by birds. Consistent moisture is important for 4-6 weeks after planting.

A wildflower planting requires the same weed control measures as traditional landscaping. Effective measures include site preparation prior to planting and a post-germination maintenance program.
Sometimes it is desirable or even necessary to sow seed in second and subsequent years. Reseeding may be necessary if establishment of wildflowers is spotty or poor. Loosen soil of bare areas and provide adequate weed control and supplemental irrigation.
Planting Zones
To learn more about USDA planting zones for North America visit www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/
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If you have a question that is not answered here, you can email Earthly Goods for advice.