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Searcy, Ark. –
Over 600 species of wildflowers are native to Arkansas and grace our roadways and
scenic drives in the state. Many are also being planted in home gardens along with
other flowers to attract butterflies and bees, or just to enjoy. Some wildflowers
are spring ephemerals - here today and gone tomorrow, while others bloom in the summer,
some in the fall, and a few bloom in winter. There are shade-lovers and sun-lovers,
so there are wildflowers that can fit any landscape. Wildflowers can be planted from
seed or transplants, but October is the ideal month to get a wildflower garden established,
especially if you are planting seeds. When choosing wildflowers, try to pick plants
that need the same growing conditions as your site—sun versus shade, good soil versus
poor, wet versus dry.
As with any garden, it all comes down to the right plant for the right spot. Decide
what type of garden you want. Do you want to intersperse some wildflowers in with
your existing landscape, or create a meadow or a woodland garden? Make sure that you
choose a variety of plants, with some that bloom in every season so you can extend
the show. Having a mix of annuals and perennials ensures flowering year one. Seed
grown perennials may take two seasons before they have good blooms. Adding a few wildflower
plants along with the seeds also can aid in establishment and give you earlier blooms
in the garden. You will want a combination of both annual and perennial varieties
along with spring, summer and fall bloomers.
Most wildflowers prefer a well-drained soil. Prepare the site well. You can’t just
throw out a packet of seed on an unprepared area and sit back and wait for a showy
wildflower meadow. You need to kill the grass and weeds that are in the area so that
you reduce the competition factor. If you over-seed a field of grass and weeds with
wildflower seed, you will have a field of grass and weeds with a few wildflowers.
Weeds and grass are always going to be a pest in full sun beds, but with proper planning,
you can reduce the problems. The larger the planting, the more planning is required.
Established wildflower gardens will not need as much maintenance as a traditional
garden, but they aren’t maintenance-free. Once the area has been cleared of weeds
and grass, till the soil and lightly rake it. If you have rocky soil, you may want
to amend with compost before tilling and planting.
Depending on the size of the area you are planting, you can hand sow the seeds or
use a broadcast spreader to sow the seeds. A general rule is about 1 pound of wildflower
seed will cover 2000 square feet, but it will vary by the mix you buy. Mixing seeds
with sand can also help with distribution. Three to four parts sand mixed with 1 part
seed helps distribute the seeds evenly. Once you sow the seeds, make sure they come
in firm contact with the soil by lightly raking or rolling the area. A roller is an
empty drum that you fill with water and roll over the planting area, helping create
the soil-seed contact. Once you sow seeds and/or plant plants, water well if possible.
Wildflower seeds require ample moisture to germinate. For best results, the area should
be kept moist for four to six weeks during the establishment period. Home gardeners
have an advantage here over commercial planting. Light, frequent applications of water
will work well, keeping the area moist, but not waterlogged. After your seedlings
are 1-2 inches tall, gradually reduce watering. Once established water only when the
plants show signs of stress. If you are planting a large area, and watering is not
possible, always opt for fall planting, so natural rainfall can help the seedlings
Where do you get wildflowers? First and foremost, don't dig them from the wild unless
you own the property or have permission from the landowner. If everyone dug up the
plants they came across there wouldn't be any left for the rest of us to enjoy. When
buying wildflower seed it is helpful to buy from a source as close to where you live
as possible. Seeds raised in similar climatic conditions should survive well in your
There are many wildflowers to choose from and many wildflower companies create mixes
for various purposes. Some of the most popular perennials include Echinacea (coneflowers),
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), Asclepias (milkweeds), coreopsis, and gaillardia. For
some good annuals to throw in the mix consider larkspur, bachelor buttons and Shirley
poppies. Wildflower gardens are becoming an increasingly popular landscape alternative.
Be patient when planting a wildflower garden.
You won't have a picture-perfect garden in one year. It usually takes about three
years for the garden to mature and come into its own. But with proper plant selection,
you can have blooming flowers even in year one. With proper planning, a small packet
of seeds can turn into a beautiful, natural garden. But do remember, one person's
wildflowers, may be another person’s weeds.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. For more information you can contact your local
county extension service, you can also follow Sherri Sanders on Facebook @UADA.WhiteCountyAgriculture
By Sherri Sanders County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Sherri Sanders County Extension Agent - AgricultureU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143 (501) 268-5394 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.