Growing native wildflowers brings a bit of the prairie to your backyard. Sowing wildflower seed mixes is an inexpensive way to fill an area with a variety of colorful springtime blooms. Native bees and other pollinators that are important to our food chain appreciate the nectar that wildflowers provide early in the season.
To have the best chance of success with your wildflower garden, here are a few things to consider:
Select seeds of species that are native to your area. These will be the most attractive and beneficial to native pollinators, along with being adapted to your weather conditions. Some seed suppliers prepare blends that are labeled for specific geographic regions. You can also compare the seeds listed on the packet with the native plant database on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center website (www.wildflower.org), which also includes the 20 most common Texas wildflowers. Texas A&M’s Wildflowers in Bloom website (https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/) also provides detailed growing information and photographs for dozens of wildflowers.
Locate your wildflower garden in full sun. Most wildflowers bloom best with full sun, meaning at least 5 to 8 hours of direct sun. Although tolerant of our slightly alkaline soil in North Texas, it is essential that the soil drains well. Sites with standing water or heavy clays will not yield good results.
When to Plant
In North Central Texas, sow wildflower seeds in fall for spring bloom. North Texas typically experiences enough rain in the fall to help the seeds germinate and then has a sufficiently cold winter for those species that prefer some chilling hours.
Start with a clean slate. Remove weeds and turf grasses that will crowd out wildflower seedlings. Lightly rake the surface no more than 1” deep to loosen the soil, but not so deep that you expose more weed seeds. Integrating organic material or compost improves the soil by adding plant nutrients and helping to break up clay soil.
Scatter seeds by hand or with a handheld spreader onto bare earth. You may wish to add sand or perlite to your mix in a ratio of 4 parts inert material to 1-part seed mix to help tiny seeds disperse evenly. Do not cover the seeds with soil, but do press down on the area by walking or using a roller. It is important that the seeds are in contact with the soil but not covered with more than 1/16”-1/8” of soil.
Ongoing Care of your Wildflower Garden
Gently hand water at first sowing and keep the area evenly moist (but not saturated) for the next 4 to 6 weeks, supplementing with irrigation if necessary until the plants are a couple inches high. Once established, wildflowers need minimal supplemental water.
If you planted a mixture of seeds, germination will be sporadic as not all species have the same germination rates or requirements. Be aware that emerging seedlings could easily be mistaken for weeds. Texas A&M’s Wildflowers in Bloom website includes photographs of common wildflower seedlings to assist in identification. The website also suggests sowing a pinch of seeds into a container of potting soil to use for comparison.
If Mother Nature cooperates, come spring your wildflower garden will be a beautiful haven for beneficial insects. Then sit back and enjoy your own little piece of the prairie.
The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center: www.wildflower.org
Texas A&M Wildflowers in Bloom: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/