How to Grow Wildflowers


Adding a wildflower meadow to your garden or yard can transform your outdoor space into a thriving natural habitat. In addition to providing a splash of color, certain types of wildflowers also attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Wildflower gardens can be a lovely way to break away from the planned beds typical of many gardens, but they do require some planning, time, and maintenance.

Part 1
Planning Your Garden

Planning Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

1
Wildflowers need good drainage, low soil nutrients, and high sun exposure. Pick an area of your yard that doesn’t flood with rain and gets plenty of sun throughout the day. Wildflowers can grow in poorer soil than other flowers.[1] Your spot should also have easy access to a garden hose or irrigation system, as you’ll need to water it regularly.

Planning Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

2
Wait until after the danger of frost is past. In most areas, this will be in April or May. The relatively warm soil will let your seeds begin germinating immediately after planting.[2]

Planning Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

3
Wait until after the first frost has occurred. You want soil that’s cold enough to keep your seeds dormant, so they wait until spring to germinate. This planting will usually occur in October or November. Fall plantings are appropriate for areas without overly cold winters.[3]

Planning Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

4
There are many different types of wildflower seed blends. Go to a local flower nursery or nature preserve and do research online to find out more about your choices and which plants grow well in your area. You’ll need to begin by factoring in your particular region and the sun exposure of your plot. Then you can decide what colors or types you want.[4] Many wildflower gardens combine flowers with native grasses. If you choose to add a native grass to your seeding, ensure that it’s not an aggressive type that will choke out your flowers.

Planning Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

5
In order to know how much seed to buy, you need to calculate the square area of your plot. This will tell you how many seed packets you need to cover your area. Once you have your number, divide that by the amount of square area one packet can cover.[5] For rectangular plots, measure the length and width of your space and multiply the two numbers. For example, if you have a plot with a length of 15 feet (4.6 m). (4.572 m) and a width of 10 feet (3 m). (3.048 m), your calculation will be: 15 feet (4.6 m). x 10 ft. = 150 sq. ft. (13.93 sq. m) For circular plots, measure half the length of the circle (the radius) and multiply that number by itself and by 3.14 (pi). For example, if you have a plot with a radius of 15 ft., your calculation will be: 15 feet (4.6 m). (4.572 m) x 15 feet (4.6 m). x 3.14 = 706.5 sq. ft. (65.55 sq. m)

Part 2
Planting Your Wildflowers

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

1
Remove all weeds, grass, and debris from your plot. If your area isn’t too densely covered in weeds or grass, you may be able to simply weed and rake the spot. You can also try smothering the weeds and vegetation by covering them with a black plastic sheet or tarp, a piece of plywood, or heavy leaves. Once the vegetation has died, it may be easier to remove.[6]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

2
For spots with tough soil or dense vegetation, tilling the soil will be easier than raking. Rototill only deep enough to remove the old roots of grasses and weeds, generally no more than 2 inches (5.08 cm).[7] If you have extremely stubborn weeds, you may need to use a chemical herbicide. Begin rototilling 6 weeks before you want to plant, and then allow the weeds to grow. 3 weeks ahead of planting, spray the weeds with herbicide. This will provide you with 3 weeks during which the weeds will die and the chemical will wash out of the soil. Remove the weeds by raking at the end of the process.

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

3
Once your area is fully cleared, rotate the soil with a rake. Next, firm up and smooth out any loose soil. A firm seedbed free of clumps will both retain water better and prevent your seeds from being planted too deeply to germinate.[8]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

4
Your soil should be moist enough to remain firm and provide a good seedbed for your plants. If your soil is overly loose, it likely needs a bit of extra watering before you start seeding.

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

5
Separate your plot into two halves. Seed the first half with one half of your seed, and seed the second half on a second pass. This will help you lay down an even amount of seed throughout your area. You may want to mix the seeds with sand or sawdust to give the mixture some bulk and help you evenly lay down the seeds. Use a ratio of one part seed to ten parts sand or sawdust.[9] You can either use a seed or fertilizer spreader with an automatic crank or hand seed the plot. For larger areas, the spreader may be a better option. If you want instant wildflowers and you’re not worried about your budget, you can lay down pre-sown sod of wildflowers and grasses. Wildflower sod is more expensive than seed, but it can be easily planted on top of bare soil.[10]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

6
The optimal depth for wildflower seeds is ¼ to ½ inches (0.6-1.27 cm) deep. Lightly drag your rake in straight lines through the soil in order to get the seeds to this depth.[11]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

7
After the seeds are placed, re-firm the soil by pressing it down with your hands or feet. This will reestablish your seedbed and keep your seeds at their proper depth. You don’t want the soil to sink more than ½ inch (1.27 cm) when walking over it.[12]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

8
Monitor the area to prevent birds and other animals from eating your seeds. You don’t want the local creatures to eat your lovely garden before it has a chance to grow! If you have problems keeping the critters away, you may want to lay down some netting or fencing.[13]

Planting Your Wildflowers on How to Grow Wildflowers

9
Your soil should remain moist during the germination process. If your area is receiving regular rain, you won’t need to water. If you’re experiencing a dry spell, keep your seeds happy by watering just enough to moisten the ground for six weeks. [14] Once the seeds germinate and you begin to see plant growth, avoid over-watering the plot. You still want to keep your soil from getting dry, but oversaturating the soil with water will prevent your seedlings from getting enough oxygen.[15]

Part 3
Caring for Your Garden

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

1
Once your wildflowers begin to grow and sprout leaves, they’ll need less moisture. Keep checking the soil for dryness and the plants for signs of stress. Unless you’re in a particularly hot or dry spell, you shouldn’t have to water more than once every week or so.

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

2
A few weeds in your wildflower patch may not be a problem, but if they are overtaking your flowers, you may need to trim them. Spray the weeds with herbicide. You can also trim or pull weeds up before they start spreading seeds.

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

3
Once your flowers begin to bloom, you can extend their blooming cycle by gently clipping off dead flowers and stems. This should allow another bloom to replace the dead one.[16]

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

4
Once your blooming season is over, your garden will begin to dry out. This won’t be the prettiest sight, but resist the urge to mow. You’ll need to wait a few weeks to give the wildflowers time to fully dry out and then release their seeds back into the garden.[17]

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

5
Once the plants have had time to reseed, you can mow the area. You should be to do this by late fall. This will get your garden ready for next year’s growth. When mowing, be sure to leave clippings in place, as these may still have seeds to release.[18]

Caring for Your Garden on How to Grow Wildflowers

6
After you’ve mowed, you’ll be able to identify spots in the garden where no wildflowers fully germinated or grew. Take the opportunity to lay seed in those areas. Follow the steps in part one and two regarding planting in order to reseed properly.[19]