Annuals are relatively easy and inexpensive to grow and there
is a wide
selection of heights, colors and cultivars from which to choose
for cutflower use. Most annuals have a long season of bloom. The
greatest disadvantages are that annuals have to be planted every
year. To extend production during the season, stagger the sowing
and planting dates.
The following is a list of some common annuals that can be grown
Crops Grown by Direct Seeding or from Transplants
COCKSCOMB (Celosia argentea). 'Century' series. Red, yellow,
flame or rose colored feathery plumes on 27" stems. Approximately
40 days from seed to flower. Final spacing should be 10x10"
or 12x12" apart. Plants produce many side-shoots, which make
this series excellent for cuts.
series. Seed sources: Sakata, Stokes. Plumes colored carmine,
cream, orange, red, yellow and a mix are produced on plants 30"
tall. Space young plants 12x12" apart to produce seven or
eight stems per plant.
MARIGOLD (Tagetes erecta). Marigolds can be spaced 12x12"
apart. The distinctive odor of marigold leaves may concern some
customers, but leaves can be removed to eliminate the source of
SUNFLOWER (Helianthus annus) is a food crop of worldwide importance,
as well as a good cutflower . The large flowers turn to face the
sun when the plant is young; once the stem becomes woody, the
flowers stop turning. Sunflowers are native to North America,
and were cultivated for food by native peoples for thousands of
years before the arrival of European settlers. The seeds of sunflower
are also a preferred food of birds and small mammals, so many
people grow them to feed wildlife over the winter.
A sunflower is actually hundreds of tiny flowers clustered together.
The disk flowers form the center. These flowers have both male
and female components. After pollination, they produce seeds.
The "petals" around the disk are ray flowers. They have
no reproductive parts and will not form seeds.
Most sunflowers produce abundant pollen, which will cover the
surface on which a vase of sunflowers sits. Some pollenless varieties
have been developed for cutting, including 'Sonja', 'Teddy Bear',
'Ring of Fire', and 'Ikarus'. Double-flowered forms such as 'Teddy
Bear' are good for bouquets. Instead of a dark smooth disk, these
varieties have fluffy yellow disk flowers in their centers. Although
these disk flowers look like ray flowers, they do produce pollen
Other "Sunflowers"The perennial Maximillian sunflower
(Helianthus maximillianii), grows six to eight feet tall and bears
three-inch yellow blooms in late summer and early fall. It is
hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus
tuberosus), another cold-hardy perennial species, is usually grown
for its edible root, rather than its flowers. This species is
invasive and very difficult to eliminate from the garden once
plants are established. Mexican sunflower (Tithonia species) is
a tall, branching annual with deep orange sunflower-like flowers
that attract butterflies.
(Zinnia elegans). Narrow spacing suppresses side branching and
results in flowers for single harvest. On the other hand wide
spacing works well for multiple harvests.
Crops Grown by Direct Seeding in the Fall
To insure a constantly diverse and ever-showy cutflower bloom
display in the spring from seed which were all planted at the
same time in late fall, you must select a tried-and-true wildflower
cutflower mix. John Thomas of Wildseed Farms (http://www.wildseedfarms.com/)
near Fredericksburg, Texas, has spent a lifetime developing such
regional mixes and offering them to customers all over the U.S.
I will focus on the Texas/Oklahoma
Wildflower Mix which contains:
Texas Bluebonnet; Baby's Breath; Indian Blanket; African Daisy;
Scarlet Flax; Plains Coreopsis; Tickseed; Clasping Coneflower;
Lemon Mint; Black-Eyed Susan; Purple Coneflower; Mexican Hat;
Drummond Phlox; Moss Verbena; Cornflower; Corn Poppy; Rocket Larkspur;
Toadflax; Baby Blue Eyes; Dwarf Red Coreopsis; Ox-Eyed Daisy;
Showy Primrose; California Poppy; Yarrow; Yellow Cosmos; Texas
Paintbrush. Each of these plants can be seen at :
If you wait until late fall (December - January) or early spring
(February - March), you would be well advised to plant the Firecracker
234 Annual Mix which contains:
Cornflower; Baby Blue Eyes; Five Spot; African Daisy; Scarlet
Flax; Lemon Mint; Rocket Larkspur; Corn Poppy; Baby's Breath;
Black Eyed Susan; Yellow Cosmos; Plains Coreopsis; Indian Blanket;
Clasping Coneflower; Cosmos; Sweet Alyssum; California Poppy;
OR the Butterfly/Hummingbird Mix which contains:
Purple Coneflower; Tickseed; Cornflower; Rocket Larkspur; Blanketflower;
Indian Blanket; Drummond Phlox; Scarlet Sage; Candytuft; Yellow
Cosmos; Sweet William; Cosmos; Wallflower; Lemon Mint; Tuber Vervain;
Standing Cypress; Black-Eyed Susan; Shasta Daisy; Coreopsis; Butterfly
Weed; Sweet Alyssum; Toadflax.
Remember that every single flower in these mixes will not necessarily
perform well in your planting location. These mixes contain enough
diversity to assure the supreme performance of some of the wildflowers
being planted. Consider the first year as a "test" to
see which wildflowers are best suited to your site and culture.
After the first year, (or second year if you want a confirmation),
you can concentrate on those wildflower species which perform
best for you. Remember that performance is the important factor
when evaluating these flowers -- not country of origin. For the
purists and academicians among you, be advised that the flowering
plants in these mixes were chosen because of their reliable performance
in providing beauty in a diversity of locations and their ability
to endure heat, drought (low-water-use plants) and be pest resistant
or at least tolerant. All of these plants are now, or have been
in the past, somewhere in the world, classified as "wildflowers"
(definition: "the flower of a plant that normally grows in
fields, forests, etc., without cultivation") -- they are
not all "Texas' native wildflowers" or "native
indigenous" if anyone cares! Most of us don't care where
the beautiful wildflowers came from -- just as long as it lives
and blooms in our flower beds.
The first consideration in planting a beautiful wildflower area
is location and size of planting. Start with a small section of
a once-bermuda grass lawn. Then if results are satisfactory and
after the best performing plants have been identified, the planting
area can be enlarged. Most wildflowers require a great deal of
sunlight. If your area receives at least eight hours of direct
sunlight per day, your wildflowers will prosper. A few species
can tolerate partial shade, but for best results even those must
have at least five hours of sunlight each day. Interesting enough,
these same requirements are necessary for a successful bermuda
turf. When selecting a small section of the lawn to test the feasibly
of over-seeding with wildflowers, you should choose a location
which does have or has had bermuda grass growing. Bermuda grass
requires at least 8-10 hours of direct sun daily to survive. Bermuda
lawns begin dormancy in October and will not be significantly
damaged by shading of wildflower foliage until June when the full
bloom cycle of wildflower mix is completed. Wildflowers only thrive
and bloom profusely in sunny locations -- sun-loving wildflowers
that are planted in a shaded environment will produce spindly
or "leggy" plants with very few blooms..
The wildflower planting procedure involves:
(1) If choosing a non-lawn area, proper site evaluation and soil
preparation are the first defenses against the competition of
unwanted weeds in your wildflower planting. Before planting, assess
the current weed population existing within the area. Do not select
a site which contains an overabundance of weeds, which is usually
the case in low-lying or run-off areas where water occasionally
stands. For best results, choose an area that is elevated with
adequate drainage. A site which is well drained should have a
limited population of existing weeds. To remove the existing weeds
from the site, you have the option to treat the entire area with
a nonselective (kills, roots and all, what it touches), glyphosate-containing
herbicide such as Roundup, Ortho Kleanup or Finale to kill the
weeds yet not damage the soil. Wait two weeks after the herbicide
application before the area is cleared of as many weeds as possible
and soil preparation begins.
Remember that thousands of buried weed seeds lie dormant beneath
the soil, ready to germinate if the ground is disturbed too deeply.
roto-tilling the soil greater than one inch in depth will release
the dormant weed seed found within the sub-soil. Improper soil
preparation can create an uncontrollable weed problem in your
wildflower area that could have been avoided. For these reasons,
the best mechanical tool to create a shallow cultivation of the
soil or bermuda lawn area is a lawn dethatcher (known as a thatcher
or lawn comber and available at equipment rental stores) with
a number of revolving, vertical blades which can be lowered or
raised to "cut" or cultivate to the desired depth. Using
the lawn thatcher, disturb the trial section of the bermuda turf
area or planting bed no later than September 15.
(2) Mow the existing bermuda or killed vegetation as short as
possible before aerating or using the thatcher. Immediately after
plugging and aerating the lawn area and/or thatching the wildflower
planting area, sow the seed. 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.
It is helpful to thoroughly mix a carrier of inert material such
as masonry sand, perlite, potting soil, etc., to the seed to increase
volume and aid in even distribution over your site. I recommend
a minimum of 4 parts inert material to 1 part seed. Broadcast
one half of your seed as uniformly as possible over the prepared
area. Sow the remaining seed in a direction perpendicular to the
initial sowing. Press the seed into the soil by walking or rolling
over the newly planted area. Do not cover the seed any deeper
than 1/16 of an inch. Some of the seeds will remain visible. The
turf grass surface will be "roughed" enough from the
dethatching process to provide enough soil-seed contact to enable
(3) After sowing the wildflower seed, thoroughly water the area.
Wildflower seeds will require ample moisture to germinate and
develop into healthy seedlings. For best results, the area should
be kept moist for 2 to 3 weeks during the establishment period.
If natural rainfall is inadequate, supplemental watering with
a garden hose may be necessary. Light and frequent applications
of water should be applied to keep the ground moist. Once your
wildflowers begin to germinate do not over-watering the area.
If the soil becomes overly saturated, the seedlings could die
from the lack of oxygen supplied to the root system.
How frequently you water the newly planted area will depend on
local rainfall and soil types. Water every couple of days in lieu
of rainfall. After seedlings are 1 to 2 inches in height, watering
should be gradually reduced and applied only if the plants show
signs of stress. If adequate moisture is not provided, you will
run the risk of disappointing results.
4) Competing grassy winter weeds can be controlled by spraying
the planting with herbicides which kill grass-only such as Ornamex,
Ortho Grass-B-Gon, Over-the-Top, Greenlight Bermuda Grass Killer
and Poast. These herbicides can be sprayed directly onto wildflowers
and will kill surrounding grass BUT NOT DAMAGE THE WILDFLOWERS
which are not grass. If, however, other broadleaf weeds such as
henbit or clover begins to over-shadow the wildflowers, you may
have to intervene with a bit of weed pulling exercise -- there
is no herbicide which will kill other broadleaf weeds and not
kill broad-leaved wildflowers.
(5) AND LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, before you even plant the
first wildflower seed, be reconciled to the fact that YOU MUST
REMOVE (shred and mow) the large wildflower plants IMMEDIATELY
after they bloom next June or you can and will damage the bermuda
grass turf. You MUST realize that this is a new and sophisticated
technique of beautifying a dull, brown bermuda grass lawn area
-- NOT a technique of insuring a wildflower-weedy, lawn-pasture
for eternity by allowing plants to remain dying and ugly until
seed are mature in June. Over-seeding will occur every fall so
that designs and colors can be altered. Whichever wildflowers
naturally reseed in your test planting area can be determined
after several years of trialing this turf reclamation procedure.
For a detailed description of how to plant wildflowers explained
by the God-father of Wildflowers, order the video hosted by John
R. Thomas President of Wildseed Farms from: