For The Answer
Weekly Express-News ArticleSaturday, October 8, 2005
If you want wildflowers next spring, now is the time to get them planted. The most difficult thing about establishing wildflowers is selecting a suitable site.
Wildflowers can be grown in a raised bed enriched with compost but, for most of us, that does not make any sense. Wildflowers are appreciated because they grow on marginal land where nothing else will grow. That being said, they will not just grow any place. There are a few that grow in the shade such as blue curls and salvia coccinea, but our favorite wildflowers need a site in full sun. They also need a site that is not full of competing plants. The most growth of plants is on deep fertile soils that are well watered. Do not plant wildflowers in a lush lawn. A rocky, droughty soil where everything dries out in the summer is best for wildflowers. That way the seeds can reach the soil and the sun is not shaded from the developing plant. If you have such a site, select your wildflower seed.
Bluebonnets are the state flower of Texas and a favorite wildflower. They are also relatively easy to naturalize so that you have flowers every spring. Select from several colors of blue and even red, pink, white, and maroon. Bluebonnets germinate in the fall, develop roots all winter, and then grow very quickly to 1 – 3 feet tall and equally wide in late February, March, and early April. The seedpods must be allowed to grow to full size and begin to dry on the plant if you want them to reseed. Transplants are available at nurseries in late winter. Bluebonnets are generally not eaten by deer, but they are sometimes stripped leafless by a small winter caterpillar. If they are discovered, use a Bt product to kill them. The worst bluebonnet problem is root rot caused by wet soil.
Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, has daisy-like flowers and a fine airy leaf on a plant that can grow to 2-feet tall. They bloom later than bluebonnet. A field can be completely covered by coreopsis. They are a favorite nectar source for butterflies. Wildflowers prefer various levels of moisture. Coreopsis is considered a plant that does better when the weather is relatively moist.
Mexican hat has a preference for drier weather and drier sites than coreopsis. On some fields coreopsis dominates during wet springs and Mexican hat is more prevalent when it is drier. A site can have both in a typical year. Mexican hat has a daisy-like flower that looks like a sombrero. It has a dark center surrounded by rust-red petals. Indian Blanket has a similar colored flower without the prominent t peaked hat.
Poppies are among the most colorful wildflowers. The California poppy is the low-growing golden-flowered plant that does well in our area. Iceland poppies and other selections come with red, white, yellow, pink, and orange blooms.
There are several types of primrose. The Showy primrose blooms earliest and has a pink flower on a plant that can grow to 2 feet on good soils, but is usually only 1-foot tall in our soils. The Evening primrose blooms later in the season and has a yellow flower.
There are a number of verbenas that make a good show in the spring. The Prairie verbena is the variety that does best in my yard. It has a purple flower cluster that is showy over a long season that outlasts the bluebonnets and coreopsis.
For more information about wildflowers visit plantanswers.com. Winecups, scarlet flax, larkspurs, and purple horsemint are showy flowers that naturalize. If you add Salvia coccinea, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, rain lilies, and cosmos to your mix you can have naturalized blooms through the summer and into the autumn.
Buy wildflower seeds at your favorite nursery or for the largest selection consider the internet providers.