If you’re interested in growing a wildflower garden, read on for our helpful tips and how-tos.
What are the best flowers for a wildflower garden?
Wildflowers are flower types that are proven hardy, and self-reproducing. They also require little attention. Here’s a few plant suggestions for your own wildflower garden or meadow:
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) are native to Mexico. The soft, daisy-like flowers are easy-care and grow easily from seed.
Cosmos prefer full sun and shelter from strong winds. In the southern U.S., they prefer afternoon shade.
This delicate flower isn’t fussy about soil requirements. It grows well in a wide range of soil types, even poor soil. Mature cosmos plants are drought tolerant but will produce larger blooms when regularly watered.
Sunflowers (Helianthus) are easy to grow and come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They also attract many beneficial insects to the garden.
Plant sunflower seeds in early summer and check the seed package for proper garden spacing. Sunflowers grow quickly, so you may wish to plant additional seeds during the mid and late summer to ensure plenty of blooms for your yard or indoor enjoyment.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are another wildflower favorite. These vibrant, annual bloomers are available in a wide range of colors.
Zinnias prefer a sunny spot with rich, compost-amended soil. Prepare the planting bed by tilling the soil under to 8 inches deep.
Level the soil with a rake to remove rocks and clumps of grass. Keep zinnias well watered throughout the growing season, especially during hot, dry spells.
For more information on growing zinnias, click here.
Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) is a perennial flower that makes a beautiful and long-lasting cut flower for indoor display. Pick blooms when they are fully open and then place in a vase.
Routine watering is essential to getting this attractive perennial off to a healthy start. Weekly watering will help the roots grow deep into the soil. Black-eyed susans also attract a variety of beneficial insects to the garden.
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) or dianthus prefers a sunny location with loose, well-drained soil. When sprouts appear, apply a light fertilizer.
Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant’s base and leaves to prevent burns. And, use a slow-release fertilizer to discourage root rot.
Deadheading sweet william will encourage blooming and keep the plants tidy. Sweet william makes a lovely, cut flower.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is an edible flower that enhances the color and flavor of a salad or when added to Thai dishes. Both the flowers and the leaves have a mild, peppery taste.
When sowing nasturtium seed, take a nail file and gently scratch the seed’s hard outer coating to speed germination. Nasturtiums prefer a soil that is low on nutrients, so go light on the fertilizer. Provide climbing nasturtiums with support so they can meander upward.
Click here to learn more about growing nasturtium.
How much space do I need?
An area that is tilled a minimum of 3ft wide is recommended. The length of the bed can be as long as you like, depending on your available space.
One option is to place your garden along a fence. Pick a site that receives full or part sun.
How much maintenance does a wildflower garden require?
If you have an area in your yard that is difficult to maintain, growing a wildflower garden is easy as many wildflowers grow well in poor soil.
Water the planting bed twice a week, the first few weeks after planting. Then water occasionally, depending on the amount of rainfall you receive.
What about weeds?
Wildflowers grow in a dense mass, so any weed pulling should be minimal. Some initial weeding may be necessary, but as the garden becomes established, weeding chores will lessen.
For new gardens, mix in some grass seed with your seed mix to help fill in thin spots and discourage weeds.
How do I plant and maintain a wildflower garden?
You can purchase wildflowers in either plant or seed form. Seed mixes are readily available online or at garden centers and big-box stores. You’ll see the best results with plants, or with packets of one type of seed.
- Till the garden area. It’s best to till your garden in fall and plant in the spring. If you’ve purchased a seed mix, read the package to determine how large an area the contents will cover. A general rule of thumb is four ounces of seed per 2,500 square feet of soil.
- Mix in a little sand with the seeds. Most wildflower seeds are small. The sand will make it easier the spread the seed evenly.
- Lightly rake the top of the soil to loosen it then scatter the seed evenly. Gently rake again to mix the seed in.
- Add compost, straw, or mulch to hold in moisture and to hide the seeds from hungry birds.
- Water the garden with a light mist or sprinkler hose. Keep the seedlings evenly moist until they grow to 2 to 3 inches tall.
- The seeds should sprout in 10 to 21 days. The wildflowers should bloom in approximately 5 to 6 weeks.
Maintaining a wildflower garden
If you’ve planted a wildflower mix, the annuals will bloom this season, but you will have to wait on perennials – they will bloom the next year.
A bi-yearly overseeing will fill in any bare spots and improve plant density.
Once the flowers are established, they require little care. If the weather is particularly hot or dry, give them a drink.
How do I keep my wildflowers from spreading?
To keep wildflowers within bounds, mow your garden in late fall with the blade set on the highest setting (four to six inches). By this time, annual wildflowers have gone to seed, and perennials will have ceased blooming.
Mowing the garden will clip seed heads, discourage woody perennials from spreading, and tidy the garden before winter. A walkway along to the garden edge will also discourage wayward sprouts.
Growing a wildflower garden is one of the easiest ways to add beauty to your yard without spending a lot of time or fuss. Plus, you’ll have cut flowers to enjoy from spring to fall.