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Gardening with 

Wildflowers

 

by Dr. Walter Kingsley Taylor

Establishing wildflowers in ones yard or creating a wildflower meadow are not easy tasks. Wildflowers need help in becoming established; however, once they are established, the garden or site containing these plants will need minimal care. When planting wildflowers make a concerted effort to emulate nature. The more one knows about the biology of the plants (e.g., where they grow in nature, when they produce seeds, when the seeds germinate, etc.) the better chance the results will be positive.

Not all attractive wildflowers one might desire can be grown in Florida due to their climate, soil type, and other habitational requirements. Plants that grow in the Panhandle probably will not do well in South Florida; the reverse is also true. Experiment with different species, but experiment with the common, more hearty-types. Read books that are available on Florida wildflowers, paying attention to species that occur in your locale.

Seed Source

There is no single place where one can purchase seeds of wildflowers grown from Florida plants. Check with your local native plant nursery and county agent for possible locations for buying seeds.

Seeds can be collected from wild plants, but one must be certain that the seeds are fully mature. Never attempt to dig up and transplant wildflowers from the wild. For many species it is illegal and secondly many wildflowers do not transplant well. Purchasing wildflower mixtures usually is not worth the effort and money. One may have good results the first year from such a mixture, but most often the second and subsequent years' production will be poor. Packets of selected individual species (e.g., black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta; blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella) that grow naturally in Florida are ones best investments. One should have a mix of perennials and annuals in the garden.

When to Plant?

The time to plant seeds in Florida soils is the fall or early winter because the cooler months are usually the most stress-free times. Plants that need to produce rosettes or basal leaves before blooming in the spring have the time to do so when seeds are planted in the fall.

Establishing Wildflowers

Tossing seeds here and there on the ground will not work. One is wasting ones time and money. Just as if one were planting a vegetable garden, proper soil preparation is crucial. It may be a good idea to obtain the pH (hydrogen ion content) of the soil from the county agent's office. Checking the pH will allow one to determine if the soil is acid or alkaline. Many attractive wildflowers will not grow or not do well on former orange grove sites because of the alkaline soils produced when much lime was added for the citrus plants. Try to change the pH level of the soil. To the contrary, native azaleas, lyonias, blueberries, and other members of the heath family (Ericaceae) require acid soils for hearty productions. Seeds from lupines, morning-glories, and other species that have hard seed coats should be soaked before planting.

Steps to Follow

A step by step presentation for establishing wildflowers follows.

1.    Carefully choose the site. Think about shade vs. sun, drainage, slope, etc. Wildflowers that grow in dry, sandy soils most likely will not do well in wet soils.

2.    Once the site is chosen, proper preparation of the ground is very important. Eliminate grasses and other vegetation that will complete with the wildflowers. Pull out unwanted vegetation or herbicide the area if there is much vegetation present. Use biodegradable herbicides that contain glyphosate. Products on the market that are safe are Roundup and Kleenup. Always read and follow the directions given on the container.

3.    After 2 weeks or so, rake away the dead vegetation. If one still has vegetation remaining, repeat the process. Depending upon the richness of your soil, one might want to apply a light application of fertilizer, such as 6-6-6 to the soil before planting. Do not overfertilize. Very sandy soils may need some organic matter for soil enrichment; however, do not over do it.

4.    Rake or till the soil lightly. Try not to exceed a depth of more than 1 inch so as not to uncover a large amount of unwanted weed seeds already in the soils.

5.    Mix the seeds with sand or loose soil in a proportion of four parts sand to one part seeds. This will help obtain an even spread of the seeds. Hand-broadcast the seeds on a non-windy day.

6.    Seed to soil contact is very important. Press the seeds in the ground by walking lightly on the bed or by very lightly raking the soil. Do not cover the seeds too deep.

7.    After the seeds are planted they must be kept moist. Water with a fine spray every other day; do not let the ground completely dry out. Once the plants are established reduce the frequency of watering, but the plants should not wilt. Less watering makes the plants form deep roots.

8.    Most often one will have to periodically weed the bed to keep out unwanted grasses and other plants.

9.    At the end of the season (mid-late summer) when the plants have died and gone to seed, mow the bed to about three inches.

10.    Best of luck. Keep experimenting. Try new species, too. Do not give up even if the first try gives poor results.

Commercial Sources for Wildflower Seeds

Write for a catalog or listing of wildflower seeds for sale.
1.    The Vermont Wildflower Farm, P.O. Box 1400, Louisiana, MO 63353.
2.    Wildseed Farms Ltd., P.O. Box 3000, Fredericksburg, TX 78624-3000.
3.    Holland Wildflower Farm, P.O. Box 328, Elkins, ARK 72727.

 

Selected Florida Wildflowers for Gardening

 

Herbaceous Types

Latin Name

Common Name

Soil Moisture

Blooming

Achillea millefolium

Yarrow

dry to moist

spring - fall

Baptisia alba

White wild indigo

moist

spring

Coreopsis basalis

Dye flower

moist

spring - summer

Coreopsis lanceolata

Tickseed

dry to moist

spring - summer

Coreopsis leavenworthii

Tickseed

moist

all year

Coreopsis tinctoria

Tickseed

moist

spring - summer

Gaillardia pulchella

Blanket flower

dry

all year

Glandularia pulchella

Moss verbena

dry to moist

spring - fall

Iris hexagona

Prairie iris

moist to wet

spring

Liatris spicata

Blazing star

moist

spring - fall

Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal flower

moist to wet

summer - fall

Lupinus perennis

Sundial lupine

moist

spring

Mitchella repens

Partridge berry

moist

all year

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Muhly grass

dry to moist

fall

Oenothera speciosa

Showy primrose

moist

spring - fall

Phlox drummondii

Garden phlox

dry to moist

summer - winter

Rudbeckia hirta

Black eyed susan

dry to moist

all year

Sisyrinchium angustifolium

Blue eyed grass

moist

spring - summer

Solidago odora

Goldenrod

dry to moist

spring - fall

Tradescantia ohiensis

Spiderwort

moist

all year

Trifolium incarnatum

Crimson clover

moist

spring

Verbascum virgatum

Mullein

moist

spring - summer

 

Shrub Types

Latin Name

Common Name

Soil Moisture

Blooming

Callicarpa americana

Beauty berry bush

dry to moist

spring - fall

Erythrina herbacea

Coral bean

dry to moist

winter - spring

Garberia heterophylla

Garberia

dry

spring - winter

Hamelia patens

Firebush

moist

all year

Hibiscus coccineus

Scarlet hibiscus

moist to wet

spring - fall

Hypericum hypercoides

St. Andrew's cross

dry to moist

all year

Itea virginica

Virginia willow

moist to wet

winter - summer

Leucothoe axillaris

Dog hobble

moist -acid

winter - spring

Leucothoe racemosa

Fetterbush

moist - acid

spring

Lyonia lucida

Shiny lyonia

moist - acid

winter - spring

Monarda punctata

Dotted horsemint

moist

spring - fall

Rhododendron austrinum

Flame azalea

moist - acid

spring

Rhododendron canescens

Wild azalea

moist - acid

spring

Salvia coccinea

Tropical sage

dry to moist

all year

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Blue porterweed

moist

all year

Trichostema dichotomum

Blue curls

moist - acid

summer - fall

Vaccinium myrsinites

Shiny blueberry

moist - acid

winter - spring


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All material on this site Hernando Chapter of the FNPS. The materials on this website may be copied and distributed without permission, provided that they are used for non-commercial, informational or educational purposes, and you acknowledge this site and the Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society as the source of publication.

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