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Interested in growing wildflowers? The beauty of wildflowers is that they’re easy to grow, colorful from spring until fall, provide color for years with little maintenance, and attract wildlife such as butterflies and other pollinators. Here are a few of our favorite wildflowers, plus growing tips!
Wildflowers are resilient! There are more than 6,000 native wildflower species growing all across America. They occur naturally in their climate so they are very resilient in all weather conditions.
Wildflowers are easy! Wildflowers are happily married to the soil and climatic conditions in which they’ve evolved! When there is a suitable match of plant and growing conditions, it’s easy.
Wildflowers support the birds and bees! Native wildflowers are not only beautiful but also attract pollinators and nurture the landscape for birds. Without native plants and the insects that co-evolve with them, local birds and wildlife couldn’t survive.
When to Plant Wildflowers
Wildflowers are best planted in the cooler spring. They can also be planted in the fall once it’s cooled down; the seeds of perennial flowers will germinate while annual flower seeds can lie dormant until spring.
The first step in growing a new wildflower patch is to select the right varieties for your region. To make sure that a wildflower is recommended for your area, however, we advise consulting with your local Cooperative Extension Service.
The below wildflowers occur all across America and, in many places, occur in vast numbers.
1. Black-Eyed Susans
A classic perennial, Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta L.) produce golden-yellow daisy-like flower petals around a black central cone atop one- to two-feet stems. It flowers from midsummer until fall.
2. Indian Blanket
Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) is an annual which produces red, daisy-like flowers with yellow edging atop a one- to three-foot tall stem. It blooms in early summer.
3. Purple Coneflowers
A resilient perennial, purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have long-lasting, lavender-petaled flowers surrounding a prickly orange cone, atop tall (two to five-foot) stems. They flower from midsummer until frost and also naturalize easily.
4. Plains Coreopsis
An annual species, Coreopsis tinctoria has bright flowers with yellow-red petals surrounding a dark-red center. The flowers rise from long, branching stems.
5. Evening Primrose
The evening primrose (Oenothera spp.) is a night-flowering biennial with yellow flowers that opens in the evening and closes by noon. The plant completes its life cycle in 2 years, with its leaves appearing in the first year and its flowers in the second. There’s also a famous pink-flowered Showy Evening Primrose, O. speciosa., with pastel pink flowers that were a favorite of Lady Bird Johnson.
Wildflowers by Region
Below are the type of wildflowers that can easily be planted by homeowners, paying attention to wildflower seeds that can easily be found from major seed companies.
Red Columbine Swamp Milkweed Butterfly Weed New England Aster Lance-Leaf Coreopsis Joe Pye Weed Indian Blanket Ox-Eye Sunflower Blazing Star Wild Lupine Wild Bergamot Evening Primrose Beard Tongue Black-eyed Susan Goldenrod
Butterfly weed Lance-Leaf Coreopsis Plains Coreopsis Purple Coneflower Indian Blanket Blazing Star Wild Lupine Lemon Mint Mexican Hat Black-eyed Susan Spiderwort Scarlet Sage
Red Columbine Butterfly Weed Blazing Star Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) New England Aster Coreopsis tripteris Purple Coneflower Joe-Pye weed Penstemon Wild Geranium Garden Phlox Ox-Eye Sunflower Wild Lupine Black-eyed Susan Zigzag Goldenrod
Southwest Plains Coreopsis Desert Marigold Prairie Aster California poppy Indian Blanket Blue Flax Arizona Lupine Blazing Star Evening Primrose California Bluebell Mexican Hat Bird’s Eye Five Spot
Blue Columbine Smooth Aster Prairie Aster Bee Plant Plains Coreopsis Fleabane Daisy Blanket Flower Indian Blanket Globe Gilia Blue Flax Evening Primrose Mexican Hat Black-eyed Susan
Plains coreopsis California poppy Globe Gilia Mountain Phlox Blue Flax Russell Lupine Blazing Star Five Spot Evening Primrose Baby Blue Eyes California Bluebell
Often, seed companies will sell wildflower seeds as a “mix” for a wildflower meadow, prairie, or grove.
However, ignore those ads promising that one container full of seeds will turn into a meadow of wildflowers. Establishing any plant community takes prep work and maintenance. Also, be aware that a wildflower meadow is not neat and tidy. Nature goes through dormancy, and nature can be messy.
For a 500-square-foot plot, use 1/4 pound of wildflower seeds.
Wildflowers prefer a space with full direct sun with a minimum of 6 hours per day.
Wildflowers do not usually need rich soil; they’ll grow most anywhere. It’s best to just mow an area close to the ground and kill the existing vegetation by hand-pulling tough perennial weeds.
Do not till the new ground (which brings weed seeds to the surface).
Usually, just scratch the soil and sow your wildflower seeds. Press the seed into the soil with your feet.
Keep watered. Pull any obvious weeds (usually those which grow faster and taller).
After wildflowers bloom, let them drop their seeds and self-sow. In the fall, mow the patch and leave the cuttings on the ground.
If maintained, your wildflower patch should grow for several years.
Be a Good Plant Shopper
“Preserve it in the wild. Perpetuate it in your garden.”
That’s the motto of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Shop at reputable native-plant nurseries rather than kidnapping plants from the wild. Collecting wild plants has already seriously diminished and even eliminated whole colonies of natives, and it’s not even very successful (and may also be illegal in your area).
Find a native-plant nursery that uses plants propagated from wild populations within 50 miles (or as close as possible) to your garden. Look for plants that are “nursery propagated” not “nursery grown.”
Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann