Timing is Everything: Establishing a Wildflower Garden


Last updated 7/12/2022 at 2:30pm

Flowering Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush bloom along a roadside in Texas Hill Country (Image courtesy of texashillcountry.com)

How quickly time passes us by! Another week has come and gone. Summer is going to be with us for several months, providing us ample opportunity to continue with our seasonal gardening tasks such as lawn maintenance, weeding flower beds, harvesting vegetables, replanting vegetable gardens and replacing faded spring flowers with summer plantings. Many gardeners also choose to undertake larger garden projects during the spring and summer months, often adding water features or ponds, lengthening flower beds, building raised vegetable gardens, creating functional outdoor space for entertaining, or in my case, building a greenhouse (inundated by material shortages, shipping delays and even weather events). Soon, I will write about how to build a greenhouse, including challenges and lessons learned but this is a topic for another day.

Today, I'm want to discuss Texas wildflowers, (of which there are many) but first, I want to share with you a vivid memory (my initial encounter) with one of Texas wildflowers. It was my first journey through Texas Hill Country during the spring of 2010. I had recently relocated from Mobile, AL to LaBelle, TX. Scheduled to attend multiple training sessions in Austin, I decided to drive rather than fly, to learn more about Texas byways and see a few sights along the way. I was not prepared for what I was going to see and for this gardener, it was humbling. I had never heard of or for that matter, seen a Texas Bluebonnet. I had the profound good fortunate of witnessing Bluebonnets blooming-en masse! A truly amazing sight to behold, which remains imprinted on my mind to this day!

How many times have you driven on Texas highways during the spring and wished to grow wildflowers in your own yard or pasture? For most of us, the thought of planting wildflowers occurs as we are viewing these beautiful flowers. Unfortunately, spring is the incorrect time to plant wildflower seeds. Wildflower seeds must be planted months before to establish healthy root systems before they can grow into plants which will provide stunning visual displays. You might have already guessed but now is the time to plan for your wildflower garden and to place orders for wildflower seeds.

Typically, August through December are the most favorable months for planting wildflower seeds. Many species will germinate during autumn allowing the plants enough time to establish healthy and robust root system before going dormant for the winter. Some seeds will not germinate when the ground temperature is below 70°F and the seeds will remain dormant until it warms up in spring.

Create a Wildflower Garden following these steps:

• Select a location with at minimum 8 hours of full sun, which is well-drained.

• Remove weeds and mow existing vegetation as short as possible, remove clippings.

• Select and purchase the highest quality wildflower seeds.

• Prepared seedbed by raking or lightly tilling the surface to a 1-inch depth.

• Mix wildflower seed with sand, perlite, or potting soil to allow for even distribution (4 parts to 1 part).

• Increase seed coverage by broadcasting in one direction then the opposite direction.

• Press seed into the ground with a flat blade shovel, holding shovel parallel to the ground and tapping

• Lightly water multiple times in short time intervals to mitigate runoff.

Wildflowers add an amazing amount of color and natural beauty to landscapes. They are low maintenance and require little water once established and they will seed themselves year after year. Adverse weather conditions such as drought, or excessive rainfall, can affect the success of wildflowers. Some years flowering will be plentiful and robust and other years flowering will be meager and sparse. Patience is key, they will return.

One final note, as fertilization of wildflowers is not recommended unless the soil where they are grown has been depleted of nutrients. Contact your local AgriLife County Extension office regarding a soil test. Remember fertilizing wildflowers encourages weed growth at the expense of wildflowers.

There are numerous companies where you can purchase wildflower seeds. Here are a few reputable Texas wildflower seed companies: Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Douglas King Seed Company in San Antonio, Justin Seed Company in Justin, Native American Seed Farm in Junction, Turner Seed Company in Breckenridge, and David's Garden Seeds in San Antonio.

So, let's get out there a grow ourselves a greener, more beautiful world-one plant at a time. Happy gardening everyone!

If you have specific gardening questions or would like more information, contact the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline: (409) 882-7010 or visit our website: https://txmg.org/orange, Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association or Email: [email protected].


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