How to grow and care for wildflowers

Growing wildflowers is easy with these tips and instructions. You might wish to preserve a rare species, have a more ecologically sound garden, or make your gardening life easier.

Growing wildflowers is very rewarding. You might wish to preserve a rare species, have a more ecologically sound garden, or make your gardening life easier. All of this can be accomplished with wildflowers.

Choose wildflowers that are native to your area for the best results. The plants will be better adapted to your climate and soil conditions. You will not have to work as hard to get your plants established and keep them healthy if they are already acclimated to your area.

Further, you must make sure that the growing conditions you provide for your plants are as close as possible to the growing conditions they would have in the wild. For instance, if your plant would normally grow in a boggy meadow, don't plant it in a dry area under pine trees. Don't put a plant that prefers part shade in the middle of your lawn. Plant woodland plants in a wooded area, under the type of trees they are used to. Plant meadow plants in a sunny spot, and make sure that they have a wet area if they are used to growing in a boggy meadow.

There are several ways to acquire your wildflowers. You can start them from seed, buy young plants at a nursery, or gather them from the wild.

Growing wildflowers from seed takes the longest to give you flowering plants. However, if you want to create a large patch of mixed wildflowers, starting your plants from seed is the quickest way to do it. This is best done with plants that have similar growing preferences. You may purchase a wildflower seed mixture, or buy individual packets of different flowers and create your own mix. Determine how large you want your flower patch to be. Dig up or till the area well, removing all grass. Spread compost or leaf mold all over the area and mix it well with the soil. Save a little soil to rake over the seeds when they are planted. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the soil. Cover the seed by raking the reserved soil over the seeds. Water the area thoroughly. Water often enough to keep the soil moist until the seed sprout. Once the plants have grown a few inches high, mulch around them to keep weeds from choking out the new plants. After the plants have grown to adult size, you will not have to do much maintenance.

You may plant individual wildflowers from seed, also. Plant the seeds in a pot or a flat of soil and keep moist until the seeds start to sprout. Some seeds, such as those for Jack-in-the-Pulpit, might need to be stratified first. Stratification is the process of keeping the seeds cold for a period of time before planting in the garden. Stratify the seeds by putting them in a plastic bag with a mixture of moistened sand and peat moss. Seal the bag and keep it in the refrigerator for at least two months. When the seed starts to sprout, take it out of the bag and plant it in a flat. Keep the soil moist. After your plants have grown about three inches tall, transplant them outside to their place in the garden. Water the plants well until they get established. If your area is not getting much rainfall, you will need to continue watering them throughout their first growing season. After the first season, you will not need to give them extra water, unless your area is in a deep drought.

If you do not want a large patch of wildflowers, or the plants you want do not grow well from seed, you may purchase your plants at a nursery. Many garden centers have started to carry wildflowers of all types. Mail order nurseries provide a greater variety of plants to order. This is the simplest way to acquire your plants, as all you have to do is purchase them and plant them in your garden. Make sure the plants you purchase are as healthy as possible. Plant them as soon as you get them, being sure to keep them watered through their first season.

You may also go to the plant's native habitat and harvest seeds or plants to grow in your garden. Make sure that you have the landowner's permission to do this. Never harvest plants from a National or State park, as this is illegal. Some areas have native plant societies that go on plant digs. If you can go on one of these digs, not only will it be an enjoyable social occasion, but you will learn much about native plants from the more experienced members of the group.

If you harvest plants from the wild, do not take any more plants than you can reasonably plant in your garden in a day. Dig up the plant gently, being sure to get as many of its roots as possible. Keeping a little soil around the roots, place the plant in a plastic bag. Be especially careful to get a sizeable root ball if you are digging up a shrub such as a wild azalea or a blueberry. Water the plant gently so that the root ball is moist. If you are harvesting seeds, make sure to label them as you get them. Plant the specimens you have collected as soon as you get home. The longer you let them sit in their bags, the less likely they are to survive. Be sure that the places you plant them mimic as closely as possible the places they were dug from, especially in regards to soil type and amount of sunlight. Water them as you plant them. Keep them watered well for several months. After they become established in your garden, they need little care.

Do not fertilize your wildflowers. A mulch of leaf mold or compost is all they will need. You do not need to water them after their first year, unless your area is in an extreme drought. Keep weeds pulled around them. Mulching will help control the weeds, also. Give them extra care during their first year, and they will repay you with years of carefree beauty afterwards.

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