Most wildflower mixes are a combination of annuals for flower color the first
year and reseeding annuals or perennials for flowers in the following years.
The best preparation of a wildflower site is one that kills as many weeds and
weed seeds as possible in the area where you want to plant your seeds.
Chemical application must be done by an adult. Adults will use special
chemicals or herbicides to kill all of the plants. This step can take four to
six weeks before the before the soil can be prepared. When using herbicides,
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL, and follow the manufacturerís instructions.
Removing the weeds by hand is another option if the site has only a few
weeds. Otherwise, this would not be a practical way to prepare your site.
On small areas of a few thousand square feet or less, smothering weeds on the
are is simple, effective, and requires no chemicals, or special equipment.
Smothering involves covering the soil surface with black plastic, old rugs, 4í
x 8í pieces of old plywood, or a thick layer of leaves. This should be left in
place for a full growing season to kill the plants underneath.
Corn, soybean and other small grain fields typically have less weed problems
compared to other areas, and require less preparation. The seedbed may be
prepared without using herbicides, using cultivation as you would for any other
crop. The final seedbed should be prepared by tilling or discing, followed by
dragging or raking. DO NOT plant wildflowers in field treated with Atrazine
within the last two years. Prairie wildflowers can not tolerate even low levels
If you decide to use chemicals to eliminate weeds, wait seven to ten days
after the chemicals are applied before tilling the site and preparing it for
planting. This will require the skills of an adult or done under adult
Loosen the soil surface only slightly to enhance seed contact. Remember,
thousands of buried weed seeds lie dormant beneath the soil, ready to germinate
if the ground is disturbed too deeply. Extensive rototilling, disking or plowing
the soil greater than one inch in depth will release the dormant weed seed and
create an uncontrollable weed problem in your wildflower area.
In Iowa, wildflowers can be planted in either the spring or fall. To
determine when to plant in other areas of the country CLICK HERE to visit the
USDA Plant Hardiness Map.
If you want to plant in the spring, a late spring planting is recommended
sometime between April 15 and June 15. There are risks, however, associated with
spring planting. Warm spring weather and adequate rainfall will speed up
germination and seedling growth. However, is rainfall is not regular after
initial germination, followed by an extremely hot, dry period, watering may be
required to keep the ground from drying out and the seedlings from dying.
If you plan to plant in the fall, select a time between September 1 and
October 15. If you decide to plant in the fall, the seed will remain dormant
(sleeping) during the harsh winter months and germination will begin at the
first indication of spring.
Once the area to be planted has been properly prepared, seeding can begin. On
small areas, less than an acre or two, seed can be planted by hand broadcasting.
Broadcast seeding is similar to planting a law. Instead of using a seeder. The
wildflower seed can be mixed with material such as peat moss or vermiculite,
that has been slightly dampened so that the seed will stick to it. For a 1,000
square foot planting, two bushel baskets of other material is plenty. Mix the
seed evenly in the other material.
Take one-half of the total mix and spread it across the area. Once you have
covered the area with the first half of the seed mix, take the second half and
spread it evenly across the same area, walking perpendicular to your first pass.
Distribute the wildflower seed evenly in the planting area to give each seed
enough space and resources for germination. Spreading the seeds evenly also
helps to control weeds from taking over the area.
Then rake or drag the seed in so that it is lightly covered with soil, one
quarter to one half inch deep. Either tamp the soil or water the area to ensure
good seed-soil contact.
A light, seed-free mulch, such as wheat
straw or oat hay, can also be used for seedling protection. Never use field hay
as it contains many weed seeds. The mulch should be lightly and evenly spread
with no heavy clumps. A heavy, uneven mulch reduces wildflower growth and may
result in areas with no plants. For seeded areas, 1 to 2 inches of mulch will
help to maintain soil moisture.
Regular light watering of seedlings for
the first two months will greatly increase germination and seedling survival.
Water when the surface begins to dry out. Mulched areas require less frequent
watering. Water only in the morning to help prevent disease problems. Do not
A seed contains an embryonic plant in a resting condition, and germination is
its resumption of growth. Seeds will begin to germinate when the soil
temperature is in the appropriate range and when water and oxygen are available.
Not all of your seeds will sprout at the same time due to temperature changes
observed in nature.
The most common cause of poor germination is the depth at which the seeds are
sown. Small seeds should be planted on the soil surface and pressed or rolled in
for best results. If the seedling is to survive, it must emerge from the soil
and quickly begin to produce its own food. It seeds are too deeply buried, the
seedling with exhaust its food reserve and cause it to die.
A good rule to follow, if in doubt about the sowing depth of your plant
species, is to sow the seed at a shallow depth.
Weeds are an inevitable part of gardening and they should be expected. To
help you control weeds in your wildflower patch, remember these three key
1) anticipate weed problems before they occur;
2) identify seedlings quickly as they grow; and
3) take corrective weed control action as soon as possible.
In general, weed seedlings are easier to control before they mature and
establish good root systems. The best size for weed control is usually four
inches or less. Early control will reduce weed competition with young wildflower
seedlings giving them maximum opportunity to grow.
Avoidance of the weed problem by properly selecting and preparing your site,
and preventing regeneration is often easier than trying to establish weed
control at a site infested with weeds.
Before planting, check out the current weed population in the area where you
want to plant. If the site contains a lot of weeds, which is usually the case in
low-lying or run-off areas where water occasionally sands, it is highly
recommended that a different site be selected. For best results, pick a site
that is elevated with good drainage.
plantings are maintained with an annual mowing. Mowing should be timed to remove
weeds before they flower and develop viable seed, to disperse wildflower seed
for reseeding the site, and to remove dead plant material and improve the
appearance of the planting. Mowing also helps control invading trees and shrubs.
Mowing in mid-spring and removing the cut material will expose the soil to sun
and improve the growth of the heat-loving wildflowers.
Hand pulling is one option for weed
control in small wildflower planting sites. Any weeds that are pulled from the
site before seed mature and spread will contribute to the future overall weed
control. One weed can produce thousands of seeds. The danger with hand pulling
is that wildflower seedlings remain very small the first year and can be easily
pulled up right along with the weeds. Pulling weeds also creates soil
disturbance, which exposes new weed seeds.
Chemicals should always be handled by
adults only. If you want to use chemicals to control weeds in your wildflower
patch, this must be done by an adult. The goal is to find a herbicide that
wildflowers can tolerate, but which kills the weeds. There are no broadleaf
herbicides that are known to be safe for a wide range of wildflower species.
Adults should read the labels on the herbicides closely to make sure they will
not seriously damage or kill your wildflower plants.
ONLY ADULTS SHOULD USE CHEMICALS!!
The Iowa Prairie evolved under the
influence of fire. Started by lightning or by American Indians, these fires kept
out trees, recycled nutrients into the soil, and stimulated growth of the
wildflowers and native prairie grasses. Controlled burning on a two to five year
rotation remains the best method of managing prairie plantings. Properly
conducted, a controlled burn is safe and economical.
ONLY ADULTS SHOULD PERFORM CONTROLLED BURNS!
Some plants product chemicals that
prevent the growth of other nearby plants. This is called - allelopathy. The
toxic chemicals may be released from the roots or leaves and plant remains that
lie on the surface of the group. When it rains the chemicals enter the soil with
the rainwater. Weeds known or suspected of causing this chemical reaction re
bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylong), johnsongrass (Sorghum halepnese), yellow and
purple nutsedge, pigweed (Amaranthus spp.) And sunflower (Helianthus spp.). If
these weeds are left in your wildflower patch, your wildflower population will
be severely reduced.
Nature plays an important role in the success or failure of all wildflower
plantings. Adverse weather conditions such as drought, hail, or excessive
rainfall may negatively affect the success of your wildflowers. Soil or drainage
problems in your planting area may also prevent your seeds from germinating.