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Create a wildflower garden bursting with color and native plants! Here’s how

It seems as if there’s an endless amount of different types of gardens out there to create, each with their own benefits and rewards. Some of them, like herb gardens, kitchen gardens, and container gardens are fairly easy to define, but what about wildflower gardens? What qualifies as a wildflower, and why should you be planting them? If you’re looking for a place to start learning about wildflowers, you’re in the right spot! We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started on your very own wildflower garden.

What is a wildflower garden?

Wildflower gardens are, as the name suggests, gardens that are planted exclusively (or mostly) with wildflowers. This raises the question, what is a wildflower? Wildflowers are flowers that grow in the wild, and that were not cultivated by humans. This means that the flower variety can (or could previously) be found out in the wild, and that people didn’t create the flowers intentionally through cross pollination or other means. Instead, the flowers evolved naturally on their own.

Many wildflower varieties are still found almost exclusively in the wild, but some of them have worked their way into gardens over the years. Seeds of the latter type (like poppies, daisies, and zinnias) have become easier to find, so wildflower gardens typically focus on them. It’s important to note that not all wildflowers are native. For example, poppies are a popular wildflower, but red poppies are native to Europe and northern Africa, while California poppies are native to California and Mexico. So, if you’re hoping to grow native wildflowers, it’s important to check the native range of the plants you’re considering.

A cluster of tall, colorful wildflowers

Selecting your plants

The first step to selecting your plants is to take a look at where you want your garden to be. Take note of how much sun and shade it gets, as well as what the soil is like. Wildflowers tend to be hardy, but you’ll see better results if you choose flowers that are naturally suited to the conditions in your garden. Your climate matters, too. Is your area known for extreme heat or cold? What is the average rainfall? Make a quick list of all these factors, and look for wildflowers that best match.

Another thing to consider before selecting your flowers is that wildflowers are often self-seeding. This means that, in all likelihood, the plants you choose will continue to grow in the area you plant them unless you remove the flower heads before the seeds form. So it’s important to pick flowers you love. Here’s a few of our favorites to get you started:

  • Purple coneflower
  • Milkweed
  • Blanket flower
  • Wild aster
  • Wild flax
  • Liatris
Tall purple liatris (blazing star) with butterflies

Planting your seeds

One of the benefits of wildflower gardens is how low maintenance they are. Wildflowers have evolved to live on their own, which means they don’t need much effort on your part to plant them. If you’re working from a seed packet, you can follow the directions listed on the back, but here are some general tips that work for just about any wildflower.

Most wildflowers don’t need very much, or any, cover over their seeds in order to germinate. Instead, you can typically just scatter them over the surface of your garden. You can add a thin layer of soil over top of them, but if you do it should be less than a quarter inch. If you want a wildflower garden that doesn’t look quite so wild, you can carefully lay your seeds out instead of scattering them.

Wildflower seeds also tend to be small, which makes them more likely to be blown or washed away. Water the ground before you scatter your seeds rather than after. This helps the seeds stick where they land, but it also means you won’t accidentally wash the seeds away when you water them.

A cluster of small, blue, wild flax flowers

Caring for your garden

Your garden care will vary depending on your specific flowers, but there are a few things that hold true across the board. For starters, you should avoid fertilizers or heavy compost use. Wildflowers are, in general, adapted to growing in plain soil, so it’s easy to overload them with nutrients. The exception to this is if you’re planting wildflowers that are native to a region with a significantly different soil makeup, and, even then, you should exercise restraint when adding soil amendments.

Wildflowers are low maintenance, and typically don’t need much invention. In general, keep an eye out for leaf discolorations or damage, as these can be signs of pests, disease, or deficiencies. If you don’t want your wildflowers to reseed, then you’ll need to remove the flowers or seed pods before the seeds are formed.

Now you’re ready to start planning and planting your very own wildflower garden! Choose your plants, scatter your seeds, and watch the flowers grow and bloom. You’ll be amazed at the results, and at how little work it takes to achieve them. Your local pollinators will be thrilled, and, if you let the flowers self seed, you won’t need to replant your garden for quite a while.

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