Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grow Your Own Wildflowers

Do you want to know how to grow your own native wildflowers? Doesn't everyone want to have more of these colorful beauties in their gardens? Jeff Norcini, an expert who works with the  Florida Wildflower Foundation has given us some great tips. Read on and you will find out how you can fill your garden with color, and at a fraction of the price you would pay at the nursery.

First of all, says Jeff,  you need to decide what kind of planting you will be doing. Will it be:
    •    a few containers
    •    a small corner or two
    •    a bed that fits into a formal design
    •    a bed that is part of a more naturalistic design

Grow your own blanket flower and bee balm!


Let's start with the most simple ones, containers and small corners. For these smaller areas, you can get a spot of native color by planting a flat or two at home. It's easy! Jeff says that blanket flower, (also called 'gaillardia') and coreopsis are good choices, easy to grow out and easy keepers in garden.  You can buy seed by the packet online from the  Wildflower Cooperative.




To get the seeds growing you will need:

    •   a bag from the box store labeled as a seed starter mix
    •    a warm, protected place to start the seeds; low to mid seventies is good
    •    a way to keep the soil moist, but not saturated
    •    labels if you are starting more than one kind!
     
You need to invest in the seed starter mix to be certain no weed seeds or harmful bacteria are present. Clear plastic wrap loosely covering the growing medium is effective at retaining moisture, but  be sure there is enough ventilation to keep mildew and mold from forming. If the top of the plastic is dripping water onto the soil, it's too close. Sprouted seedlings should never touch the plastic. When starting  seeds in a dry heated house, I will sometimes use the plastic cover, but once I see the first green tip poke through, I toss it. And don’t put seedlings under clear plastic wrap in the sun, it is likely to get hot enough to cook them.

Coreopsis, our state flower.
Jeff notes that he grows his seedlings out in a greenhouse. If you are like me, though, with no real greenhouse, you have to make some determinations about the weather conditions outside when you get the seeds sprouted. Your little plants need sunlight now. A windowsill will not do. You want nice straight stems and lots of photosynthesis to make strong plants. In their natural environment, of course, they would be exposed to direct sun right away. But they would also be coming up when optimum conditions prevailed. Also, the seeds may not sprout all at once, in which case the early risers are sitting around in less than full sun while their siblings are making the race to the top.

It may still be pretty cold or windy, too, depending on where you live. So for all these reasons,  you might like to provide a little transition area. This is easily made by setting a piece of wooden lattice over top of some flower pots or whatever else you have sitting around. Lattice is criss-crossed, thin, wooden pieces sometimes used as trellis,  cheap and readily available in square places. Now the seeds are protected  from the elements, including the full force of the sun,  and they can have an adjustment period, called "hardening off."

If you grew your seeds by scattering them over the top of an undivided flat, you will need to transplant them into individual containers once they have grown one or two sets of true leaves. (The very first things that come out from the stem are actually cotyledons, not the true leaf characteristic to the plant) If you placed the seeds in a container with individual cells, then just snip off the extras and leave one flower growing in each cell.

When the plants have become big enough, you can put them in their permanent homes, whether it is the containers or corners. You will know when it is time. Don't make the mistake of leaving seedlings in their tiny cells until the roots become overcrowded. If you are in doubt, slide one out and check.

Growing your own flowers is both economical and very satisfying. If you start today, you can have beautiful native wildflowers blooming in your garden this summer.

Coming up soon - Jeff's advice on the larger planting areas.

sue dingwell

4 comments:

daisy said...

Great sensible advice, that. Thanks!

The Jolly Bloggers said...

Thank you, Daisy! So glad you liked it. We thought it would be useful to take some of the mystery out the native wildflowers. Maybe that way more of them will get into our landscapes, making them more sustainable and more bird and butterfly friendly,too!

Elizabeth Smith said...

I haven't grown wildflowers from seed but now I feel empowered! I've been wanting to add some plants for butterfly nectar sources and this is perfect!

The Jolly Bloggers said...

Yay! That's exactly what I was hoping for, Elizabeth. I am going to do it, too. I hope you will keep some artistic records to share with us here! Thanks for taking time to comment.