Florida Wildflower Garden

Are you planning  native wildflower garden this year? If your garden design is calling for more than a couple of containers or a small patch, then you will love these tips straight from an expert, Jeff Norcini (OecoHort, LLC), a contractor for  the FloridaWildflower Foundation.  

First of all, says Jeff, choose a site that has a good chance of being successful. Your wildflower garden needs to be in a place that:
  • is free from established populations of weeds like nut-sedge and torpedo grass
  • gets plenty of sunlight, at least 6 hours, mid morning to afternoon is best and,
  • is well drained
Jeff Norcini

 Weeds are the number one downfall of wildflower gardens!

So start with an  area that has few to no weeds: advance planning is critical. You can kill your turfgrass by smothering it, and then plant into the decomposing matter. Jeff is very definite about the DO NOT TILL mantra. Tilling just brings more weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate and drive you crazy. Hundreds to thousands of weed seeds per square foot, in case you wanted to know.

If you have bravely decided to go with direct-seeding in your new area, here some tips to help with the germination of the new seedlings, and also with your ability to  recognize them:
  • if you start with nice, friable soil, firm the bed floor by walking on it, or even rolling it
  • avoid bare soil; cover the bed sparsely with very thin layer of pine straw
  • plant a few seeds in an X pattern (so you can monitor germination)
Maplestreet Natives

A reasonable size to start with is an area about six feet by six feet. This will allow you to choose a palette of about three to five plants each of three to five different flowers plus a few bunch grasses. The bunch grasses add a bit of structure to the area and some continuity as the flowers go through their bloom-to-seeds cycle.

 Purpletop Tridens
 Jeff mentioned one bunch grass he is liking that I was not familiar with, and perhaps you aren’t either; it’s called Purpletop tridens, Tridens flavus. He describes this as having a mass of vegetative growth below with the wispy, deep, reddish purple infloresences floating high above it. While this grass does not look like much along roadsides, in the home garden it is quite lovely, and it is ranked as high as muhly grass for ease of growth. Jeff notes that if you are planning to have a meadow-type of planting, with a mixture of flowers, or flowers and grasses, then be prepared for a certain amount of change from year to year. You have to expect them to move around a bit within their spot. That's part of the fun.

If you'd like more information, there is  a detailed planning and planting guide in the 2010 edition of the “The Real Florida Gardener,” produced by the AFNN(Association of Florida Native Nurseries) and available online at  http://magazinevolume.com/6521CD

A word about Jeff Norcini
 Jeff starting working with native wildflowers and grasses back in 1996 while a faculty member with the University of Florida/IFAS at the North Florida Research and Education Center.  He is very grateful to Andy Clewell,  Jim Marois, and Gary Henry for their support and encouragement when he  made this major change in his program.  He tells me he thoroughly enjoys promoting the use and production of native wildflowers and grasses.  

We're so glad he loves to help other people with growing their knowledge, too! Thanks, Jeff!

If you're doing some planning/planting this spring, take some photos to share with us here. Send them in to our email at FNPSonline@gmail.com 

Look back to see what Jeff recommended for starting your seeds in "Grow Your Own Wildflowers"

sue dingwell


DaniSapoo said…
My name is Danielle and I live in Pompano Beach. I am a master student in the Environmental Sciences Program at FAU. I am proposing an Academic Service project at my son's preschool, where I plan to help the kids "create" a garden on the school's grounds to attract wildlife and to be used as teaching tool about the environment. Do you know of any institution, company, nursery or garden group that would help us out either by donating or selling at a reasonable price some South Florida native plants for the project? Is there any species you recommend also?
Thank you.
Hi Danielle,
You can contact your local FNPS chapter and ask. I've found that members are generous with their knowledge and will probably have good ideas for your project. You can find a link to your local chapter website at this link: http://fnps.org/pages/chapters/chaptermap.php

Good luck with your school garden project, take plenty of pictures (before, during, and after), and let us know how it comes out. We'd love to have you as a guest blogger.

With the given example above, it shows that we can have an urban garden and be able to plant flowers or vegetables which is a very good thing. Patience and the right information on raising a garden is important. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on gardening and I do hope that more home owners will try to make efforts in beautifying not just the inside but also the outside part of their residences.
Wildflowers are very easy to grown since it requires less maintenance, except for watering during dry spells. Select wildflowers that are best suited for your climate and soil type so that these flowers will develop and thrive beautifully.
Hey great blog, I'd love to network with you, I promote native plant landscaping, and lawn alternative practices here: http://mweanpl.blogspot.com/ I'm going to follow your blog, from the southeast, to the north east, and throughout the midwest, we need to unify and strengthen the movement for educating the public on the carbon foot print of lawn, and the available alternatives. :-) Great job your doing here!
Thanks, Solomon. We'd love it if you followed us over on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/FNPSfans# . It's always great to have input from native enthusiasts in other parts of the country!
Dave Almquist said…
If you had compacted soil in an area, couldn't you till and then solarize with clear plastic to kill the weed seeds?
The Jolly Bloggers said…
Eh. It's questionable. Some seeds can be dormant for a very long time. If you're going to try to heat-kill whatever weed seeds are there after tilling, best to use a black plastic instead of a clear (which can let in sunlight for germination).

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