The Q&A Archives: Planting a Wildflower Meadow

Question: We recently built a home and a large portion of the land behind it is overgrown pasture where grasses, clover, alfalfa, mullein, and goldenrod grow. I planted some red monarda, purple coneflowers, white daisies, black-eyed Susans, and a few others. These make a few tiny spots of color, but I'd like to have lots of colorful native wildflowers. Can I seed this area? Can I do it without mowing and tilling up what's there? Should I plant now or wait until spring? I'd love to have that area full of birds and butterflies.

Answer: The success of a wildflower meadow is influenced by the following:

1. The balance of annuals to perennials: The first year you may have great success with the annual varieties, but when it's time for the perennials to take over the second year, annuals often decline in number.

2. The proportion of flower seed vs. grasses in the mix: Many wildflower mixes contain a relatively large percentage of grass seed. This grass can really take over a planting. It's best to use a 100 percent wildflower mix. It's more expensive, but you'll get more flowers. Plenty of grass will find its way into your flowers anyway.

3. Choose a regional mix that suits your climate. A good wildflower meadow should last for several years (or more). The only real maintenance should be an annual mowing, just after the first frost, to knock down brush and scatter seeds.

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