Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
March, 2001
Regional Report

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Pale pink globe mallow and golden poppies bloom at the gnarly base of my saguaro cactus.

Wildflowers in Bloom

Spring wildflowers are starting to bloom now, brightening roadsides, desert vistas, and, hopefully, your landscape. I had some germinate in my yard in places where seed must have lain hidden for years waiting for the right conditions. This winter's frequent rains provided them. Now it's time to maintain the wildflower patches.

Watering Wildflowers

Winter rains have been plentiful this year, so wildflower beds haven't needed much supplemental watering, but now that plants are budding and blooming, they need water to keep the plants stress free so their color show will continue longer. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then apply water slowly and let it soak in. Don't spray the plants with a hose or lawn sprinklers. Overhead watering can damage flowers and promote fungal diseases.

Pick a Bouquet

Wildflowers can create a lovely informal bouquet, either alone or with other flowers from the garden, but not all of them make good cut flowers. My favorites in a bouquet are desert marigold, globe mallow, scarlet flax, toadflax, and penstemon. I find it difficult to cut my bright pink penstemon stalks because the hummingbirds love them so. But since my penstemon lines the sidewalk entrance, invariably a large-footed, usually uninvited, visitor breaks a stalk, and those stalks find their way into my bouquets.

Weeding Wildflowers

The winter rains have also contributed to a bumper crop of weeds. Patrol your wildflower areas frequently and pull weeds as soon as they appear. Weeding gives your plants the upper hand in taking up nutrients and soil moisture. Don't let weeds go to seed, or they'll plague your wildflower beds for years.

Let Flowers Go to Seed

You can let the wildflowers go to seed, however. Even though deadheading (removing the spent flowers) will prolong their bloom period, wildflowers love to self-sow seeds. At the end of a plant's life, allow its flower heads to dry and seeds to form. Then either let the wildflowers drop their seed naturally or collect the seed and sow it yourself. Clip dried seed heads into a paper bag and allow the seed to dry further before cleaning stems and chaff. Store seeds in a cool dark place and sow in autumn.

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