If you take your cues from the garden centers, you would think that the best time to sow wildflower seeds is in the spring. That’s when all the packets of seeds go out, beckoning with their promises of future glory.
|Wildflower seed packets|
But really, the best time to sow wildflowers is in the fall. As in right now! Or anytime late September until the ground freezes. If you think about it for a second, it makes sense – this is, after all, when Mother Nature sows her seeds. Most native plants actually need that period of cold and wet in order to break dormancy. When the days lengthen and warm in the spring, the seed coat is softened and ready to germinate. It’s not to say that you won’t get any germination if you sow in the spring, but for the most part, you’ll have better success in the fall. And since there are often no wildflower packets to be found in the fall, buy your packets in the spring and keep them in a cool dry place until fall.
Weed your site thoroughly before planting. If using a commercial packet, follow the recommendations for square footage covered; if you plant too thickly, the plants will be spindly and crowded and will never reach their full size or floriferousness. Rough up the top few inches of soil, sow the seeds at the recommended density, and then rake them in lightly. Finally, walk on the soil in order to tuck the seeds firmly into the ground. Lightly mulch with a weed-free straw (don’t use wood mulch because it’s too chunky to allow good germination) or put a floating row cover on top.
A word about seed selection: in the mountains, you’ll usually have best luck with native seeds. The mixes that contain annual plants will give some instant gratification the first year (and native perennials will not), but will seldom seed themselves for future color, so they do not offer as much bang for the buck.
|Native wildflower sowing at the Gilpin Extension Office|
For more information, please see the following fact sheet: