Planting wildflowers in pots

How To Grow from Wildflower Seed Packets

The following information should be used when you want to plant the seed into trays or pots first to be replanted out later. If you want to plant them straight into existing grass or earth then create as good a seedbed as is possible and sow the seed then consolidate/roll the ground afterwards.

Wildfower Seed Packets how to grow successfully

Poppies & Corn Cockle Corn Marigold

Including Corncockle, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Field Poppy

These annuals are best sown straight into the ground where they are to establish. Sow in spring (March/April) or autumn ( end of Aug to early Oct). Create a light seedbed sow seed rake over ground and then consolidate the ground afterwards by walking on or rolling lightly.

PERENNIALS

Red CampionRagged Robin

Red Campion & White Campion, Meadow Buttercup, Ragged Robin.

Sow in March/April or August/September

Sow into a weed free seedbed, to help spread the seed mix with weed free dry sand. Lightly rake over and firm the ground afterwards. Water if dry weather.

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Sow seed in Autumn or Spring. Sow thinly where it is to flower by pressing seed lightly into the soil. Alternatively sow seed about 2cm apart in compost in seed tray. Benefits from addition of gritty sand.

Cowslip

Ideally sow in autumn in a seed tray of peat compost. Cover with glass until germination takes place. This can be slow to encourage the seed to break dormancy it may need placing in the fridge several times before sowing.

It suits good soil in the sun or partial shade.

Musk Mallow Malva Moschata

Meadowsweet, Musk Mallow, Betony

Sow outside in good soil covering the seed lightly.

Sow inside in a seed tray on peat compost in spring or late summer. Lightly cover with soil, prick out when large enough and grow on until planted out.

Ox Eye Daisy

Sow outside in spring in well prepared soil. Do not cover the seed but water in

Sow inside in a seed tray. Do not cover the seed but water in and cover with glass. Prick out when large enough.

Field Scabious

This can be difficult an erratic to grow. Sow the seed in a seed tray in spring or autumn and lightly cover with soil. Plant out in meadow grass during the following spring or autumn.

Lady’s Bedstraw

Sow seeds in spring or autumn in a seed tray and cover lightly with soil. Seed can take many weeks to germinate up to ¾ months. Plant out in spring 18 inches apart.

Foxglove

Foxgloves are biennial plants normally flowering the year after sowing.

Sow seed in spring or late summer where it is flower or in trays. Cover lightly.

Lesser knapweed

Sow the seed where it is to flower or in trays in the spring. Cover lightly with soil. Germination should only take a few weeks. Knapweed is best planted in grass from autumn to early spring.

Purple Loosestrife

Sow seed thinly on surface of the compost in seed tray. May do better if won in the spring. Give tray maximum light. May benefit if the seed tray is placed in a tray of water to keep compost moist.

Yarrow

Sow seed in well prepared soil any time from early spring to September. If you want to introduce Yarrow into an existing area of grass grow the seed in trays and plant out the seedlings in spring or autumn.

Selfheal

This is another perennial. It should grow easily from seed planted in spring or late summer. Cover lightly with soil. Young plants can be transplanted into short grass in spring or autumn.

Wild Carrot

Wild carrot is a biennial ( flowers every other year| which likes sandy or chalk soil. Best planted out where you want it to grow. Seed dormancy needs to be broken by a period of chilling Wild carrot does best when sown in the autumn.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow rattle is an annual it is also a parasitic plant, which will not survive unless sown amongst grass. Ideally sow it in the autumn with a mixture of meadow grass once established it will self seed readily. For more information on Yellow Rattle follow this link.

Yellow Flag Iris

It is a perennial plant that grows from a spreading root stock. This can be split up in the spring or autumn and planted out.

Sow seeds in spring or autumn and cover lightly with soil. Sometimes with autumn sowing seedlings do not appear until spring.

If there area any species of wildflower seed packets which you require let us know and we may be able to supply them.

The Basics of Sowing Wildflower Seeds

Lifecycle of an Annual Wildflower:

Below is a simplified description of the lifecycle of an annual wildflower. This sequence is an essential model when growing California’s annual wildflowers.

1. Seed germinates with the fall and winter rains (or the gardener’s irrigation).

2. Roots and basal leaves grow through the winter.

3. Plants come into bloom from early spring to late summer
4. Flowers ripen into seed through late spring, summer and fall
5. The “annual” cycle is complete and begins again.

This cycle can be manipulated by sowing earlier or later and providing irrigation. Do not thin plants; in nature they grow closely together, which encourages bloom. We keep some species blooming even into October.

For more indepth information, read on:

Wildflowers in California’s Ecology

Spring in California used to mean wildflowers. Intoxicatingly beautiful hills and meadows covered with richly and delicately-colored wildflowers of all shapes, sizes, and hues, one of the wonders of the world, judging from the remnants still to be seen, and from the reactions of early settlers.For example, in 1850, Jeff Mayfield and his family first encountered the San Joaquin Valley:

“As we passed below the hills the whole plain was covered with great patches of rose, yellow, scarlet, orange, and blue. The colors did not seem to mix to any great extent. Each kind of flower liked a certain kind of soil best, and some of the patches of one color were a mile or more across…My daddy had traveled a great deal, and it was not easy to get him excited about wild flowers or pretty scenery. But he said that he would not have believed that such a place existed if he had not seen it himself.”

Traditional Planting Time

Traditional planting time is October through February, but wildflowers are adaptable to many different planting regimes, and there is a broad planting window, especially on the coast. Some even swear by late summer sowings, allowing the seeds the chance to bake in the sun. Here in West Marin, we can sow as late as April. Seed sown in the spring after rains are past will require irrigation till the seeds have germinated and made early growth. Some afternoon shade is helpful for late-season sowings. Here on the coast, we sow seed in four inch pots through the year for regular planting in the garden.

Sowing:

Sowing Techniques:

Weeding: A critical factor in reintroducing annual wildflowers is weed control. If the native wildflowers could out-compete weedy species, we would still have scenes such as Jeff Mayfield (above) and other early observers described. Like all annual seeds, wildflowers require a good seed-bed with firm seed/soil contact, consistent moisture, and freedom from weed competition. For detailed descriptions of different ways to control weeds and prepare seedbeds, order our “Notes on Growing Wildflowers.”

Intimidated by broadcasting seeds? Some gardeners sow in flats or pots, where the environment can be controlled, then transplant the wildflowers into their garden thru the planting season. A good way to learn what you like and what works in your situation.

Seed can be bought in bulk and broadcast in meadows, resulting in wildflowers for bringing into the house, for personal adornment, for sitting in, lying in, luxuriating in. They can be planted as garden annuals, carefully chosen to provide your favorite color scheme or randomly for a wild potpourri of bloom.

A frequently asked question is: Should I plant on top of or underneath the mulch? If you are mulching with gravel, drop seeds into the gravel after it is spread. Use the blunt side of the rake to jar the seeds into holes inbetween pieces of gravel. A light tilling may be useful beforehand. If you are mulching with wood chips, pull the chips back and plant in the soil lthat was underneath. It will be slightly improved by being covered with woodchips. Cover the seeds with compost/humus/soil to twice the diameter of the seed, approximately. Walk on it or roll it to ensure good seed/soil contact. Water well and expect germination in 10 days to 3 weeks. Consistent watering twice a week will get your sowing off to a good start.

Companionable Combinations: We never can decide which is our favorite way of planting wildflowers Our mixes provide months of lovely color, reseed vigorously, and are an excellent way to educate yourself in wildflowers. On the other hand, planting in swathes is also enticing and allows more control. We have seen many natural meadows with each species growing by itself. The four separately-packaged species in our “Swathe 1/4 lb”. create an opportunity for the gardener to play with color. Try the subtle color variations in yellows, lemon yellows, oranges, and bright yellows with a planting of Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) with California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) , Goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata), and Blazing Star (Mentzelia lindleyi), all in the yellow-to-gold range. Little pools of clear blue Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii) can add a soft contrast to this lovely sunny combination.

In a good wildflower year in California, innumerable combinations of species in different proportions are found throughout the state. The variations even among the remnants of a former glory are mind-boggling in their different kinds of beauty. Even the good wildflower years are never the same. Inspiration awaits.

For more information, we offer “Notes on Growing California Wildflowers”, in our “Notes on Natives” series, found in our “Books” menu item.

How to grow wild flowers in container pots

There are so many reasons you might choose to grow wild flowers in container pots – perhaps you’ve got limited outside space, like the freedom of moving your plants around to keep things visually interesting (or away from shade and frosts), or would like to bring them inside. With pots, you can also micro-manage the soil type and climate of your plants.

Wildflowers can look really stunning in window boxes or container pots, growing in their beautiful multicoloured manner, delivering colour and pollinating life to an otherwise dull and blank space.

Tips for growing wild flowers in a container pot

Choose a good pot with drainage holes in the base, or create some drainage holes yourself in an existing garden pot.

Mix a little compost with your standard garden soil – this will encourage good plant health – and you could also add a little gravel to help drainage. Keep in mind that wildflowers do not like too rich a compost – they prefer poor soil with few nutrients.

Read your seed pack to determine how much seed to grow in your size of pot. Mix your wildflower seed with some sand to help you distribute it evenly.

Scatter the mix over the area, and water gently.

Keep the soil damp whilst the seed germinates.

Place the pot in a sunny spot, and don’t overwater.

Grow until it goes to seed. Save the seed and then cut back severely to about an inch. Wait for the following year’s flowers …

Read more about the importance of wild flower meadows for our pollinators …

Browse our range of meadow seed mixes, or create your own look with our wild flower seeds.

Top 5 Tips for Growing Wildflowers

Wildflowers are easy to love. These native or indigenous plants require little maintenance, and attract birds and beneficial insects . Wildflower meadows also don’t need fertilizers, pesticides or watering to perform well. Inspired to give growing wildflowers a try? Read these tips first!

California poppies photo by docentjoyce /Flickr Creative Commons

1. Select the right wildflowers

As with any plant, you’ll have the best growing success when you pick wildflowers that thrive in their natural conditions. For instance, just look at these gorgeous native California poppies blooming at Montaña de Oro State Park in Central California.

In your own garden, consider the type of soil you have. Some wildflowers grow in heavy clay soil, while others thrive in beach sand. How much sun does your garden receive? How about typical rainfall amounts? If you plant wildflowers that will like your growing conditions, you’ll be a happier gardener.

2. Plant a meadow

Even in small gardens, you can grow a wildflower meadow. In fact, wildflower gardens come in all shapes and sizes, according to Miriam Goldberger, author of Taming Wildflowers (St. Lynn’s Press; 2014). Generally, for a traditional meadow-style planting, she suggests one plant per square foot.

“In a small garden, you can plant as close as one wildflower per 6 square inches” says Goldberger. She adds, “That’s twice the number of plants you would find in a traditional meadow-style planting. In fact, growing wildflowers and grasses close together is beneficial to you and your gardens – less watering, weeding and fertilizing.”

When grown closely together, these plants shade one another and the soil. This reduces evaporation, keeps soil moist and reduces the need to water. It also means there is less room for germinating weed seeds.

That’s not all. “Planting a combination of wildflowers and grasses reduces your need to fertilize…ever,” adds Goldberger. “Flowers and grasses take up different levels in the soil and do not compete for the same nutrients. And these plants don’t need to be removed over the winter or cut down. So leaves, stems, flowers and roots can return their nutrients to the soil.”

For small spaces, consider smaller plants (width and height). Remember to place smaller plants near the front of the meadow so they aren’t hidden behind taller types.

Black-Eyed Susan photo by Jack W. Pearce /Flickr Creative Commons

3. Consider containers

Not ready for a meadow? Many wildflowers grow well in containers, with a minimum depth of 12 inches. The cheerful Black-Eyed Susan is one example.

For spring flowers, consider Pasque Flowers or Shooting Stars. Blanketflowers bloom well in summer containers. For flowers in late-summer and fall, try Sky Blue Asters in large containers at least 1 ½ feet deep.

You’ll need to water these containers regularly, as they dry out faster than garden soil.

Get the secrets to perfectly potted plants with Bluprint’s FREE exclusive PDF eGuide Success With Container Gardening . As a special thank you for downloading, you’ll unlock a special discount off your next Bluprint gardening class !

4. Sow seeds

Wildflowers are easy to grow from seed, if you remember a few things. Annuals – which germinate, grow, bloom and distribute seeds in one year – can be sown in late winter or spring for summer or fall blooms.

However, most hardy, perennial wildflowers – which bloom again and again for years – need cold, moist stratification. The cool, wet conditions of winter break down seed coats and allow for germination.

To facilitate this process:

  • Sow seeds in winter or just before. Let them experience winter naturally by preparing the soil before it freezes and spreading out seeds where you want them to grow. The snow will fall on them, they will move into the ground with the spring thaw, and they will be watered naturally with melting snow and spring rains.
  • If you do not have a snowy, cold winter, try this: Place seeds in labeled pots (or sealable bags) filled with moist, soil-less growing medium. Put them outside (if you have winter) or in your fridge (if you don’t) for 6-8 weeks. Then transplant seedlings as they become strong enough to hold their own in the garden.

You’ll need patience with long-lived North American perennial wildflowers, because they probably won’t flower the first year. “These plants prioritize differently than annuals,” explains Goldberger. “Hardy perennials can withstand snowy winters and freezing temperatures, but they don’t rush to get everything done in a season. The plant puts the majority of its energy first into producing deep roots to source water and nutrients from its new home.”
Some native perennials can be direct-sown in the garden in spring, including White Yarrow, Silver Lavender Hyssop and Bergamot. Although these plants will germinate their first year, they probably won’t flower yet. However, “they will return year after year,” reminds Goldberger, “and produce viable seeds, attract birds, butterflies and pollinators, and add low-maintenance beauty to the garden.”

Prairie Smoke photo by HorsePunchKid /Flickr Creative Commons

5. Grow cut flowers

Wildflowers make wonderful cut flowers. For instance, Prairie Smoke blooms in spring, and is pretty in small spring flower arrangements. The seed heads that later form on this plant last for months.

Some other wildflowers for cut flowers include Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Prairie Dock and Purple Coneflower, which can last up to 10 days in vases. False Indigo has different shaped seed pods that dry beautifully for everlasting arrangements.

Want to learn more?

Wildflower Farm has a step-by-step seed selecting guide that can help you find wildflowers for your growing conditions.

Starting Wildflowers from Seed

Raising your own plants from seed is like brewing your own beer or knitting your own sweaters. It is a commitment to immerse yourself completely in an activity you feel passionately about. When you collect and clean seeds, sow them, and nurture the young plants to adulthood, they are old friends by the time you find them a place in your garden.

Starting plants from seed also allows you to draw from an incredible diversity of species from specialty nurseries, collecting forays, and plant society seed exchanges. Since many woodland wildflowers are fairly slow-growing plants, and their seeds may not hold up well in conventional dry storage, raising woodlanders like trilliums, bloodroot, and lady-slippers from seed is the only way to stop the unscrupulous harvesting of these types of plants from public and private lands. Although the process does require some patience, it is not difficult if you understand some basic aspects of a seed’s biology.

Videos:
• Seed-Starting Pre-Treat
• Sowing Seeds
• Lighting Seedlings

Further Reading:
• Jump Start Your Seeds
• 10 Seed-Starting Tips
• Build a Growing Stand

Gather seeds when they’re ripe

Collect seeds once they’ve ripened. The author collects red baneberry seeds as soon as the fruits begin to color.A file folder is a handy tool to use when collecting seed. The author shakes out the seed, folds the folder in half, and gives it a shake. The chaff stays in the folder while the seed falls out into an envelope.

Collecting seed is a matter of timing. My season begins in May when the Hepatica species ripen and ends in December when the climbing fern (Lygodium palmatum) finally sheds its spores. Generally, seeds of woodland wildflowers tend to ripen within three to six weeks after a plant has flowered. Rather than follow this rule, I recommend using your eyes instead. If a plant produces fleshy fruits, its seeds will be ripe when the fruit begins to color. If a plant’s seeds are enclosed in a woody or papery capsule, wait for it to turn yellow or brown before harvesting its seeds.

While some seeds may continue toripen if picked too soon, it is always best to let them mature on a plant as long as possible. A ripe seed has a coat that is typically some shade of tan, brown, or black. Unripe seed is white or green in color. If you are unsure, try picking the seed in three or fourd batches a week or so apart. This way, you can compare and note when the seed becomes fully ripe.

When collecting, you can also cut seed open to test viability. Ripe seeds should be filled with white material that is some combination of embryo and the food-storing endosperm that often surrounds it. In unripe seed, this material is milky or watery, and the seed coat that surrounds it will be soft and easily compressed. As the seed matures, the inside becomes firmer, like the flesh of coconut, and the seed coat hardens and is not easily crushed between the fingers. At this stage, the seed is ready for harvest even if the seed coat is not quite fully darkened.

Since seeds do not ripen uniformly, collect them at various stages of maturity, noting the condition of the seeds as you gather.

Separate dried seeds from the chaff

Clean seeds surrounded by fleshy fruit by making a “milkshake.”The author puts baneberry seeds in a container, adds water, and blends the seeds for a minute or two.When the “shake” is finished, the seeds settle to the bottom, and lighter pulp and skins rise to the top. He then skims off the top layer and pours the remaining mixture through a strainer.

While some plants like columbines and dodecatheons release their seeds easily from their woody capsules when perfectly ripe, the seeds of many wildflowers require additional drying and cleaning after harvest. One to two weeks in a well-ventilated space should be enough to adequately dry most of them. You can usually hear and feel when the seed is crunchy-dry.

A few tools make my seed preparation easier. I use a rolling pin to crush stubborn seed capsules. For plants like violets, wild geraniums, and Indian pinks that catapult their seeds 10 to 20 feet when ripe, I pick the pods before they are completely mature (but after the seed coats have darkened) and put them in a paper bag, which I keep indoors until they shed. I treat them like microwave popcorn, leaving them in the bag until the popping stops.

I use a set of stackable sieves to separate seed from chaff, capsules, and seed heads. While my set is fairly expensive, a more moderately priced set of sieves with mesh nettings of different sizes can be purchased at any cooking supply store, and these work just as well. A manila file folder is an indispensable tool for catching sieved seeds and for cleaning seeds as well. To clean seeds this way, I tilt a file folder full of seeds and shake it gently. Since many seeds are roundish and heavier than chaff, the seeds roll off, leaving the debris behind.

Remove the pulp from fleshy seeds

The fleshy fruits found on some woodland wildflowers are designed to entice birds, reptiles, or mammals to eat the fruit, digest the flesh, and remove any chemical inhibitors present in the pulp or skin that would otherwise retard germination. Since it is unlikely that gardeners will adopt this digestive approach to seed cleaning, there are several alternatives.

The simplest way to remove pulp and inhibitory chemicals is to mash the fruits to break the skins, then let them ferment for a week or two in a dish of water. Once they have soaked, I dump the fermented seeds in a strainer, scrub them clean, then rinse them with water.

Since fermenting seeds can become foul-smelling, a better option is to immerse the seeds in water and use a blender to remove the pulp and skins from the fruit. I used an inexpensive, handheld milkshake or prep blender equipped with a disk blade, like that of a cheese grater, which does not harm the seeds. When the blender stops, the seeds settle to the bottom of the liquid. By filling the blender’s canister several times and gently pouring off the floating materials, I am left with perfectly clean seeds. In addition to removing any chemical inhibitors present in the pulp or skin, the blender’s blades partially wear away the very hard seed coat that inhibits germination in some seeds.

Moisture and temperature affect stored seed

Some types of seeds need to be sown when fresh. The author sprinkled these baneberry seeds onto a flat filled with soilless mix.

Seeds are alive, so they must germinate and begin photosynthesizing before their stores of energy are used up. Cool temperatures and low humidity are good for seeds because they slow down respiration and keep disease-causing fungi from developing. As a general rule, every 10°F drop in temperature will double the storage life of your seeds. Thus, seeds that might live for one year at 70°F will still be viable after eight years if kept at 40°F, the temperature of most refrigerators. Since temperatures below 32°F may damage some seeds, I never store seeds in the freezer.

The moisture content of seeds also affects longevity, so drying the seeds fully and storing them in breathable containers, like paper envelopes, should suffice. However, some genera like Hepatica, Sanguinaria, Polygonatum, Trillium, and Viola can be plunged into deep dormancy or killed if their moisture content drops below a critical level. I call these seeds hydrophyllic (water-loving), as other terms like recalcitrant or ephemeral are misleading. When kept in moist, cold storage, hydrophyllic seeds can remain viable for years. I experimented with bloodroot seed, which I harvested and immediately sealed in a plastic bag with a handful of slightly damp vermiculite. After three years stored at 40°F, 73 percent of the seed germinated upon sowing in a warm location.

The best way to handle hydrophyllic seeds is to sow them as soon as they ripen. Since many have protracted germination times, I place them in an outdoor cold frame until they sprout. For example, I collect Trillium seed in summer as the fruits begin to ripen, squeeze out the seeds, and sow them in flats outdoors. That way, they spend the fall and winter in cold, wet conditions, and germination takes place the following or second spring. Sow your seeds and store them outside Whether I am planting seeds that will germinate in a few weeks or sit in a flat for several years, I use the same sowing procedure. For a small batch of seed, a 4-inch pot is an adequate container. First, I soak used pots in a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part household bleach and rinse them thoroughly. Once they are dry, I fill them with a sterile soilless seed-starting mix that I buy. I never mix in garden soil or compost, as they make the mix heavy and sodden over time. Since I am typically

He tamped them, and covered them with a fine layer of washed sand. Then he moved the flat outside to a cold frame to wait until spring, when the seeds will germinate.

Sow your seeds and store them outside

While some seeds can be planted as soon as they mature, other seeds need more coddling to get them to grow. All of the woodland wildflowers in the chart below have at least one germination code; most have more than one. For example, Heuchera species are both Type A and Type H because they are light-sensitive seeds (H) that should be stored for 6 months before sowing them in spring (A).Actaea seeds are hydrophyllic (*) and have pulp that must be cleaned (G) before they are sown and given cold stratification (B).

Botanical Name (Common Name) & Germination Code Zone

Germination codes:

Aconitum uncinatum (wild monkshood) B* 5-8

Type A – Once cleaned, these seeds should be kept in cool, dry storage for 2 to 6 months, then sowed at room temperature under lights or outdoors in spring. (Storage allows after-ripening, a process important for good germination.)

Type B – These seeds require at least 90 days of moist, cold stratification at temperatures between 25˚ and 45˚F before being moved to a warm location to germinate.

Type C – These seeds require multiple cycles of cold and warm temperatures to germinate—typically 90+ cold days followed by 90+ warm days followed by 90+ cold days.

Type D – These seeds require a period of 60 to 90 warm days followed by 90 cold days.

Type G – The pulp or skin of these types of seeds contains chemical inhibitors that must be removed for the seed to germinate. Sowing seed still encased in fruit will delay germination markedly.

Type H – These types of seeds are light sensitive and will germinate only when sown at or near the soil surface and kept in a bright spot.

Type I – The seed coats of these types of seeds are impermeable to water. The seed coat must be worn down or abraded (scarified) for the seed to germinate.

Type J – Some small seeds and most fern spores are what I call moss germinators, which require even moisture and high relative humidity until they are well established. Moss germinators are best surface sown and put in a sealed plastic bag under fluorescent lights until they are large enough to be carefully weaned outdoors.

Type * – Hydrophyllic species cannot be allowed to dry out after harvest. They should be sown when ripe and left outdoors for the winter, or stored in plastic bags filled with damp vermiculite and chilled for 3 months prior to sowing.

Actaea species (red baneberry) B*/G 2-8
Allium tricoccum (wild leek) C 3-8
Anemone quinquefolia (wood anemone) D* 3-8
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone) D* 4-9
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) B/G 3-9
Aruncus dioicus (goat’s beard) A/H 4-8
Asarum species (wild ginger) D* 3-8
Aster cordifolius (blue wood aster) A or B 3-8
Campanulastrum americanum (tall bellflower) B 4-8
Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh) D* 3-8
Chrysogonum virginianum (golden star) B* 5-9
Cimicifuga species (bugbane, black cohosh) D 3-9
Claytonia species (spring beauty) D* 2-9
Clintonia umbellulata (speckled wood lily) C/G* 4-8
Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) B/G 2-6
Dicentra species (wild bleeding heart) B* 3-9
Disporum species (fairy bells) B*/G 4-8
Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus) A/H/J* 3-9
Erythronium americanum and albidum (trout lily) C* 3-9
Galax urceolata (galax, wandflower) A/H/J* 4-8
Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) A/H/J 2-8
Hepatica species (hepatica) D* 3-8
Heuchera species (alumroots) A/H 3-9
Iris cristata and I. verna (dwarf iris) B* 5-9
Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf) D* 4-9
Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells) B* 3-9
Mitchella repens (partridge berry) B/G 3-8
Mitella species (bishop’s caps) A/H 3-8
Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) B* 4-9
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) B* 3-9
Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple) B*/G 3-9
Polygonatum species (Solomon’s seal) C/G* 3-9
Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) D* 3-9
Solidago caesia (wreath goldenrod) A or B 3-9
Spigelia marilandica (Indian pink) B* 4-9 3-9
Stylophorum diphyllum (celandine poppy) B* 4-8
Thalictrum dioicum (early meadow rue) B* 3-8
Tiarella species (foamflowers) A/H 3-9
Trillium species (showy trillium) C* 3-9
Viola species (violets) B* 2-9

Whether I am planting seeds that will germinate in a few weeks or sit in a flat for several years, I use the same sowing procedure. For a small batch of seed, a 4-inch pot is an adequate container. First, I soak used pots in a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part household bleach and rinse them thoroughly. Once they are dry, I fill them with a sterile soilless seed-starting mix that I buy. I never mix in garden soil or compost, as they make the mix heavy and sodden over time. Since I am typically sowing large numbers of seed, I follow the same procedure but sow the seeds in large flats instead of pots.

I sow most seeds in late fall when temperatures fall consistently below 50°F (around Thanksgiving in the Boston area). Since I sow the seeds of all but moss-germinating species (Type J, see chart) outdoors, I cover all my flats with a layer no more than 1/4 inch deep of coarse, washed sand.

To wash sand, I fill a 5-gallon bucket half way with builder’s sand and run a garden hose into it. The fine silt will float off and leave the coarser sand behind. A layer of washed sand on top of a flat helps protect seed from being displaced by raindrops and may cut down on damping-off diseases.

Once the seeds are sown, I carefully record the species, the origin of the seed, and the sowing date on a label, in pencil rather than ink. I make sure I tuck the labels down inside the wall of the pot or the flat, as crows take a peculiar delight in pulling out any labels left visible. I place my flats in a cold frame covered with insulation (a piece of rigid Styrofoam insulation held down with ropes and bricks works well). If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 7 or warmer, insulation is not necessary. I uncover the cold frames as soon as night temperatures remain above 25°F, and the seeds begin to sprout slowly. With a few exceptions, if seed has not germinated after two springs, I assume it is dead.

I try not to leave seedlings in a community pot longer than necessary. Woodland species are especially sensitive to root disturbance, and timely transplanting into individual containers as soon as the first leaf or leaves have expanded is far less upsetting to them than waiting until they have gotten larger and tangled with their neighbors. I transplant faster-growing species into plug trays or small pots for a month or so, giving them dilute weekly feedings of liquid fertilizer. In mid-summer, I move them on into 4- or 6-inch pots. I leave slower species like trilliums in their flats for two to three years, until they’re large enough to handle.

I recommend establishing all seedlings in small pots before moving them into their final spot in the garden. If possible, let them stay in their larger pots for another season to give them a good head start. Remember that the woodland is a tough environment, so the bigger and healthier the plants are before moving them there, the better.

Learn more…

All About Starting Seeds
Find links to articles, blog posts, and videos on starting vegetable and flower seeds.

Wildflower seeds in a pot

Planting seeds in large pots is tricky. Takes some skill to not over water.

The most important thing you can do if planting in pots is use potting soil. I know, I know…Alephzero said not to. Garden soil in pots is the kiss of death for any plant or seed planted in a pot with garden soil.

Don’t ever buy potting soil with gimmicks such as water holding gels or sponges. Make sure there is NO added fertilizer in that potting medium.

Potting medium has very little soil if any. The major point is this medium is STERILIZED. In the larger body of garden soil out of doors there are balances, checks for disease and insects. Not at all in a pot in doors.

FIRM the soil before planting a few seeds. Cover the seed with 1/8th inch NO MORE of potting medium. Moisten with a spray bottle to 1/4″ no more. When your plants germinate, begin watering a little deeper. The problem with a large pot of soil and tiny plants is that there aren’t any roots to suck up the excess water. Root rot and damping off of seedlings will happen…especially if you use garden soil that comes with hundreds of spores of fungus…always.

Make sure that you do not use any rock, gravel or packing peanuts between the hole in the bottom of your pot and below that potting soil. Use just potting soil in your pot.

Do not fertilize until there are 3 sets of leaves on your plants. Depending on the size of your pot you will have to pull excess plants so that a few make it to maturity.

Use Osmocote 14-14-14 all purpose extended release fertilizer. Or, make sure that the fertilizer is balanced; that there is N P AND K in that formulation. Hopefully a few micro chemicals (nutrients) even bacteria and mycorrhizae, beneficial fungal spores. Use HALF what the directions prescribe.

Once your plants you’ve decided to remain are 6″ high, then start watering more deeply. Allow that soil to dry before watering again. Never soak the soil and water every day…until your plants are a few feet high…

btw, what size are your pots? Starting seeds in containers or cubbies in trays that are 2″ deep by 1″ wide is perfect. One seed per cubby. Easy to transplant into a 3″ X3″ pot (always only potting soil)! Then transplant into 6″ pots.

When the out of doors temperatures are stable and above 50 degrees even at night, you can think about planting them in your planting beds. You have to acclimate any plant grown indoors to be able to handle the out of doors and direct sunlight. That means taking the babies out during the day for 15 minutes no more. Same for the next 3 days. Then increase the time to 30 minutes…for three days. Increase that to 1 hour for 3 days…then 2 and 3 and 4 hours. Takes time but to take a plant grown inside on a window sill or even from under artificial lighting and put it out of doors in the sun will FRY your plant. Kill it.

Taking a plant from out of doors to live indoors requires the same amount of acclimation and effort.

If you plant seeds in your pots, in potting soil and water only as deep as there are roots you should be fine. Get ready to THIN your plants, earlier the better so that the roots don’t get entangled and make thinning more dangerous for the plants you choose to live.

Make no mistake. It is a hard a fast rule that any potted plants have to have sterilized potting soil, never ever use garden soil! Trust me.

Houston: Can I grow wildflowers in a container?

  • Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) Photo: Joseph A. Marcus, LBJ Wildflower Center

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From: Houston

Question: Hello — I live in Houston, TX and was recently given a few seed packets of mixed wildflowers. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment and I’m limited to a large balcony with a container garden. The balcony is not covered and gets full sun pretty much all day. Is it possible to grow the wildflowers in pots?

Answer:

First, read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants, which will help you get started.

It is certainly possible to grow wildflowers in pots. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center many wildflowers are grown for our Gardens and for the Plant Sales. However, this is one seed, of known parentage, to one small pot or a number sprinkled in a flat for sprouting, first in a greenhouse and next in a covered shade yard. Finally, they will be transplanted to a 4″ pot and thence into the ground or sold at the Sale.

In an apartment, you probably don’t have room for greenhouse, shade yard or pots. and in a mixed packet, you normally have no idea which seed is which, and discovering you have planted a 10-ft. tall sunflower in a small pot will be discouraging. The gift was a kind thought, but perhaps you might find a children’s group, a school or a church garden that would like to try sowing the seeds into the ground, and just see what comes up.

Since you have full sun, you have a good locale for growing native wildflowers, but you would do better to purchase small 4-inch pots to transplant into your larger pots, or try getting a packet of one seed that you know is native to your area and sprinkling several seeds into larger pots with potting soil in them, and giving them a chance to germinate there.

You would then need to thin them out to make sufficient room for the individual plants to grow.

Ordinarily, we recommend planting wildflower seeds at the same time they would be dropping their seeds, usually Fall. If you obtain a packet of just one kind of seeds, they should have instructions on the packet on time of planting, amount of sun and water needed and so forth. There are wildflowers that are perennials or biennials, but these seldom bloom until the second season; again, the package should give you that information.

If you are willing to experiment, read this article from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, Lady Bird’s Legacy, quoting some experts including one from the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. From American Meadows, here is an article about someone who plants seeds, even mixed seeds, in containers, as she also lives in an apartment. However, she plants her seeds in the Spring, because she is in Vancouver, Canada. Don’t make the mistake of planting yours in the Spring in Houston, the little baby plantlet will emerge just in time to be fried by the heat!

The seeds you have been given should have the names of the plants the seeds of which are contained therein. We would strongly recommend you stick to flowers that are native to your area. You can go to our Native Plant Database, type in the name of each flower in the”Search” box at the top of the page, and it will take you to our page on that plant, if it is native to North America. On that page you will also find the states to which it is native, when it blooms and what colors, usually something about propagation, light requirements, etc. To give you some experience with this detective work, we will select some wildflowers that propagate well from seed and grow natively in the Houston area, and you can follow each plant link to see the page and information available.These are just examples of the many wildflowers you could grow.

Annual Wildflower Seeds for Houston:

Coreopsis tinctoria (golden tickseed) – 1-2 ft. tall, blooms yellow, brown, April to June, seeds sown outside in late Fall or following Spring

Dracopis amplexicaulis (clasping coneflower) -2-3 ft., blooms yellow April to July

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel) – 1-2 ft., blooms yellow, red, brown May to August, plant in Fall

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) – 6-18″, blooms blue, white March to May, sow seeds in Fall

Perennial Wildflower Seeds for Houston:

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower) – 1 to 3 ft. tall, blooms blue, purple July to November

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) – 2 to 5 ft., blooms pink, purple April to September

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) – 8 to 18″, evergreen, blooms white, red, pink, purple March to May

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) – 1 to 3 ft., blooms white, red, pink February to October

More on Wildflowers from Mr. Smarty Plants

Question: March 14, 2004 – When is a good time to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to see the wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Question: March 14, 2004 – Is it illegal to pick wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Question: March 20, 2004 – What book do you recommend for identifying the native plants and wildflowers of my region?
view the full question and answer

How to Sow Wildflower Seeds

wildflowers, oregon coast image by Carbonbrain from Fotolia.com

Wildflowers planted on hillsides, or in fields, give the illusion of springing from nature, adding a mass of color to the landscape. Although wildflowers are hardy and require little care once established, according to “Wildflowers in Bloom” maintained by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the idea that wildflowers are grown easily by casting seed on the soil and forgetting them is a misconception. Many wildflowers require soil preparation, care in broadcasting seeds and consistent water until they have become established in the area.

Remove vegetation in an area that receives full sun for at least six to eight hours a day. Although wildflowers thrive in poor soil, many suffer in wet soil. Avoid areas that remain moist during the summer months.

Cultivate the soil to a depth of no more than 1 inch. Use a garden tiller, claw or rake to turn the soil. Remove any plant debris, weeds or sod. Wildflowers may thrive in poor soil, but should not be planted in weeds or grass.

Mix your wildflower seeds with perlite, peat moss or sand to make sowing easier and to allow for more even distribution of seeds. Combine one part wildflower seeds to four parts inert filler material. Some wildflower seeds come in containers with inert material included. Check the package to find out if your seed mixture contains inert material to determine if you need to add filler before sowing wildflower seeds.

Sprinkle half of the seed mixture over the garden bed following a side-to-side motion. Spread the seeds evenly across the width of the garden. Repeat the procedure spreading seeds from the front to the back of the garden.

Press the seeds into the soil with a roller, back of the hoe blade or by walking over the area. Press seeds no deeper than 1/8 inch. Larger seeds may be visible on the top of the soil.

Water the area lightly with the spray attachment to your hose to moisten the soil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Keep the area evenly moist for four to six weeks until seedlings emerge. The amount of water needed depends on rainfall and weather conditions in your area. During periods of warm dry weather, daily watering may be required.

Reduce water gradually once seedlings are 2 to 4 inches high. Once established, water only when plants show signs of wilting or the soil becomes excessively dry.

So you want to grow wildflowers in pots? Follow these simple steps …

Plan

  • Planting Time? – Planting outdoors in a container?Check for your last frost date and plant after your date passes. Otherwise, plant 10 weeks before the first winter frost comes in the fall. You can plant anytime you can ensure at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight each day will contact your flowers.
  • Locate Sunny Spot – Choose a spot in your house, maybe a South or West facing window that gets 6 or more hours of direct sun a day. Or plant in a sunny spot outside.
  • Acquire Supplies
    • Pot / Container – Acquire a pot at least least 4-6″ in diameter.
    • Soil – A bag of potting soil if possible, or simply composted soil.
    • Seeds – You can use Seedles, wildflower seed balls. Or you can purchase wildflower seeds locally.

Plant

  • Add Compost – Fill the pot or container 3/4 with soil, until the soil comes up to 1-2″ below the top. Ensure the soil uncompacted and has proper aeration.
  • Plant Seeds – Mix the seeds with a bit of compost, then spread lightly across the surface. Add a small dusting of compost to any uncovered seeds. Careful only to allow them to be buried between 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch deep. Do not bury them deeply, they will not be strong enough to grow out and sprout. Plant Wildflower Seedles approximately 2-4 per square foot and only half-way into the soil. Plant plain wildflower seeds at a density that is indicated on the seed package.
  • Pack Soil – Gently press down the soil to firm it up a bit and ensure the compost is contacting the seeds.

Porch Grown Seedles Lora Medlyn Lewis

Grow

  • Water Gently – Water daily, then semi-weekly. For proper germination, you want a moist soil, like a moist brownie texture, not wet, not soaking wet, just moist to allow germination until seedlings are about 4-6″ tall. If you live in a drier climate, we recommend watering regularly.
  • Weed – Occasionally you may need to pull out small sprouts or weeds you know are not from your wildflower seeds. If you’re unsure, don’t pull it, just wait to see if it flowers. Even weeds like dandelions are great for bees and pollinators.

Seedles Testimonial

I bought for my grandsons and all but 2 produced beautiful flowers. We had 10 times as many butterflies this year, as in years past. The Painted Lady butterflies were thick on the Cosmos! Great teaching opportunity for kids! – Shayleen S., Colorado

Want To Learn More? … Jump To Your Desired Article

  1. How To Grow A Wildflower Meadow

Curious to learn more? – Please contact us or view our frequently asked questions

Wildflowers can happily grow outside in containers.

If you don’t have access to a patch of soil, it’s a great option, especially for balconies, paved areas and to add variety to larger outdoor spaces.

Types of container

One of the keys to success is to avoid small containers; wildflowers won’t survive in a cramped space. They need room for their roots to grow and absorb nutrients and water, so best to go big or go home.

The kind of things you could use are large wooden planters, oversized pots, old baths (see below), or even boats (like the one above).

  • Large container
  • Stones or broken crockery
  • Top soil or multipurpose compost
  • Watering can or jug
  • Wildflower seeds
  • Something to label your container with
Preparation
  1. Check your container has a few holes in the base to let water gradually drain out. Otherwise, use a drill or sharp instrument to add holes, taking care not to hurt yourself
  2. Add a few stones or broken crockery to the bottom to help drainage
  3. Move your container to your chosen space before filling it; an empty container is much easier to move than a full one
  4. Fill the container with top soil if possible, or use multipurpose compost. The compost doesn’t need to be the most expensive, but for environmental reasons please avoid any that contain peat
  5. As you fill the container, gently push down the soil or compost to break up any lumps and get rid of large air pockets. Stop filling 25mm from the top to allow room for watering
  6. Sprinkle seeds by hand evenly over the surface and cover with 1mm of soil or compost
  7. Water well
  8. Label the container with plant markers you could even make some yourself. Look here for some inspiration.

Watch Hannah Grows show you how to do it:

After sowing your seeds…

Make sure that the soil in your container remains moist and water it if dry. This is the most vulnerable time for seeds – seedlings can be killed if the soil dries out completely – and wildflowers in containers need regular watering throughout their lives.

In Summer this can mean a good soak every day, even if it’s been raining. But be careful not to over-water. If the soil is too saturated, the seedlings could die from a lack of oxygen reaching their roots.

Your seeds should germinate within a couple of weeks of being sown, depending on the weather. Be patient and keep looking out for the tiny green shoots of life.

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