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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - June 14, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Large-scale wildflower maintenance
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We purchased the Texas/Oklahoma wildseed mix from your shop last year and planted them this past fall. The wildflowers came up beautifully, but at the beginning of June, after flowering just one time, they started to turn brown. Between natural rain and manual watering, we have been giving them about 0.5" to 1" of water every week or two. Two questions: 1. Should we expect the wildflowers to naturally fade back/turn brown in June or is it likely that they are just not getting enough water? 2. When should we mow the wildflowers and should I bag the mowing clippings when I mow to prevent a lot of thatch/debris from being left on soil surface - ultimately we'd like to follow all of the guidance so that they come up as nicely next year as they did this year.

ANSWER:

Question 1. Most of the wildflowers are annuals; they bloom, and then begin to turn brown, especially in the kind of weather we have had this year. If you have the resources to do so, they could use about an inch of water a week during the bloom period and again in the late Fall when the seeds are on/in the ground and preparing to germinate. The reason we had such a spectacular wildflower season last year was that the rains fell in those periods specified, but the seeds are survivors, they will fall down, burrow in and wait for the rain.

Question 2. Please see our How-To article, "Getting Started", all of which deals with large-scale wildflower gardening, but the last two paragraphs, under How to Manage Your Site, should answer the rest of your questions, including those on when and how to mow.

 

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