En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 23, 2005

From: Flat Rock, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Smarty Plants on CRABGRASS
Answered by: Nan Hampton, Steve Windhager, Mark Simmons and Joe

QUESTION:

I live in Indiana and purchased native wildflower seeds from the soil and conservation district in my area. I completly tilled the 10x70 foot patch and planted the seeds as directed. Some of them are growing but I have a problem, CRABGRASS. The grass grew so fast that it is hindering flower growth. I tried to cut it out by hand, but the flowers have such small stems from trying to keep up with the grass that most of them are too heavy on top to support there own weight. Is there something I can do about the crabgrass and what can I do for those poor flowers? Any help would be great!!!

ANSWER:

First, tilling the soil before planting your wildflower seeds sounds like a good idea, but it is probably at the heart of your problem. This major disturbance of the soil allowed aggressive pioneer species (weeds) like crabgrass to quickly become established and overwhelm the less competitive wildflowers. The first task is to get rid of the crabgrass. Since crabgrass is an annual, you want to keep seeds from setting and dropping by removing all seed heads. You can do this by mowing before the seeds set. You also want to remove the crabgrass plants. For your size plot (10' X 70') pulling or digging out the plants is an option--a lot of work, but not out of the question. If you can remove the seed heads before they set and drop, you can wait for the first freeze to kill the crabgrass and then remove it. Postemergence herbicide treatment is another option. It should be done very carefully using a herbicide that contains fluazifop-p-butyl (e.g., Ornamec, Fusilade) that affects only grass species. Preemergence herbicidal control is also an option in early spring before the crabgrass germinates. The University of Rhode Island and Purdue University have further information about crabgrass control. As for your drooping wildflowers, some will form new flower heads if they are cut and some will not. Since we don't know the wildflower species you have growing, we can't tell for certain.

The next question is how to achieve the wildflower meadow you had in mind. There are two articles that can help you with this project. One is "Wildflower Meadow Gardening", a 3-page PDF file that you can download from the Native Plant Library on the Wildflower Center web page. The other is "Five Steps to Successful Prairie Meadow Establishment" from Windstar Wildlife Institute. This article is written by Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin. He stresses site preparation and using only perennials. In your plot an ideal mix would be perennial wildflowers with perennial native grasses. One suggestion for your area is to plant a cover crop with your perennials and to keep the plot mowed for the first two years. This will keep the annuals from producing seeds and allow the perennials to get established.
 

More Wildflowers Questions

Solution to preserve cut wildflowers from Sugarland TX
April 23, 2012 - What is the best solution to preserve cut wildflowers in? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Deer Resistant, Fast Growing Groundcover Suggestions for Georgia
April 20, 2013 - Our driveway is 1/4 mile in length and is steep on both sides (one side up one side down). It currently has grass that our contractor planted using seed when we built our house. We are unable to cut t...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower gardening for Citrus Co., Florida
March 07, 2008 - I live in Citrus County Florida, on the north central, west side of the state. I hope to start a wildflower meadow in my natural back yard. Can you recommend good wildflowers to grow, and where to g...
view the full question and answer

Castillea indivisa as Texas native Indian Paintbrush
February 05, 2007 - Upon researching the Texas Indian-Paintbrush I have satisfactorially come up with the latin name Castilleja foliolosa, funny thing is on the plants.usda.gov site it shows that this plant grows ...
view the full question and answer

Are bluebonnets toxic to horses from Pearland TX
March 10, 2011 - Are bluebonnets toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center