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Mr. Smarty Plants - Wildflower gardening in Leander , TX

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Wednesday - September 02, 2009

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Wildflower gardening in Leander , TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Leander, Texas. I bought a couple of seed mixes last fall, and had wonderful wildflowers growing all along our fences, all spring and into the first part of the summer before it got way too hot. We are going to be expanding the 2 foot wide wildflower garden another two feet (slowly, but surely less and less grass in our yard!), but I have 3 questions. 1. The seed mixes that I bought last year (Hummers & Singers and the Lady Bird’s Legacy Wildflower Mix); will any of those plants come back next spring? Or were they all annuals? 2. As well, I ‘m not sure what to do with the old stalks of the wildflowers from the spring? Pull them entirely? Cut back ½, 1/3? Mow or weed-wack over them? 3. And finally what does re-seeding mean for my wildflower plants? Thank you for your time and assistance to this novice gardener in Leander!

ANSWER:

It sounds like you have made a good start, and are taking a good approach, that of doing the planting in gradual steps. If you haven't already read them, we have three How-To Articles that should at least partially answer your questions:  Wildflower Gardening: Getting Started,   Meadow Gardening  and Seed Collecting and Storage.

Question 1. The problem with wildflower mixes (or any seed mix,for that matter) is that you don't know what you have, or what proportion of each seed you have, nor pictures so you know what came up is what you planted and not a weed. Although the mixes you selected are very good choices, we recommend that you buy your seeds packaged individually and mix them up as you sow them. First, of course, you want to research each plant and see what it looks like and make sure you have the right growing conditions for it. Whether these plants will come back next Spring is partially dependent on rain and heat (or cold) but you will probably get another nice stand. The perennials (and there usually are at least some perennials in a wildflower mix) will die down to the ground and come back up from roots, as well as from seeds they have dropped this year. The annuals, if they were not mowed before the seeds ripened and were cast, should also come up, and you should get more every year. 

Question 2. When you are comfortable that your annual wildflowers have all seeded out, mowing is a good way to manage, leaving the cuttings on the ground to decompose and enrich the soil. You llikely did not have the opportunity to do this for this season, but next season observe any plants you don't want or classify as weeds. They should be pulled, root and all, when they reach early bloom so you know what they are. What you don't want is for them to set seed. You will still get more of the same plant, because viable seeds are probably waiting in the ground for their chance, and wind as well as birds and small animals will transport seeds into your garden. But, at least you won't be contributing to the unwanted plant growth by permitting them to seed. 

Question 3. Keep an eye on your desirable plants, and let them do their own thing in dispersing seeds. Some of them, that bloom early, probably already have. If you want to prepare another strip of ground and seed that in the Fall, go ahead. Whatever seeds from your this year's plants are in the ground will likely benefit from whatever you do to the soil, and add to the new seeds you put in the ground. Nature is very good about striking its own balance, and survival of the fittest. As your garden develops, you will learn which plants are annuals and good reseeders, which ones are perennials and need trimming back in the early Fall, and which ones are not working out well. 

From the Native American Seeds online store, we found this page on the Lady Bird's Legacy Wildflower Mix which lists the seeds that were in that packet. You can use our Native Plant Database to learn if the plant is annual or perennial, when it blooms, what kind of care it might need.  Follow the link to the database or click on Plant Database at the top of this page. We chose Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel) for an example. Type in the common or scientific name in the first box at the top of the page, Click on GO and you will go to a page full of information. Read down the whole page and find all the other resources, even seed sources, links to other sites and information on this plant. To see pictures of this plant in all stages, go to the Image Gallery and get a page full of pictures of this plant in bloom, freshly sprouted and, again, more resources. 

Going again to the Native American Seed website, you will find an excellent article on their Home Page about planning your wildflower garden. However, we could not locate a Hummers and Singers mix there.

We also went to the Online Catalog for Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX and found a page of Regional Wildflower Mixes. That page had some good information on planting wildflowers and it included both a Texas/Oklahoma mix, with a list of the plants included and whether they are annual or perennial, and a Butterfly/Hummers list with the same indicators. However, the Butterfly/Hummers list is not all guaranteed to be right for this part of the country. 

Now, we're going to select 4 of the seeds from  Lady Bird's Legacy Wildflower Mix, two annual and two perennial so you can practice going to the webpages on each, and will include some pictures of the plant, and even the seeds, when the picture is available in our Image Gallery. 

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) - annual, blooms white, blue March to May, needs sun

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) - perennial, blooms pink, purple April to September, needs sun or part shade

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) - perennial, evergreen, blooms white, pink, purple March to June, sun or part shade

Castilleja indivisa (entireleaf Indian paintbrush) - annual or biennial, blooms red, orange March to May, sun


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Callirhoe involucrata

Callirhoe involucrata

Callirhoe involucrata

Castilleja indivisa

Castilleja indivisa

Castilleja indivisa

 

 

 

 

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