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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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Friday - November 27, 2009

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Timing for planting wildflower seeds in the Pacific Northwest
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you think it is better to sow wildflower seeds in the Pacific NW in the Fall/early Winter or Spring?

ANSWER:

Generally, the best plan for planting wildflower seeds is to follow Mom Nature's schedule, i.e., plant the seeds when the seeds would normally mature and be dispersed.  Here is a quote from our How to Article, "Meadow Gardening":

"Fall is the best time to plant many native species in Central Texas. Some seeds need a chilling period (cold stratification) to break their dormancy, while others have hard seed coats that need to be worn down or scarified before they can germinate. Sowing seeds in the fall often provides the conditions necessary to break seed dormancy. Warm, wet, spring weather then induces the seeds to germinate. Ideally, native seeds should be planted following nature's seeding schedule."

Although this article was written with Central Texas in mind, the same principles would apply for planting seeds of native plants no matter what the region.  You can determine the bloom times for most species of wildflowers found in your area by looking them up in our Native Plant Database and estimate that their seeds will begin to be ripe several weeks after the earliest bloom time.  So, certainly, the fall-maturing seeds should be sown now, but also those that matured in the summer and lost their seeds then.  There is a good chance that they need to experience cold temperatures in order for them to break their dormancy to germinate, grow and bloom next spring. That said, many wildflower seeds will germinate and grow just fine if you plant them in the spring, but your best bet is to plant them in the fall or early winter so that they experience winter temperatures.

You can search in our National Suppliers Directory to find native wildflower seeds for your area.

 

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