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Mr. Smarty Plants - Maintenance of wildflower beds

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Thursday - January 21, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Maintenance of wildflower beds
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need to know what to do with my wildflower beds in my front yard. I created the beds last spring, put in an underground soaker/hose sprinkler system and planted a Tx/Ok seed mix from American Meadows. Up came a lot of flowers and a lot of weeds and I didn't recognize. How should I prepare for next year? Should I pull-up everything that is there and sterilize the dirt by laying down black plastic for three week and start over with a new deer resistant seed mix?

ANSWER:

First of all, one person's wildflowers are another person's weeds—and vice versa!  So, maybe some of the plants you think were weeds were actually part of your wildflower mix.  In general, while wildflower mixes are great for meadows where a few "weeds" can be tolerated, they aren't the best choice for flowerbeds. Planting several individual species—ones that you like and the deer don't like—will result in a much nicer-looking, less "weedy" flowerbed. 

There are two ways to go about this—you can buy seeds for specific flowers to sow or you can buy young plants and put them exactly where you want them. If you use seeds and learn what the seedlings and young plants look like (there are resources listed below to help you identify the seedlings), you can remove the plants that don't look like they belong.  Native American Seed in Junction, Texas has a large variety of Texas wildflower seeds for sale, both individually and in mixes, and they show a picture of the seedlings for most of the wildflowers.  Alternatively, you can let those plants that you don't recognize grow and see what they become.  If you don't like them, you can pull them out before they go to seed.  Since you live in Austin, you could also come to the Wildflower Center Spring Plant Sale (April 10 and 11 this year) to find a great variety of native plants in containers, reasonably priced, plus your purchases will be helping support the work of the Wildflower Center as well.  You can find a list of species that are usually available at the plant sales on the link for the Wildflower Center Plant Sale shown above.

Finally, covering the soil in your flowerbeds with black plastic for three weeks isn't going to keep the seeds that fell there from germinating.  Wildflower seeds are VERY resilient and can remain dormant in the soil for years and then germinate under the right conditions.  The black plastic will work if the seeds have already germinated and the new seedlings have sprouted, but not otherwise.  Besides, you would miss the fun of letting the "weeds" grow and see what they are. 

Here are some sites that show a variety of plant seedlings of wildflowers:

1) Central Region Seedling ID Guide for Native Prairie Plants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

2) Texas A&M University's Aggie Horticulture Wildflowers in Bloom has seedling photos with each individual species. Some of these are photos of non-native plants.

3) Wildseed Farms in Fredricksburg, Texas has seedling pictures with its individual species—click on the 'Options' link to see them.  Some of these are photos of non-native plants.

4) Native American Seed in Junction, Texas shows seedlings for some of the wildflower seeds it sells.

5) The WinterSown organization has Seedling Photo Gallery that contains some plants that occur in the Hill County of Texas.

Whether you use seeds or young container plants or a combination of the two, you can find a list of Deer Resistant plants on our Recommended Species page.

Finally, here are a few deer resistant wildflowers that do well in Austin, Texas and are available at Native American Seeds (one of our Associates) or will be available at our Spring Plant Sale:

Corydalis curvisiliqua (scrambled eggs)

Callirhoe involucrata (winecup)

Coreopsis tinctoria (plains coreopsis or golden tickseed)

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel or Indian blanket)

Liatris mucronata (gayfeather or blazing star)

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)

Monarda citriodora (lemon mint)

Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies or pink evening primrose)

You will find more of the deer resistant plants for sale at the Wildflower Center Spring Plant Sale.

Here are some photos of the plants above from our Image Gallery:


Corydalis curvisiliqua

Callirhoe involucrata

Coreopsis tinctoria

Gaillardia pulchella

Liatris mucronata

Lupinus texensis

Monarda citriodora

Oenothera speciosa

 

 

 

 

 

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