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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 - September 03, 2011

From: Perkasie, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Survival of wildflowers after Hurricane Irene in Perkasie PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, We have (had) a beautiful row of wildflowers and sunflowers along the one side of our house. Now that Hurricane Irene has passed, most of the flowers are matted down from the wind and rain. Any suggestions on how to repair or salvage the plants? Or do I just cut them all back, start over, and wait until next year? Thanks!

ANSWER:

We are sorry about Irene and the damage it did. Not even native plants can withstand that kind of blow. By now, you may already know the answer to your question, as your plants may be standing up and looking about to see what happened. You didn't say what plants (besides the sunflower) you had, or whether they are annuals or perennials. Both will seed out after they have bloomed; by this time, those seeds should already have gone into the ground, and hopefully not all of them were washed away. Many wildflowers are annuals, and they put out tons of seeds to provide for the eventuality you encountered, that of very bad weather. On the other hand, most perennials will die back to the ground in the Fall anyway, and return the next Spring from roots. Since you may not know which are annuals and which are perennials, we are going to suggest you trim everything down to about 6" above the ground, mostly to mark where they are when Spring comes. This will take the weight of the "drowned" upper parts of the plants, and permit them to stand up and get some sun. If the annuals simply lie there, you can pull them out at the first frost, hoping that some seeds are still down there in the protective dirt, waiting to reappear. The prennials should start putting out new leaves from the roots when the earth begins to warm next Spring.

The same information applies to your sunflowers. There are 46 plants with the common name "sunflower" native to North America, and 19 native to Pennsylvania. Some are annuals, some perennials, but all are sturdy and good at propagating themselves. You will probably get no more blooms this year, no matter what, but we believe they will be back next year.

 

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