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Monday - November 28, 2011

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southeast
Topic: Planting, Wildflowers
Title: When Should Wildflower Seeds be Planted in Dallas, Texas
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

Mr. Pants: I have received some seed packets of wildflower seeds from GO TEXAN. How late can I plant these in central Dallas (8 a/b)?

ANSWER:

The best time to plant Texas wildflowers is in the late summer and early fall. August to Thanksgiving or December 1, are the preferred dates. So you can still plant them.

But as you start to plant your flowers, you will also have other questions.  Where on your property will they grow well?  What will you have to do to prepare the ground for planting? How will you need to prepare the seedbed?

Often, when I get seeds given to me or from an impulse buy, I don't plan for them in time to get them in the ground.  But, if you will put the seed packets in a sealed zip-lock bag or a wide-mouth jar, then add the little silica drying packets that come with lots of products, or just add a little powdered milk to lower the humidity in the package, you can store them in your refrigerator.  The goal is to keep the sum of the temperature and the humidity less than 100. Otherwise wildflower seeds will lose their viability very quickly and very few of them will grow. This way, you could wait until late next August or early September to plant them.

But you do, barely, have time to plant them. One of the easiest ways to prepare the seedbed, which probably needs to be in the sun, unless you bought seeds specifically for partial shade, is to take a string trimmer and cut down everything in the bed. Then run the trimmer over the soil until you have a really bare patch.  You don't want to till the soil because that will turn up millions of dormant weed seeds which will compete with the wildflowers. Another way to prepare the planting bed, is to pull all the large weeds. Then take a sharpened hoe and scrape off/cut the small weeds. Finally lightly loosen the soil with a garden rake. You only want to disturb the top quarter of an inch of soil.

If your seeds are small, they are easier to spread out correctly if you mix them with sand.  Use one part of seeds to three parts of sand. Then just put a board on top of the seeds and step on it.  Most wildflower seeds need light to germinate so they need to be planted about 1/8 inch deep.

Finally, give them a light misting of water but get at least the top half inch of soil damp. Since you are starting them so late, they won't get as much rain as they would in a normal Texas year. So I would water them a couple of times every week that it doesn't rain until you see germination start.  Just keep the spray to a mist so you don't wash them away. Then give them a long drink avery week to ten days that it doesn't rain.

You probably will soon be asking yourself if the little sprouts you see are wildflowers or weeds. The Wildflower Center has an Image Gallery where you may be able to find images of the seedlings. (Keep your packet so you can look up each plant listed.)  Another source I often use is the Wildseed Farms On-Line Catalog. Look up the description of each kind of plant you have and you will also see a picture of the seedling.

You will probably have to do some weeding early in the spring to keep grasses from overgrowing the wildflowers.   And, at least for the annual wildflowers, you will need to save seeds and replant next year, or just let nature distribute the seeds for you.  But if you mulch your plants, you will have to clear the mulch away from under the plants to have bare soil so the seeds can germinate.

One of the first things I did, when I moved to the Texas Hill Country was plant a mix of seeds designed for that area.  Even though the site had lots of Bermuda grass, we had a drought, and I barely watered the plants, they made a lovely show. I hope you get to enjoy your wildflowers also.  You will also attract lots of butterflies which add to the garden's beauty and the seed heads will attract sparrows in the fall.

 

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