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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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Tuesday - April 10, 2012

From: Spring Branch, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Meadow Gardens, Grasses or Grass-like, Wildflowers
Title: Herbicide use in bluebonnet field in Blanco, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds. Iíve been throwing bluebonnet seeds for 6 years on our property near Blanco, and when it rains, as it has this year, am starting to establish a very nice spring wildflower display. I also have established buffalo grass mixed in with the wildflowers. However, the weeds are another problemÖ There are products that kill broadleaf weeds and donít harm buffalo grass (Image) but they kill the wildflowers. And there are products that kill grasses but donít harm broadleaf weeds/forbes (wildflowers). But there are no selective products that keep the buffalo grass alive and at the same time, donít harm the wildflowers. Bluebonnets begin to grow their rosettes in November/December. Iím wondering what would happen if I sprayed an herbicide like Image in September, if it would harm the bluebonnet seeds lying on the ground. I know bluebonnets have a tough coating in the wild, and wonder if this coating would protect them from the herbicide? If I sprayed in September, I was thinking the herbicide would kill the weeds, but the bluebonnetís tough coating and fall rains would protect the seeds until they starting growing their rosettes in late Nov/Dec. What do you think about this scheme? I try, but I canít pull weeds on 17 acres. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:

The word herbicide comes to us from the Latin herba = plant and caedere = to kill. Weeds, unfortunately, don’t come with a clear cut definition, and are sometimes in the eye of the beholder. This brings to mind the aphorism; “One person’s weeds are another person’s wildflowers.” You didn’t mention the kinds of weeds you are battling, so this makes an evaluation of your scheme difficult. I’m not clear what plants you would be spraying in September that would interfere with bluebonnets in the spring. Bluebonnets can begin germinating in October, and the herbicide sprayed in September may have a residual effect on the young seedlings.

I’m going to provide links to three sites that may prove helpful to you. The first is to this aggie-horticulture site that describes bluebonnet cultivation. The second  from our  “How to Articles" also tells about growing bluebonnets. The third selection, A GUIDE TO NATIVE PLANT GARDENING, deals with soil preparation when planting and growing wildflowers.

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

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