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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Wednesday - August 16, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Cutting back annual wildflowers after going to seed
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I purchased some wildflower seeds from the center last year, planted them in Nov-Dec and they have done fairly well this year despite our fairly dry winter. My question is now that they are done blooming and have been dried up for about a month now, do I cut them back to the ground or just let them "do their own thing naturally?" They are in a bed with some other plants so I would like to clean them up IF that will not hurt next year's growth. Do I need to fertilize them at any time also?

ANSWER:

If the flowers have already gone to seed or still have dried seeds on them, it is perfectly safe to cut them back to the ground. After you cut off the tops, shake out remaining attached seeds into areas you'd like them to come up in next year. This is especially important for any annuals you may have, as they will only return next year from seed. For more detailed and species-specific information, see our Native Plant Library's “Wildflower Meadow Gardening” information file.

As for fertilization, a good layer of compost may help but may not be necessary if your soil is already healthy. Keep in mind when applying any sort of top dressing that many wildflower seeds have specific depth preferences and too thick a layer may inhibit germination.
 

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