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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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Monday - January 15, 2007

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Inadvisability of overseeding winter rye with wildflowers
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I've recently had such phenomenal success with winter rye seed that I'm looking for a spring wildflower seed mix to dress over the same area -- a thin-soiled and pretty bare open-sun (and sprinkler-watered) 1/4 acre section of a lawn where I'm working. I understand that it is very late for seeding wildflowers (and especially too late for blue bonnets), but wondering if there are any other native varieties with which I might stand a chance of success if I scatter seed now. Looks like the weather pattern for the next week or so will be good for this in San Antonio so there is some urgency.

ANSWER:

In general, it is not a good idea to overseed winter rye with wildflowers; the competition from the thick stand of grass simply overwhelms germinating seedlings. Further, plants that flower in the spring need more time to grow before blooming than they would get if you sowed them now. It would be better to just wait until next fall to plant most wildflower seeds. Some seeds, especially those of plants that flower in late fall and drop their seeds in winter, might be sown now, but early spring would be a less risky time for that. A good rule of thumb is to sow wildflower seeds in the same season that they mature and drop to the ground in nature.
 

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