Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - June 01, 2009

From: Pawlet, VT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Wildflowers and grasses in Vermont
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Invasive in VT.? I am ready to try seed balls in my SW Vermont meadow. (All the tilling and clearing of grass - or as sometimes advised - using Round Up??? for a wildflower garden? seems like so much work, how does a field of wildflowers gain hold in the wild?) I'm thinking things like CA. poppy, altho not native - won't be hardy enough to be invasive. Can you advise? I don't want to wreak havoc, but would love to see flowers blooming with the grass. Also, your instructions for seed balls is so specific about materials - has there been any success with sloppier applications? Thank you for any info. you can provide,


Mr. Smarty Plants suggests starting with at one of our "How to" articles and you may find others of them useful as well.  The article I am suggesting is "Meadow Gardening"—it seems rather appropriate for your problem.   This article gives you tips on preparing the site, seeding it, and then maintaining it. You would probably find "Getting Started" useful, as well.  Next you should visit our Recommended Species page and select Vermont from the map or the pulldown menu. This will give you a list of some 90 species of native plants commercially available for landscaping in Vermont.  You can limit that list by several characteristics using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH  option; for instance, you can choose 'Herb' from the General Appearance category and the appropriate criteria for your site from Light Requirement and Soil Moisture.  You can find even more possibilities by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database and selecting Vermont from the Select State or Province option and then choosing your preferences under the other characteristics.  Plants that you find using either search technique are the ones that will do best in your area and they are beautiful. Why bring in non-natives that have the potential for becoming invasive when you have these beautiful choices? Mr. Smarty Plants would NOT recommend California poppies for Vermont. 

There are numerous recipes for seed balls that exist besides our own How to Make Seed Balls (e.g., Path to Freedom: Projects–Seed Balls, Texas Junior Naturalists: Make Seed Balls) so, yes, you can be somewhat sloppy about the ingredients when making them.  The main thing is to have the seeds, a little organic-rich soil, and some clay-ey soil to hold them together when you add the water.  It is really a lot like making mudpies that you probably made when you were little.

Below are some suggestions for colorful, hardy wildflowers that are native to Vermont:

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Rudbeckia hirta

Monarda fistulosa

Monarda didyma

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lupinus perennis

Asclepias tuberosa

Gaillardia pulchella




More Wildflowers Questions

Wildflower seeds affected by mulch in Austin
October 24, 2010 - I have a small wildflower garden in my central Austin yard. In early summer, I had some extra mulch and put it in this garden. Now I'm thinking that was a mistake. The bed has re-seeded itself for se...
view the full question and answer

Sunflower with large, thick, fuzzy leaves
February 03, 2005 - Hello Smarty Plants: I live in Green Mt. NC and am a Master Gardener Volunteer in Buncombe County (Asheville). In summer several years ago we visited a garden which had a beautiful sunflower with lar...
view the full question and answer

Advisability of sowing wildflower seeds in mid-January in Lousiana
January 07, 2006 - Newton County borders Louisiana in SE Texas. Can we plant wildflowers now-mid January? The park has recently been graded and many trees blown down by Rita which will make it more sunny. The Garden ...
view the full question and answer

Native Backyard for Lakewood OH
December 24, 2013 - I would like to do away with the lawn in my backyard in favor of native plants that would require minimal maintenance, including flowering plants that would encourage pollinators.
view the full question and answer

Wildflower seeds that do well in black clay soil from Plano TX
November 21, 2013 - What native wildflower seeds do best in black clay soil? We live in Plano along creek w/ 8,000 sq. ft. in full sun. No manmade water source. Suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.