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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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Sunday - October 09, 2005

From: Brentwood, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native wildflowers and grasses for sunny field in Nashville, TN
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want to plant wildflowers in a sunny field (old pasture land) in Nashville, Tennessee. I plan on killing the existing weeds and tall grasses with roundup this fall and planting native grasses (what do you recommend). Then next spring we will plant wildflowers in with the new grasses. What wildflowers should I purchase for my area and is there a better time to plant them than Spring. Could you recommend a good book for me to learn as much as I can before starting this large (2 acres) project. Thanks so much!!

ANSWER:

A good place to start is in the Native Plant Library where you will find "Wildflower Meadow Gardening", a 3-page PDF file that you can download. It gives you suggestions for starting and maintaining a project such as yours. You might also be interested in "Large Scale Wildflower Planting", a 1-page PDF file on the same page.

The next step is to visit the Regional Fastpacks page to find another PDF file, the "Recommended Native Plant Species List" for your area, the Southeast. The list is divided into plant types, e.g., Cacti and Succulents, Ferns, Grasses, etc. For each plant the botanical and common names are listed, the range is listed by state, and comments are included that give the plant size, bloom color and period, habitat and other features. On the same "Fastpacks" page you will find PDF files for "Native Plant and Seed Sources List" and "Native Plant Bibliography". You can also visit the National Suppliers Directory in the Native Plant Information Network to search for nurseries or seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area. You can also access the Native Plant Bibliography and search it by subject.

Some of the shorter grass species on "Southeast Recommended Native Plant Species List" for Tennessee are:
1. Purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis)
2. Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
3. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
There are taller species of grass on the list, also.

The kind of wildflowers you plant will depend on the nature of your two-acre field--whether it is wet or dry, mostly in sun or in shade. The "Southeast Recommended Native Plant Species List" gives information about the preferred habitat for the plants on the list. For spring flowers you might consider Rose vervain (Glandularia canadensis) and for summer blooms you might consider such standards as Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) or Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). There are many more possibilities listed on the "Southeast Recommended Native Plant Species List", and you can also search for native plants of Tennessee in the Native Plants Database by choosing Combination Search and specifying multiple criteria such as "Bloom Characteristics", "Growth Form", "Growing Conditions", etc. Late winter or early spring planting should work well for most wildflower species, but the seed company should have specific recommendations for each species.
 

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