Contact Us Host an Event 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?

Share

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
1 rating

Thursday - June 30, 2011

From: Lucas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Care of wildflower meadow dried out in drought
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Plants, Our wildflower patch is completely dried up here in Lucas,Tx. What do you do with the field? Mow it? Trim it? Let it be? The patch is about 1/2 acre.. Thanks,

ANSWER:

This year's drought has been harmful even for Texas native plants.  But most of them are accustomed to dry years and will come back when conditions are better.  I expect that your wildflower patch contains both annual and perennial species.  As a meadow matures to about three years of age the perennials tend to predominate and will survive as long as their roots remain intact.  But the annual flowers, such as Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), require seeds from this year's plants (or ungerminated seeds left over from a previous year) to produce new plants next season.  If your plants bore flowers this spring they most probably set seed.  Mowing the patch will help release any seeds still in pods and clear the way for them to germinate with the fall rains.  Seeds will germinate only if in good contact with the mineral soil.  You might consider dragging a rake or board over the area if you think some seeds have not fallen to the ground. If you can still see seeds of a few of your favorite plants, harvest them by hand and scatter them on the ground in September in advance of fall rains.

If you have tall grasses, such as Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) or Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), do not set your mower blade lower than six inches.  Controlled burns of meadows with expert guidance are sometimes recommended, but it is much too dangerous to do this in such a dry year as we are having.

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks you will be rewarded with a fine crop of wildflowers next spring.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Smoothstem blazingstar
Mentzelia laevicaulis

More Wildflowers Questions

Federal database on use of wildflowers
June 24, 2008 - Recently read about wedding planned to reduce typical costs AND "go green." One action the bridal party took was to decorate with wildflowers. I was appalled. So, my question, because apparently..my...
view the full question and answer

Native wildflowers tolerant of lower water and lots of sun
April 17, 2007 - I live in Austin Texas and have a small bed in the front of the house which faces the east with no shade. I am not much of a yard person so would like to plant some Native plants that don't need a lo...
view the full question and answer

More on bluebonnets
April 05, 2007 - I live in Hereford, Texas, near Amarillo. What would be the closest area for us to see fields of bluebonnets and when? Is it Wichita Falls?
view the full question and answer

Best place for picking wildflowers in Austin
February 14, 2014 - Where is the best place to find wildflowers for picking near or in Austin around the end of March?
view the full question and answer

Neighborhood association wanting wildflowers mowed from Grand Prairie TX
July 14, 2013 - For at least 15 years, I have been fostering growth of wildflowers in 60% of my 90x400' yard which include 150' utility trunkline easement in which I can plant no trees. This year, we had volunteer ...
view the full question and answer

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