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?

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

Friday - June 09, 2006

From: Silver Spring, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native, non-invasive plant seeds for each region in U.S.
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I need to identify a wildflower from each region that we can package in custom packaging to use as giveaways at our member zoos and aquariums. Our project this year is called Conservation Made Simple and it focuses on backyard habitats. We would love to have flowering seeds that are critter friendly, non-invasive, etc. I understand that one size does not fit all, but am not expert enough to identify one per region. Can you help me?

ANSWER:

We can direct you to sources of information that can help you decide which species to choose and we can provide some tentative suggestions. If the member zoos and aquariums are spread throughout the country, this should be quite an undertaking. I can understand why you might want to reduce the number of species you have to deal with.

Ideally, the regions in which you offer the wildflowers would be ecoregions, but these do not correspond with state or cultural boundaries and they vary so greatly in extent that it would be hard to organize your project around them. Even native plant societies are organized at the state or county level and not by ecoregion.

The Wildflower Center has compiled Regional FactPacks arranged by state groupings that correspond roughly to traditional geographic regions like the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, etc. This might be a good starting point. For each region, there's a list of wildflowers that you can peruse to help make a decision.

This may not be feasible for you, but I'm inclined to recommend that you consult with state native plant societies and use a local seed source for each state. This would further limit the size of the region that each species has to adapt to. The National Wildlife Federation has a longstanding Backyard Habitat Program and their website includes a Native Plant Finder function that enables you to sort wildflowers by state.

You might want to ensure that the planting requirements are as uniform across species as possible. For instance, choose only plants that require full sun.

Keeping a few common wildflower names in mind as you look over the suggested lists may help. A few well-known genera with broad ranges include:

Castilleja (paintbrushes) - concentrated in the west
Echinacea (coneflowers) - concentrated centrally and covering much of the east
Gaillardia (Indian blankets) - centrally concentrated
Helianthus (sunflowers) - continent-wide
Lupinus (lupines, bluebonnets) - concentrated in the west
Monarda (mints) - almost continent-wide
Ratibida (Mexican hats) - centrally concentrated
Rudbeckia (Susans, coneflowers) - concentrated in the east

Loosely following our FactPack regions, here are some initial species suggestions for full-sun wildflowers that have wide ranges and are relatively well-known (and thus most likely to be available commercially). Keep in mind that the FactPack regions are based on political boundaries and not ecoregions. None of the species will be fully adaptable to all habitats within the regions. This is especially true for regions that encompass large states such as California and Texas and for those with mountains, such as the Rocky Mountain region and the Southwest.

California region: California gold poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Northwest: Common Camas (Camassia quamash)
Rocky Mountain region: Meadow Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
Southwest: Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Midwest: Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Northeast and Southeast: Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Mid-Atlantic: Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma)

Our National Suppliers Directory provides a list of potential suppliers you can contact, both wholesale and retail.

Eschscholzia californica

Camassia quamash

Castilleja miniata

Baileya multiradiata

Echinacea purpurea

Rudbeckia hirta

Monarda didyma
 

More Wildflowers Questions

Trimming back wildflower beds in Cody Wyoming
February 20, 2011 - I live in Cody Wyoming and I have some wildflower beds in front of my house that didn't get trimmed back this summer...they look like swamp plants now, super nasty. Should I trim them now?
view the full question and answer

Caterpillars on Milkweed in MA
January 23, 2016 - I have found every year a black/red caterpillars on my milkweed. They eat everything! I have never been able to find out what they are or how to get rid of them.
view the full question and answer

Eliminating Claytonia virginica in Varna IL
April 13, 2010 - How do I get rid of or control Claytonia virginica? It is starting to take over my lawn.
view the full question and answer

Shearing Pink Skullcaps
September 21, 2014 - My pink skullcap plants keep dying. The ones that are still alive are about 3 years old, but have large sections of dry twigs. Do I shear them and hope they come back or are they gone? I live in Helot...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on daylilies
July 29, 2003 - I have a number of Daylilies that are rapidly multiplying in my flower bed. If I relocate some of them to the field behind my house, will they crowd out the native wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

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