What to expect when seeding Native Perennial Wildflower Mixes

So you are thinking about incorporating wildflowers in your yard, that’s awesome as there are so many native plants available that are beautiful and need very little assistance, if any, to prosper when they are planted in the right conditions - it is important to do some homework. You’ve considered your project and decided that seeds might be the way to go.  You may have seen those bags of wildflower seeds at the grocery or hardware store and are imagining that you will be able to go out, crack the bag and sprinkle this seed out and then maybe you might need to water it for a few days to get it going. You might expect that you will see blooms this year, that it will be that simple. If this was a recording you would now hear that horrible screech that signals – wait, something isn’t right. What I have just described to you in not a native wildflower seed mix, it is an annual flower mix that will go wild in your garden. Click Here for more on this. Most of the “native” wildflowers that grow here are perennial and they are very different from annual “wildflowers”. Here is some Wildflower Seed Mix misconceptions that I would like to debunk as they relate to actual native wildflowers.

1)      I should expect a bag of seed. If you buy those wildflower mixes that come in a small sack you will discover that 99+ % of the bulk of that mix is not seed, it is filler like vermiculite.  These fillers server two purposes, first it is a good way to dilute the seed so that it is spread out more evenly and it can even help keep the moisture level around the seed higher which can aid with germination. The other reason is that it’s there is to disguise the actual volume of seed, please note I did not say quantity but volume. Click Here to learn more about this.

2)      I should see flowers this year. It is possible that you may see some flowers in the first year from our native wildflower mixes; this is because there are some biennial and short lived perennials in some of our mixes that will start to flower sooner due to their shorter life span. Most perennials don’t flower in their first year and some like Wood Lilies take 5-7 years to produce their first flower. If you are unsure of what the difference is between perennials, biennial and annuals please Click Here for a short explanation.

3)      I should see germination in one wave like with grass seed. Native wildflowers are very diverse and so too are their germination requirements and habits. Some are easy and germinate in a big flush while others need a winter (or two) to break their seed dormancy. Some just hedge their bets and from one seed-out will germinate over several years. Some are slow and irregular meaning they germinate a little here, a little there and some more a while later. Some germinate in cool temperatures while other need warm temps; some need warms temperatures after a cool spell. There is a lot going of individual expression going on. This is why we don’t recommend seeding wildflowers and grasses together - Click Here to learn more about this.

4) Native plants are like weeds and will hardly need any help to germinate and grow. Sure, this is true for some native wildflowers but not the majority. When you see a field covered in wildflowers you must consider how much time it has had to become what it is. I speak with conviction when I say it only takes a little while to destroy what has taken many years to be and will never be again in your lifetime once it is destroyed. If you are building on land that has valuable plants growing on it - protect it. It is not easier or cheaper to repair it than it is to keep the construction area limited even if it makes it more difficult for the contractor. The contractor won’t be around in two years when your field it a sea of weeds.

5) Seeds are cheaper than plants. This is not the case when it comes to authentic native wildflower seed collected by hand from natural spaces and especially not when it is collected in the bush where bears live!! Some native wildflowers can be field crops like Blue Flax or even Brown Eyed Susan’s so they are machine harvested and that really drops the price. However most of the seed we sell is not available unless people like us go into the bush to get it - but - it might get eaten, blow away or be hailed out and we don’t know that until we get there. We are actively collecting seed from June to October and collect over 100 species. Seed collected from natural spaces is not even in the same universe as machine harvested crops.

We do sell seed in small bulk quantities as individual species and in this format seed is less expensive. When you buy a mix we’ve done that previously mentioned homework for you to make it easier to pick the right plants for your space and have blooms though out the growing season. However as we collect from the bush we are never guaranteed access to seed, each batch of mixes must be tweaked due to fluctuations in seed availability and this creates trickled down work for mix planning and adjusting content lists and seed pack envelopes.  We also hand package each mix, adding each species to each envelope which is the only way to insure each species on the package is in each mix. The long and short of it is that this takes a lot of work and planning on top of the seed collection.

Another reason seed may not be more economical is the overall success rate and time period involved. One established flowering wildflower in your space is a seed package in the making and every year it will release seed into the space. In large spaces we recommend creating islands if wildflowers that will be easier to care for and eventually spread into the large area, for more information about this concept Click Here. When you rely only on a seed a mix you are at least two years away from flowers, because native perennials wildflowers do not germinate in a single flush, establishment from a seed mix alone can take several years.

With all this new information might be wondering what native perennial seed mixes have to offer and if it’s even worth trying to do this but it is and here are some things to consider.

Native Perennial mixes:

If you are seeding a garden from scratch I recommend you use our wildflower mixes in conjunction with other things due to the slow establishment process. We recommend combining the seed mixes with plugs, grasses or even annual mixes or plants for some instant gratification. Also consider seeding these mixes under and around existing plantings that include other perennials, shrubs and trees. It is important that the seed make good contact with the soil and not be subjected to extreme competition from existing vegetation like an established lawn, pasture or field.

I hope you will find the pay-off worth the effort and time invested in native plants however you choose to incorporate them into your space. We want you to be happy with the results and glad you decided on native plants which is why we think it's important for you to know the above information before deciding on the best method for your project. Please call us if you have any questions about establishing wildflowers and we will be happy to share what we know and help you get the process started.

Grow wild and support the environment that supports you!