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Native Wildflower Gardens

Native Wildflower Planting Guide and FAQ

You’re on your way to creating a garden that will attract birds, bees, butterflies, and many other pollinators. This gorgeous garden will offer food, shelter, nesting sites, and restore a bit of natural prairie to your corner of the world. Let’s get gardening!

Why plant native wildflowers?

Pollination needed! Native prairie and wildflower habitat is disappearing due to urban sprawl, agricultural practices, invasive species, and non-native landscaping practices. This loss of habitat means our army of pollinators – birds, bees, butterflies, moths, and more – can’t find adequate food, shelter, or nesting sites and their populations are declining. We depend on them to do the hard work of pollinating our gardens, trees, and large food crops. By restoring just a small piece with native plants, you can help preserve habitat for these very important pollinators.

Did you know? Insect pollinators provide fertilization for at least 75% of flowering plants and crops? If you grow a vegetable garden, berry bushes, or fruit trees, having a wildflower garden will actually boost your harvests!

Eco-diversity! Pollinators need variety, though, and that’s why it’s important to have a diverse mix of plants with some blooming or producing seeds and nesting sites throughout the entire season. Yes, they’ll stop at exotic/non-native ornamentals or hybridized nursery-bought flowers but pollinators get the most benefit from flowers native to the region. These flowers provide the optimal nutrition and bloom or grow during the natural time of the season when pollinators need. For instance, Monarch butterflies will only lay eggs (in mid- to late-summer) on Milkweed because their caterpillars can only eat Milkweed as they grow. By creating a diverse garden within their flight path that’s blooming on schedule, you will give them a place to stop and reproduce.

Easy to grow! Native wildflowers are best adapted to the region’s soil, hydrology, and climate so they require little maintenance or additional care once established. They will also spread profusely all on their own

Season long blooms. Our mixes are designed with a blend that will produce blooms from Spring until Fall and interesting plant structure into winter. These make great cutting gardens and create an island of colorful beauty through the entire growing season.

Fixes problem areas. Native plants are also a great way to fix problems areas in your landscape: their deep root systems can help stabilize eroding banks, slow down runoff from heavy rains, and help replenish the soil with rich organic matter.

Why choose Clovers Garden Native Wildflower Seed Mixes?

Our seed mixes have no filler (unlike those in big box stores) and to ensure the highest quality seed, we have independent laboratories conduct a Pure Live Seed (PLS) test on our seed to measure the purity and viability of each seed lot.

We also choose the highest quality seed from our region and each mix is specially formulated to those growing condition – some are even specifically enhanced with extra seeds to appeal to wildlife native such as monarchs.

Are these seeds organic?

To ensure the best quality seed, growing fields are treated with herbicide at year’s end to kill weed seeds (so seeds are not strictly organic). However, we do not treat seeds with neonicotinoids or insecticides so they are safe for all pollinators.

How much will one packet cover?

Each seed packet holds approximately 25,000 seeds and covers approximately 500 square feet. How to calculate square footage? Multiply length x width of area you want to plant (it does not have to be square!). For instance, a long narrow strip of 10 feet x 50 feet is the same square footage as does a traditional corner garden of 20 feet x 25 feet.

For best diversity within the plot, we recommend planting the entire seed packet but it is possible to divide it into multiple planting areas.

How long will it take to grow?

Native plants spend their energy at first establishing roots so it takes time to have a fully blooming prairie. But once they reach maturity, they’ll thrive and multiply into a garden that requires little maintenance or work from you.

Where should I plant these seeds?

These seed mixes began as flowers in the Upper Midwest and are meant to be grown in the regions shown here (generally Zones 4b to 6a). These areas have the ideal temperature, moisture, and climate ranges. This ensures long-term success because the plants are best suited to those growing conditions (i.e. they need freezing winter temperatures to germinate); they’re resistant to pests or soil diseases in those areas, and (probably most importantly) the birds, bees, butterflies, and pollinators are adapted to those plants. Of course, you can plant in regions outside the Upper Midwest but some plants will struggle with growing conditions outside these zones.

Specific planting area should receive full sun for most of the day and consistent amounts of moisture throughout the season (normal to the time of year).

When should I plant?

Best planting time is October through May – freezing or cold temperatures support germination, water is more plentiful during this time of year, and there is less competition for resources from other plants.

How to plant?

Prepare the garden. Before digging, call your local utilities and have any buried lines marked! Choose a site with good drainage and as flat as possible. If planting on a slope or area prone to run-off, site must be stabilized with erosion control methods such as bank stabilization, silt fences, or straw mulch. If this is not done, seed will run off during the first heavy rain storm. As the plant root system becomes established, soils and slopes will become more stable.

Once you’ve selected a location with good sunlight and adequate drainage, remove unwanted vegetation either by hand-pulling or treating with a herbicide. In some cases, you may already have native species you want to preserve. It is possible to incorporate these plants with new seeds but established plants may take water away from the growing plants or provide too much shade. Clear other debris such as large stones and remove overhead growth and branches which may provide shade.

Once vegetation is removed, thoroughly till the surface to about 4 inches deep until soil breaks apart easily (now is a great time to work in compost or manure). After tilling, remove any large chunks and rake to an even surface.

Sow the Seed. For easy spreading and even distribution, mix seed with a natural filler such as sand, kitty litter, sawdust, or vermiculite. Spray filler lightly with water so seeds will stick to it. Using a broadcaster or by hand, spread half the seed over the entire seed bed. Beginning at the opposite end, spread the remaining seed. Lightly roll or tamp seed down to no more than ¼” deep. If planting on a slope, install erosion fabric over the seed to avoid rainfall washing seeds away.

Let it Grow. Keep an eye on your growing garden and remove weeds or grass as they pop up. If by mid-season or late summer it becomes too hard to keep grasses and weeds out, mow to about 8” to 10” high . This will not hurt your native flowers! It will, though, thin out the canopy so sunlight can get to the new plants. Larger prairie projects even do controlled burns to keep weed growth down!

Unless your region is going through a drought during the first few years, you do not need to water or fertilize the garden. Normal rainfall and healthy soil are enough to support good growth. During the first growing season, these plants will need about 1” or water per week – too much water will encourage weed growth so it’s better to go drier than you think you need.

At the end of the growing season, let the flowers stand so their seeds can fall and regrow. Most plants in this mix will bloom up until the first frost and in winter continue to provide habitat and  interesting texture to the landscape.