CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A friend gave me an interesting booklet from Sherry Thaxton, state coordinator of the Adopt-A-Highway/Operation Wildflower. It's a guide to help homeowners plant wildflowers -- just like the popular plantings along our highways.
Although wildflower seeds shouldn't be planted until fall, I'm sharing this information now so seeds can be ordered and site preparation can be done. Also, summer is a great time to mark plants so that when they go to seed, you can collect the seeds for later planting.
The brochure gives these tips:
An all-annual mix generally will not reseed itself; an all-perennial mix will not flower profusely the first year. Annuals are generally more colorful than perennials. Native and naturalized species will grow better in your area. Beds near the house are usually best with plants that grow to a height of less than 3 feet. Tall plants are better suited to meadows.
The brochure goes into more detail about site and seed selection.
Some species native to West Virginia include perennials such as butterfly weed, lance-leaved coreopsis, purple coneflower, blanket flower, blazing star, blue flax, perennial lupine, prairie coneflower, black-eyed Susan. Annuals include cosmos and calliopsis.
The brochure also lists many nonnative species tolerant to our environment, including white yarrow, cornflower, ox-eye daisy, several poppy varieties and sweet pea.
A northeastern mixture will do best in West Virginia (this mix contains species native or naturalized to this area). Annuals bloom the first year while many perennials do not bloom until the second year, but will return year after year.
Most wildflower seed commercially available is suited for full sun to half-day sun and well-drained soil.
Eliminate grasses and perennial weeds before seeding wildflowers. Cut or mow a planting site as low as possible, and then treat with systemic herbicide. Sites should be allowed to stand untouched one to two weeks, and then a second coat of herbicide applied if necessary.
Seed should be broadcast by hand. Do not cover with soil or mulch, instead, tamp or roll into the soil. General seeding rates are 10 to 20 pounds of flower seed per acre. (The West Virginia Division of Highways plants seeds at a rate of 30 pounds per acre.)
In West Virginia, the ideal planting time for perennials is two to three weeks after the first fall frost, usually in late October/early November. Annual wildflower seed should be planted in late April or early May, however, the seed requires large amounts of moisture for germination. Perennial wildflower seed produces best results when exposed to the heavy moisture and continual freezing and thawing during the winter months.
To plant wildflowers in small areas, scrape away surface vegetation with a shovel, then roughen the soil surface with rake. Mix wildflower seed with sand. Spread sand and seed mixture evenly over planting surface. Press seed and sand into soil by tamping down with a shovel or pressing it in with your feet. Water liberally. Keep well watered until plants are established.
How, where to collect seed