Plant Wildflower Seeds in Fall
Don’t argue with Mother Nature.
Plant Wildflower Seeds in fall.
OK, most people plant them in spring, and that’s fine. But think about it. In the wild, when wildflowers “go to seed” after the flowers fade, that’s when the seed is dropped. It simply falls to the ground and waits for the cycle through winter to spring. So the naturally-planted seed is planted in fall, not in spring.
Earlier bloom in spring. Here’s another big advantage in fall planting. Your wildflowers will be in bloom several weeks earlier than spring-planted seed! And isn’t that what you want?
So now’s the time. It’s best to wait until killing frost, then clear the ground of grasses and weeds, just like you would in spring. Use a shovel or rake for a small patch, or a rototiller for a bigger planting, and just spread the seed. It’ll be just fine through the winter, and be up and growing for you in very early spring.
What about the annuals? If you’re planting a wildflower mixture with annuals, even all annuals, fall planting is still best. The annual seed comes right through the winter like perennial seed does. (There are some exceptions. Cosmos, for example, are native to desert-like areas, and may be killed by a late frost in spring.) But red poppies, plains coreopsis, cornflowers, black-eyed susans, plus all the perennials will come right through the winter for you and be in good growth before you can get out there to plant in spring.
Plant now! Don’t argue with Mother Nature!
12 thoughts on “Plant Wildflower Seeds in Fall”
Fascinating post. Makes sense.
I planted 3/4 of an acre with both the annual and perennial mix. It’s the most stunning wildflower field I’ve ever seen! I’m concerned that the seeds will not overwinter. I’ve read that I should mow down the flowers after they freeze and dry out. Is this correct?
Also, I’d love to send pictures of my project.
To Jennifer: How great to hear your meadow is a big success! We really appreciate you letting us know. As for a fall mowing, yes, it’s good to do, after a good hard freeze. Here’s why: In the spring, you want your meadow to come up fresh and green. If you don’t mow, the wildflowers will be ok, (Nobody mows a wildflower field in the wild, right? ) But if you do mow down the dead stalks, etc, they’ll be gone in spring instead of sitting there not looking great as the new green growth begins at ground level. So on a nice day after a hard freeze, set your mower on a high setting to avoid scalping the roots, mow the meadow, and then relax. You don’t have to remove the mowings; leave them on the meadow for a good winter mulch. Your meadow will look great for the winter, and your wildflower plants will appreciate it. Thanks again for writing…..Linda
Jennifer: Yes! We’d love to see some pictures of your success with our wildflower seeds.. Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org Can’t wait to see them! ….Linda
I totally agree with ‘Fall-Planted’ wildflower seeds. With so much to do after the dreaming, ordering, and waiting for Winter to come to an end and begin my Spring gardening, finding the first, beautiful wildflower are so rewarding and motivating. By then, I feel I have forgotten all the hard work and can enjoy the little
surprises.. That reminds me to do it again next Fall.
To Cindy: I really appreciate your posts on our blog. And Yes! You’re into another of the advantages of fall planting. There’s so much to do in spring, it’s great to work on wildflower seed planting on a beautiful fall day when all the other garden chores have slowed down. Enjoy! ……Linda
I have a list of (non-wild) flowers that I am planning for next summer and I am wondering if I should plant now: foxglove, larkspur, hollyhock, sweet William, birds eyes, lupine dwarf, phlox, alyssum. I’ve read conflicting articles about when to plant and if I should do it in the fall I better get ordering! Thanks!!
To Jeannine: A good answer to your question depends on whether you’re planting annual or perennial flowers. And your list seems to include both. As you know, an annual grows quickly in spring, blooms for a long period, and then dies. Annuals are a one-year deal. Perennials, on the other hand, are the flowers that “come back” with more growth and more blooms each year.
It’s always best to plant annuals in spring, since some (like cosmos) are very tender, In you plant in late fall, they come through the winter fine, but may sprout during an early spring thaw, and then be killed by a late spring frost.
Perennials are tougher, and will be fine whatever happens in spring. However, remember that no matter when you plant perennial flower seeds, they take two years to bloom. All that means is that as a rule, they won’t bloom until they’ve been up and growing and then gone through a winter. If you plant perennial flower seed in late fall or spring, all you’ll get next season is small green plants–just the basal leaves–no flowers. But they’ll bloom beautifully the following spring.
But here’s how to trick your perennial seeds into blooming sooner. Don’t plant in early spring or late fall. Plant about 2 or 3 months before frost, keep them watered, and they’ll come up with their basal leaves before winter. Once that’s happened, they “think” they’ve been through a whole growing season—winter kills them down, and then in spring, they consider it their second year, and bloom like crazy.
On your list, you don’t mention if the phlox or larkspur, for example are the perennial or annual type. But make sure before you plant. And I see some definite “exceptions” to all these rules like foxglove and sweet William, two of my favorites. Most species of these two are “biennials,” the third type. There’s always an exception–right? Well, biennials live for only two years. That means the first year, they act like perennials, with plants only, then bloom their second year, but don’t come back. That’s it. They die. (But they also reseed, so you may have them coming back in a two-year bloom cycle. )
These two biennials, especially foxglove, are great candidates for planting during summer, keeping the seedlings watered, and then letting them “think” they’ve been through a whole growing season when winter comes. Then you’ll have big bloom the following spring.
It all may sound complicated, but it really isn’t, as long as you understand the growth cycle of the different types. Hope this helps, and enjoy! –Linda
I purchased wildflower seeds this fall to plant this year. Unfortunately my space won’t be ready for planting because we plan to begin a weed killing regime that may last over the winter and early spring.We have foxtails that we would like to eliminate before planting. My question is- how long can I store the seed? I know I need to keep them in a dark cool location. Thank you in advance for your help.
Hey, Pam: Don’t worry, Your seeds will be just fine all winter if you keep them dry and above freezing. That’s one of the best things about wildflower seeds–most all of the species are “viable” for years, some for an astounding 100 years! So just tuck them away, and plant when everything’s ready in spring, after frosts.
And thanks for asking. Happy gardening, Linda
We want to plant your burst of color mix in the mountains of NC zone 6 climate on a hillside. We are thinking of planting in early May in hopes for color by end of June. Our wedding will be the last week and we are hoping this will be in bloom. Is this realistic? Is there another wildflower mix you recommend for quick germination?
I live in extreme Northern KY. I waited for a hard frost to spread the seed. We have had 3 weeks of 50 degree weather and some of my seeds have sprouted. They appear to all look the same. Should I till them up and plant more or leave them? More unseasonably warm weather expected for another week!
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