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Wilflower Planting Tips

Wildflower Planting Tips 

Wildflowers have many uses in gardens.  They add a special sense of place to flower beds and containers, and provide bird and insect habitat at the ends of vegetable rows.  Anyone who has seen a natural widlflower meadow knows mass plantings can be breathtaking. This guide will help you make the most of your wildflower planting. 

What to Plant

Annual species die at the end of one growing season, and will generally re-seed if allowed to complete their lifecycle.  Perennials will grow for a number of years, and may take more than one season to start flowering.  Many wildflower mixes contain some of each type, so that each year, annuals re-sprout around the perennials.

When to Plant

In mild-winter areas: If your area typically receives only a mild winter frost, if any, then the only time you shouldn’t plant is in your hottest season.  The best time to plant is right before your rainiest season begins, when mild weather and moisture will nurture your young seedlings. In California, this is usually in winter, while in Florida, fall is best.

In areas with frost: Most of the country receives killing frosts in winter, and so are generally restricted to spring and fall planting.  There are different advantages to planting in each season.  In the northern and northeastern geographic regions of the United States, USDA Zones 1 through 6, where extremely harsh winters are experienced, an early spring planting is recommended.

Here is a tool for finding typical frost dates for your area:


Any zone level information is a generalization, so you also have to consider the effect of factors like altitude, snow cover, wind exposure, proximity to bodies of water, soil types, fluctuations in rainfall, etc. on conditions at your garden site. Also note that rainfall is often as important as, if not more than, temperature. Local extension services, nurseries, or your gardening neighbors are often your best sources of information on planting seasonality. 

Spring Planting

Plant as soon as you can after the danger of frost is past, while conditions are still cool, and there is still a good chance of rain.  

Summer Planting

Summer planting is only recommended in areas that stay below about 80 degrees.  Many flower seeds simply will not germinate at high temperatures. However, in many places, variable weather and cooler nights make early summer fine for planting. The later it is, the more watering you'll probably have to do. 

Fall Planting

Many plants shed their seeds in fall, so it is a natural time to plant. Just like overwintering vegetables, if your wildflower seedlings sprout early enough to develop a hardy root system before the winter, they will have a head start over spring-planted seeds when temperatures warm enough for growth to resume.  This can accelerate blooming by as much as 2-4 weeks over spring or early summer sowing.  Some species will remain dormant in cold soils, and be ready to sprout in spring.  There is always the risk of seed being lost if topsoil is washed away, but seed that survives a winter will have a head start on seed you plant in spring.

Some species require a cold period to break their dormancy, so if these species are not fall planted, you may have to apply a cold stratification treatment yourself.  For species that we know benefit from cold stratification, such as Pansies, blue sage, and Rocky Mountain Penstemon, we have put instructions on the product page. 

Where to Plant

Most wildflowers want full sun, so find a spot that gets six or more hours of direct sun a day, the more the better. Sunlight is distinct from temperature, so planting in shade isn’t a way to get away with sowing seeds in the heat of summer. 

Any area in which plants naturally grow should support wildflowers with the soil as it is.  Most species require well drained soil, meaning water shouldn’t puddle for long after a rain. For soggy areas, choose wildflowers that are adapted to wet environments. 

How to plant

To prepare the area for planting, clear out all existing growth, including roots, turn the soil, and rake the area flat. While many wildflower species can tolerate a range of environments, they will do best in the same conditions you would give a new vegetable garden. If you prepare the area well, and provide judicious maintenance, it should be years before you have to do it again.

In spring, it is critical to plant within a day of clearing your ground, because a delay will give weeds a chance to germinate and out-compete your wildflowers.  Weed seeds lie dormant in the soil until they have the right conditions to sprout, which is what you create when you prepare a bed for planting. 

Mixing sand into your seed can make it easier to scatter, and you can see where you’ve sown.  Rake or press the seeds lightly into the soil, don’t cover them.  You can use your feet, or place a board over an area, to compress the topsoil just enough that there is good contact between seed and soil.  Water so that the soil is moist, not soaking wet.  Provide irrigation until seedlings are about 4-6" tall, after which they should be able to survive on rainfall, with supplemental watering when conditions are unusually dry.

If you plan to plant smaller areas, or containers, wildflowers can be started indoors and transplanted.  When sowing indoors, make note of which species require a special cold treatment, instructions are provided on our product pages.