Wildflower Wonder

By Sharon Naylor

February 12, 2014 4 min read

Lovely wildflowers grow in the most challenging of places. They often live in garden beds without high-quality soil, highway roads and even in pavement cracks. Garden experts say these blooms thrive on neglect. If you love the look of flowers, but don't want to invest a lot of time on their care, you might wish to add a variety of wildflowers to your garden and grounds.

Understand, though, that it's not as easy as scattering wildflower seeds onto a dirt patch and watching them magically grow. There is a small level of effort involved: choosing a site with full to partial sun, removing from your garden bed any existing grass or weeds, keeping the seeds moist until growth is a few inches tall, and adding a light mulch layer of straw, peat or compost to keep birds from eating your seeds, says About.com gardening guide, Marie Iannotti. You must give your seeds some kind of nurturing for them to grow to their full potential.

In addition to the burst of color soon to fill your garden, there are a few additional advantages to planting wildflowers native to your area. The U.S. Forest Service says that native plants:

--Do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.

--Reduce air pollution. They remove carbon from the air.

--They give shelter and food for wildlife -- providing nectar, pollen and seeds that native butterflies enjoy and will be drawn to.

--Help prevent erosion. Wildflowers have deep root systems and increase the soil's capacity to store water. They can reduce water runoff and help prevent flooding.

--They can increase the value and sale possibilities of your home, if your house is on the market and your lovely wildflower garden impresses potential buyers.

What the U.S. Forest Service didn't mention is that growing wildflowers is an easy project that children can get involved with, from the growing to the harvesting stages. Seeds are inexpensive, so if your wildflower plantings for some reason do not thrive, you haven't lost a fortune in purchases from your local nursery.

Speaking of your local nursery, they are an excellent source of information on which wildflowers are native to your area, and which specific wildflowers will grow best in the particular conditions of your garden. You might also check the websites of top flower seed companies, or visit Wildflower.org, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center dedicated to the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

Here are some of the top wildflowers to grow in your garden:

If you wish to attract butterflies, plant black-eyed susans, cleome, cornflower, cosmos, yarrow or zinnia.

If you wish to attract hummingbirds, plant cleome, garden columbine, nasturtium and zinnia.

To attract beneficial insects to your garden, plant Bishop's weed, caraway, Dill, fennel, globe candytuft, white Dutch clover and yarrow (attracts ladybugs).

Additional wildflowers to consider, according to your region's hardiness zone and your garden center expert's advice are Bachelor's button, bergamot, Canada milk vetch, chicory, common milkweed, coreopsis, dotted mint, evening primrose, fawn lily, lobelia, marigold, morning glory, mountain mint, phlox, Queen Anne's lace, red clover, rhododendron, smooth aster, sunflower, viburnum, wild Iris, wild petunia and wild sienna.

How much seed should you spread to grow a full, lush wildflower garden? Iannotti suggests a quarter pound per 1,000 square feet, or about a half-ounce per 100 square feet. She advises you sow seeds after all danger of frost has passed and remove weeds as you see them.

Soon, you'll have a colorful wildflower garden and perhaps also enjoy the butterflies, hummingbirds and ladybugs they attract.

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