Wildflowers bring bursts of color to home landscapes

K-State horticulture expert suggests planting a blend of grasses and wildflowers

By Maddy Rohr, K-State Research and Extension news service

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Wildflowers offer variety and color to a home landscape. In addition to eye appeal, they can survive in soils containing a wide range of chemistry pH and with varying numbers of sunny days, adding variety to garden areas.

To establish a wildflower area, Kansas State University horticulture expert Ward Upham recommends using a regional seed blend from Sharp Brothers, Stock Seed or Wildseed Farms.

“It is better to choose a blend of grasses and wildflowers rather than a single species,” Upham said.

When building a wildflower area, first remove existing vegetation to help wildflowers take root and grow.

Upham recommends:

  • Control perennial weeds by using a product containing glyphosate
  • Use glyphosate the fall before planting to make soil preparation easier the following spring.
  • Before planting, adjust pH and fertilize according to results of a soil test.
  • The seedbed should be firm so that the boot heel sinks in no more than ½ inch. The goal is good seed/soil contact
  • Mix seed with damp sand (4:1 sand/seed) for more uniform coverage with a drop seeder or whirlybird spreader
  • Rake seed in about ¼ inch deep. It is best if the seedbed is firmed up by using a roller or driving over the area with a riding lawn mower. Don’t mulch
  • Keep seed moist while the seed is germinating (3-4 times per week, if possible). Slowly back off watering as plants develop.

“Warm-season grasses and most prairie flowers should be seeded between April 1 and May 15,” Upham said. “To control remaining living vegetation, spray with a product containing glyphosate, wait a week and plant.”

Keeping the soil at lease 60 degrees Fahrenheit is also important before planting seeds, Upham said. Soil thermometers are available in most garden centers, hardware stores and auto stores.

“Hand weeding can help but must be done with care to avoid uprooting small prairie flowers. Mow as high as possible to help control fast growing weeds while preserving most of the foliage on the prairie flower,” Upham said.

Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes and gardens. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.

Interested persons can also send their garden and yard-related questions to Upham at wupham@ksu.edu, or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.

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