Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fall Plantings Bloom into Spring Wildflowers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fall Plantings Bloom into Spring Wildflowers

Article excerpt

If you are interested in planting a bed of wildflowers from seed, now is the time to start preparing the area for a late fall planting.

Choose an informal setting in an open, sunny area. If the planting bed is a weed and grass area, mow at a low setting and treat with an herbicide (Roundup, Kleenup) two or three times, one to two weeks apart. Two weeks after the last application, lightly work the soil. Avoid deep tilling because this will bring other weed seeds to the surface.

In Georgia and Northeast Florida, seeds should be sown in late November when soil temperatures drop. A general recommendation for the seeding rate is 10 pounds per acre or 4 to 5 ounces per 1,000 square feet. For small, intense color areas, double the seeding rate. After the seeds are broadcast, rake or roll the area to get good seed-to-soil contact. Apply a light mulch, one quarter to one half inch thick, to conserve moisture and protect young seedlings. Pine needles or straw work. Seeds will probably not germinate until late winter. If there is a lack of rainfall during seed germination, irrigation is a must. Typically, fertilizers are not necessary and might encourage weed problems.

If you purchase a wildflower mix, select one marked "for the Southeast." There are many commercial locations that develop mixes for different geographical areas of the United States. Wildseed Farms in Texas carries a mix specifically for the Southeast, or you can order individual species. Contact them by calling 1-800-848-0078 and ask for a catalog. Another wildflower mail order source is American Meadows in Vermont. They can be reached by calling (802) 985-9455.

Gary Henry, with Florida Division of Transportation, has tested various wildflower seeds for roadside plantings. According to Henry, Indian blanket, (Gaillardia); blanket flower (Gaillardia arista) coreopsis and Rudbeckia hirt (Black-eyed Susan) have been the most successful.

Indian blanket is one of the most well-known wildflower. Bright red pinwheel flowers rimmed in yellow are found throughout the Southeast along roads and beaches. Indian blanket has a slightly smaller flower than blanket flower, but otherwise the two look very similar.

Flowering may begin as early as April from established plants but will more likely start in late May and continue until frost. Plants reach 18 to 24 inches in height and have distinctive grayish green, hairy leaves. They thrive in full sun but will tolerate the high shifting shade common under pine trees. Indian blanket is a tough plant that thrives in hot, dry conditions and will even grow at the beach. Trim seed heads once they are completely dry and these will reseed next year.

There are 13 native coreopsis species found in Florida and one these, (lanceleaf coreopsis) Coreopsis lanceolata, is Florida's state wildflower. …

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