How To Begin
Wildflowers need about eight hours of direct sun each day. They also need good drainage. A long-term wildflower area will at times look “weedy”, but plants need to set and drop seed for the next year’s flowers. Place the wildflower bed where “natural” looks good. You will also need access to water for times when rainfall is sparce, especially when seeds are germinating and becoming established.
Soils should not be heavily compacted (you may need to till) and may need amendments to provide good drainage. Existing plants including grasses need to be removed. Wildflowers don’t compete well with grasses or clover. Rake all debris out of the wildflower bed before planting.
Timing the Sowing:
Fall, mid-September to mid-November, is the best time to sow wildflower seed in our area. Some seeds will germinate quickly to establish roots while others will not germinate until spring. You can wait until spring to sow (mid-February through mid-April), however, be ready for dry weather. After germination, wildflower seedlings may need supplemental watering.
Mix seed with sand, potting soil or perlite (4 parts carrier to 1 part seed) for even distribution of seed. Sow half evenly over the bed, then sow the remaining half perpendicular to the initial sowing. Walk over the bed or roll it to press seed into the soil. It is alright if some of the seeds are still visible.
Wildflowers for Spring
Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis): The state flower of Texas is a lovely blue and enriches soil as a legume. Seed is designed to germinate over several years, so for good germination, get seed that has been scarified for more flowers in the first year of planting.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium langloisii): This member of the iris family has blue flowers growing in a bunch with grassy foliage.
False dandelion (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus): This flower is a pale yellow compared to the gold of dandelions and has black anther tubes in the center of the flower. It is a morning flower that doesn’t last long after noon.
Horsemint (Monarda citriodora): This plant has flowers circling the stem in layers and looks like a pagoda. It has a strong lemony fragrance from the leaves and is a good nectar source.
Indian Blanket, Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella): The flower petals of deep orange with yellow tips makes this a bright display of color. Native bees like it.
Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa): This bright orange flower provides a contrast to Bluebonnet blue. It is a larval host as well as a nectar source.
Mexican hat, Prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera): This flower has red-orange petals tipped in yellow that hang down from the long cone in the middle.
Milkweed: Green milkweed (Asclepias viridis) and Antelope Horn milkweed (Asclepias asperula) are the most common milkweeds for our area although others grow here as well. They have white and green flowers and are important host plants for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. They are also good nectar sources.
Plains coreopsis, Golden tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria): This golden yellow flower with a reddish orange center is an annual but may last several years before dying. It is a nectar source and produces a red dye.
Prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida): These clusters of purple flowers are a good source of nectar. Individual flowers resemble little gingerbread men.
Wine-cup (Callirhoe involucrata): The goblet shaped flowers grow low to the ground and are a deep pinkish purple.
Showy evening primrose, Pink Ladies (Oenothera speciosa): Opening in late evening, these flowers attract moths and provide early morning color.
Fall Wildflowers (What You Are Seeing Now)
Broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides): These small yellow flowers grow on a widely branched stem. Pioneers cut several stems and tied them to a stick for use as a broom. Bees love this plant.
Eryngo, Candelabrum Plant (Eryngium leavenworthii): These are the bright purple prickly cones. Not a thistle, these are a nectar source and seed source for ground birds.
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis): Sprays of small, golden flowers attract insects each fall. The pollen is too heavy to be windborne. This spreads aggressively by underground runners.
Maximillan Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani): These sunflowers grow in large colonies and provide nectar for butterflies and bees and seed for birds. The plants put out a chemical to retard growth of other plants near it.
Prairie Agalinis (Agalinis heterophylla) These tubular pink flowers are a good nectar source. The plant is semi-parasitic on roots of nearby plants.
Snow on the Prairie, Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia bicolor): The white and green seen in fields are modified leaves called bracts. This is a relative of the poinsettia. The flowers are small and in the center. It produces seeds eaten by birds.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): These make tall plants with bright yellow flowers that follow the sun. Butterflies and bees love them and the seeds feed birds.
Western Ironweed (Veronia baldwinii): This plant has fuzzy clusters of purple flowers. The name comes from tough stems and rusty colored dried blooms.
Article by: Marj McClung, Ellis County Master Gardener
- aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed Wildflowers in Bloom site with planting information, seed sources, pictures of wildflowers, etc.
- wildflower.org LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center information and pictures of wildflowers for central Texas
- aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/flowers/BLUEBONNET.html Information about planting bluebonnets, including planting in Bermuda grass lawns.
Bluebonnet lore and fun facts.