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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Growing California Wildflowers


Arroyo Lupine, Baby Blue-eyes, Purple Owls Clover and Tidy-tips
 

Some of the loveliest wildflowers in the world come from California.  In the 1800’s, our local wildflowers became an overnight sensation when planted in European gardens.   Their unique charm and beauty still enchants gardeners the world over.  To add a special touch to your own garden, consider planting some California native wildflowers.

Most of our native wildflowers are annuals - plants that complete their life cycle in a single growing season.  Local annuals are uniquely suited to our mediterranean climate.  Most sprout with the winter rains, bloom in spring or early summer, then produce seeds and die by the time summer’s heat descends.    A few well-known native wildflowers, like the California Poppy, are really perennials.  They die back to a sturdy root in summer and re-emerge the following spring, allowing them to survive our long, dry summer-fall.

Most annual wildflowers produce abundant seeds, allowing them to reproduce even in our challenging climate. The seeds of most annual wildflowers are good food. Some are still collected, parched and eaten by Native Californians.  They impart their unique flavors to any dish to which they are added.  Birds also relish the nutritious seeds, so wildflowers attract seed-eating birds.  Planting annual wildflowers is a good way to make your garden more life-friendly.

Annual wildflowers can be easily and inexpensively grown from seed.     It’s important to plant California native wildflowers; packets of generic  ‘wildflower seeds’ from many nurseries contain non-natives that often don’t do well here. If you purchase seeds from reputable sources (see below) you’ll know you’re planting true California natives.    
 

Tidy-tips (yellow) and Globe Gilia (purple) in a local garden
 
 
Using Annual Wildflowers in the Garden

Annual wildflowers are extremely adaptable.  Here are a few ideas for ways you might use them in your garden:
 

·         In pots or planters – they make a nice spot of seasonal color

·         In a special wildflower section of the garden

·         Around the edges of a lawn or vegetable garden

·         Between ornamental grasses or around native shrubs

 
 
 
How to Grow Native Wildflowers


Follow these easy steps to grow California native wildflowers:
 

·          Plant seeds either in the ground or in containers.

·          Purchase seed from reputable dealers (see below).   Consider purchasing packets of individual species, then make your own special blend.

·         Plant during the cool, rainy season – December to February in most years.

·          Prepare the soil before planting by gently raking it.  You may also want to spread a 1 inch layer of gravel over soil (prevents birds from eating the seeds).

·          Plant seeds just before a good rain.  You can mix the seeds with dry sand to help you spread them evenly.  One teaspoon of seeds covers about 4-6 square feet.

·          Gently rake in the seeds – don’t bury them (no organic mulch like bark chips)

·          Watch for seedlings to emerge – usually within 2-3 weeks.  Water the soil if it starts to dry out.

·           Keep the soil moist until plants have finished flowering.  Then taper off watering, letting the seeds mature/dry.

·          Collect dry seeds, dry in paper bags and store in a cool dry place for next year – or let plants re-seed naturally.


 
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Easy to Grow California Wildflowers for Home Gardens

Common Name
Scientific Name
Size
Flower Color
Blooms
Light*
Water Zone**
Purchase Seed at (key below)
California/Mustard Primrose
Camissonia californica
1-3 ft
Yellow
Spr
FS
1
2, 3
Purple Clarkia
Clarkia purpurea
2-3 ft
Lavender
Spr-Su
FS/PS
1-2
1, 2
Elegant Clarkia
Clarkia unguiculata
2-5 ft
Pink-purple
Spr-Su
FS/PS
1 to 2-3
1, 2, 3
Chinese Houses
Collinsia heterophylla
1-2 ft
Purple-white
Spr-Su
PS/FSH
1-2
1, 2, 3
Coastal CA Poppy
Eschscholzia californica ssp. californica
< 1 ft
Yellow/Or
Spr-Fall
FS/PS
1 to 2
1, 2, 3
Globe Gilia
Gilia capitata
1-2+ ft
Purple-blue
Spr
FS
1 to 1-2
1, 2, 3
Bird’s Eye Gilia
Gilia tricolor
1-2 ft
Yellow/ Blue
Spr
FS/PS
1 to 1-2
1, 2, 3
Rosilla; Sneezeweed
Helenium puberulum
1-5 ft
Yellow-brown
Su
FS
2-3 to 3
1, 2
Common (Annual) Sunflower
Helianthus annuus
5-8 ft
Yellow
Su-Fall
FS
1-2
1, 2
California Goldfields
Lasthenia californica
< 1 ft
Yellow
Spr
FS/PS
1 to 1-2
2
Coastal Tidy-Tips
Layia platyglossa
1-2 ft
Yellow/ white
Spr
FS
1 to 2-3
1, 2, 3
Miniature Lupine
Lupinus bicolor
< 1 ft
Blue/ white
Spr
FS/PS
1- 2-3
1, 2, 3
Arroyo (Succulent) Lupine
Lupinus succulentus
1-3 ft
Blue-purple
Spr
FS/PS
1 to 1-2
1, 2, 3
Seep Monkeyflower
Mimulus guttatus
1-5 ft
Yellow
W-Spr
FS
2-3 to 3
1, 2, 3
Five-Spot
* Nemophila maculata
1 ft
Purple-white
Spr
FS/PS
2-3 to 3
1, 2, 3
Baby Blue-eyes
Nemophila menziesii
1-2 ft
Blue
Spr-Su
PS/FSH
2-3
1, 2, 3
Purple fiddleneck
Phacelia tanacetifolia
1-3 ft
Purple
Spr-Su
FS/PS
2-3 to 3
1, 2, 3

*Light:  FS=full sun;   PS=part shade;   FSH=full shade

**Water Zones:  1 = no summer water;    1-2 = very occasional summer water (several times per summer);    2 = let  soil dry out between waterings;      2-3 some regular summer  water (about once a week);     3 = regular watering/moist soil (like a conventional lawn)

 

 

See pictures and gardening information sheets for many California native plants
 at:



 

Where to Purchase Native Wildflower Seeds  (key to seed sources)
 

1.   Project SOUND Gardening – local South Bay native seeds and seed mixes.  E-mail us for availability at: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com
 

2.   Theodore Payne Foundation (can order seeds on-line): http://store.theodorepayne.org/category/SEED.html)
 

3.   Larner Seeds (order on-line) at: http://www.larnerseeds.com/index.html)

 

 

 

e-mail your wildflower questions to: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com

 

2 comments:

  1. Great article. I wonder if these would grow in Minnesota. www.peterdoranlawn.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. These should do just fine in Minnesota. All the wildflowers have a short season and do well under most conditions. However, they may or may not re-seed. Some need a period of dry weather in summer/fall.

    ReplyDelete