The optimum time to plant Florida wildflower seeds is late September through late December. After germination the small seedlings are totally frost hardy. Our natural rain patterns will allow them to continue to grow through the winter and give you a beautiful flush of spring color. If you plan the seed mix right you can get species that bloom in early spring, then a flush of blooms from a summer blooming species followed by a fall bloomer. Seed mix is important for the longevity of the wildflower plot. Some mixes look great the first year but by the second and third year you will only have the dominant species left. But there are some tried and true mixes that do well in north Florida and come back reliably for many years. There will be some maintenance required to keep your plot looking its best. I recommend mowing once in summer to keep unwanted weeds down and allow the next flush of flowers to come up. If you have an extreme grass invasion you may need to use a herbicide designed to kill grass and not broadleaf species so your plot does not get choked out. Applying a grass herbicide is most effective in early spring (Fluazifop- Ornamec 170, Grass Be Gone, Fusilade II). Clover can cause a problem, because it grows in the colder weather and can smother the wildflower seedlings. Another issue is that clovers are broadleaf plants so herbicides to control grass in your plot will not control clover invasion.
Wildflower plots do best in full sun and generally do not require irrigation. There are some species that will tolerate part shade. There are also some choices for wet areas. Any planting area will need some preparation to insure the best results. Preparation involves removing existing weed and grass competition to allow your seeds to germinate without being smothered by grass. When sowing wildflower seeds they only need seed to soil contact, which is only 1/16 to 1/8 inch soil coverage. This can be accomplished by dragging a weighted horizontal chain link fence segment across the sown seeds or by using a drill planter. If you are doing a smaller area you can just use a leaf rake to rake over the seeds. Broadcasting or scattering the seeds out without the raking/dragging step will give you very poor results, often very sparse seeding or none at all.
1) Thin turf/ weed cover: broadcast the seeds over the area then rake or drag
2) Average turf /weed cover: Scalp turf to 1 inch, NO DEEPER, remove the clippings, then broadcast the seeds over the area. Then replace the dried clippings over the area as a cover mulch. In a average turf area you can also drill plant.
3) Heavy turf/weeds: Herbicide (Round-up) let sit one month. If thick, then scalp area 1 inch to remove dead sod. Using a seed drill produces good results.
4) Taking 2 inches of topsoil off will remove much of your weed and grass competition. But removal of all the topsoil often produces smaller wildflowers.
Flowering mix suggestions:
1) Mixing Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis lancelata, Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella and Leavenworth’s Coreopsis, Coreopsis leavenworthii will give you a blend that returns every year. Lanceleaf Coreopsis blooms first in spring, followed by Blanket Flower thru the summer and Leavenworth’s Coreopsis in early fall. Pink Primrose will also work with this blend for spring color. Black-Eyed Susans will do well on outer edges of the mix area for summer bloomimg and eventually seed into the area also.
2) If you have a hayfield or grassy area Leavenworth’s Coreopsis, Coreopsis leavenworthii will expand seeding reliably and return every year. It will also do very well in a damper area. This wildflower will reseed into the hayfield and even return after hay is cut each year. Coreopsis is not poisonous to livestock.
There are other colorful mixes you can put together. In 2019 NRCS has a Pollinator Incentive Program, 327 EQUIP, that will do cost shares up to $817.00 per acre for establishing wildflower plots. 7 species of wildflowers and native clump grasses are required to qualify.
If you would like more information on planting, choosing seeds, estimating how many seeds you need whether you are doing a small spot or large area you can contact Dara Dobson @ firstname.lastname@example.org or call 850-830-8996
Walton County Master Gardener