Comparing the Cost of Wildflower Seed to Lawn Grass Seed Question: Why is wildflower seed so much more expensive than lawn grass seed? Answer: It’s not! When figured on a per-unit-area basis, the cost of wildflower seed and lawn grass seed is very comparable. Depending on the species used, wildflowers can be even less expensive than grass seed. Here’s the deal—it is like comparing apples and oranges, in a way. Actually, it is like comparing bb’s to bowling balls. Grass seed, like fescue, is relatively large compared to many types of wildflower seeds. One pound of tall fescue seed contains 227,000 seeds. Many wildflower species have tiny seeds—showy evening primrose has over 3 million seeds per pound, and cardinal flower has 8 million seeds per pound! So a small amount of seed goes a long way. It is the number of seeds that is important, not the weight or the size. That is one reason why we say it is like apples to oranges. The bottom line is this: you have a particular area that you would like to convert to wildflowers or to a native grass/wildflower meadow. How much would it cost for this compared to just seeding lawn grass? The key is in the seeding rate; that is, how much seed per unit area do I apply? Wildflower mixes can cost considerably more per pound than lawn or pasture grasses, but the seeding rate is much lower, so you need considerably fewer pounds. Picture a football field: if you started at one goal line seeding at a moderate rate for lawn grass (9 lbs/1,000 sq ft) from sideline to sideline, a 20-lb bag of grass seed would only last until just past the 4 yard line (the yellow zone below). You barely got out of the end zone!
A 20-lb bag of wildflower seed mix, at a moderate seeding rate of 15 lbs/acre, would take you all the way down the field, from the back of one end zone to the back of the opposite end zone—120 yards from sideline to sideline! Touchdown!
So, the cost per pound is not the whole story—the real cost of seeding is the price per pound for seed AND the seeding rate. Taken together, wildflower seeding is comparable, or sometimes cheaper, than seeding turf grasses. Here’s a real-life example: I checked prices on-line for Rebel Tall Fescue and found that it cost an average of $50 for a 20-lb bag; that’s $2.50 per pound. Yep, that’s pretty cheap. But you have to put a LOT of that seed out to get a lawn—7 to 10 pounds of it per thousand square feet of area. At $2.50 per pound times 9 pounds, that is $22.50 per thousand square feet for lawn-type tall fescue. The finer turf-grass blends costs more like $4.00 per pound, or $36.00 per thousand sq. ft. The pasture-type tall fescue variety, Kentucky-31, is a similar price to Rebel Tall Fescue and can be sown at a lower rate, but that’s what you get—clumpy, wide-blade pasture grass. Let’s say you have a one-third acre (= 14,520 sq. ft.) plot of ground that you don’t know what to do with, or that you are tired of mowing continually. Or a right-of-way area recently disturbed by the utility company. You could plant that one-third acre in turf grass for a seed cost of about $330 at a moderate seeding rate of 9 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. The nicer turf grass blends will cost you well over $500. insert photo of someone mowing a big grassy area With our Eastern Native Habitat Seed Mix, at ¼ pound/1,000 sq. ft., you could plant the same area for $165—exactly half the total cost of the cheapest grass seed. And you mow a couple of times per year, or not mow at all if you like. Yes, the Habitat Mix costs over $45 per pound, but you need less than 3% as much seed by weight as the turf grass seed. (Insert photo of this mix) A moderate-to-high seeding rate of our Monarch Butterfly Garden Seed Mix would cost $334, about the same as buying the necessary amount of grass seed. (Insert photo of this mix) The Eastern Native Pollinator Seed Mix, at a moderate rate, would cost $382 for seed to plant the same plot of ground. A totally native seed mix for a total cost that is cheaper than the lawn grass blends. (Insert photo of this mix)
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Bottom line: don’t make decisions based on partial information—you might find yourself stuck at only the 4-yard line with some grass to mow, when you could have scored an entire field full of lovely wildflowers! Of course, there are other considerations when planning a seeding project. Check out our Wildflower Planting Guide.