Preparing Soil for Wildflower Plantings

When preparing soil for wildflowers, first start with a plan. Realistic plans that have site-specific goals and expectations as well as budgets in mind should guide you when you plan your wildflower planting. Consider the following questions:

  • What results are expected and how long it will take to see results? 
  • If your longterm goals involve a more ecological approach to land management, beauty and wildlife habitat restoration, wildflowers and native grasses will provide these outcomes but it will take several months to several years to achieve these results. The work to get the area ready for seeding will be extensive and by some measures expensive.
  • We recommend that you use weed-free compost in a 3-4 inch layer over the prepared soil so the seeds can germinate without weed and grass competition. In 2011 one of our specialty seed mixes was selected for the new world class American art/nature museum in Northwest Arkansas. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art used our Little Bit Shady mix with fantastic results. After careful evaluation of the procedure used there, we now recommend that all sites bring in weed-free compost for the immediate seed substrate. In some areas the weed competition may not warrant bringing in new soil but in the south and eastern regions of North America the weed seed bank is so deep and full of invasive species that it can be a losing battle to throw precious native wildflower or native grass seed that can be slow to germinate into areas of fast-growing competitive weeds (undesirable wildflowers and grasses, if you will).
  • How much seed do you need?
  • In the southern states, 1 lb. will cover about 2000 sq. ft. but in the other regions 1 lb. will cover about 3-4000 sq. ft. There is increased competition in the south with more moisture and more weeds (undesirable wildflowers, if you will). Therefore, the recommended rate for large area is 2X or double. Southern rate=15-20 lb. per acre All other regions 10-15 lb. per acre. These are moderate rates. Golf courses use heavier rates in some high visibility areas. Remember to estimate your plot size conservatively and expand when you see success.
  • What is the exposure? 
  • Is it full sun, or partly shaded? Dark shade (no direct light whatsoever) is not recommended for seeding wildflowers. If the area has less than 6 hours of full sun or is dappled light, you will want to consider using a shade tolerant mixture or shade-loving species. Little Bit Shady is an excellent and colorful mix for these areas.
  • Wildflowers are an investment in beauty, local ecology, color and wildlife diversity.Wildflowers that are native (originally found in an area) are more expensive but much more long-lived than many flowers sold in mixes that are not native. Wildflowers from your region will usually persist many years once they establish. Less expensive mixtures of flower seeds can certainly be found but the results may be disappointing. We are endorsing the use of the wildflowers that are regionally native  for conservation purposes. Click to choose your region.