When To Plant Wildflowers? Native seeds can be successfully sown fall and winter, but….
Each fall the question arises, “Am I too late to plant wildflower seed? Will it be okay to plant my seed in the fall or winter?” The answer is YES because that is when nature plants them. Late summer, fall, and winter is when most native species of wildflowers and grasses mature and make their way into the soil. If you have prepared soil ready to go for fall or winter planting, you are simply imitating nature. This is especially true for seed mixes that contain only native species. Mixes that include species native to subtropical areas or natives from outside their natural range–such as California poppy, are best sown in spring. Many garden annual favorites like zinnias or sweet alyssum, would be better planted in spring especially in temperate climates. If you live in coastal areas or in plant hardiness zones 8 or 9 you can sow in the fall and winter.
Here is an example of the difference: our Native Flower Mix for Monarchs contains only seeds of species native to the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast regions of the US. This mix is recommended to be planted in fall or winter, as well as early spring. This native mix will provide many butterflies with the native flower food and habitat of your region, AND those plants are naturally planted in the fall and winter when they fall to the ground. Our Monarch Butterfly Garden Seed Mix contains a dozen native species, but also non-natives–such as Candytuft, Zinnia, and Marigold. For this reason, you may want to seed annually in colder climates to continue the summer color and food for butterflies. This mix might better be sown in spring, say March or April.
Many of our seed mixes have “Native” in the name of the mix, such as, “Native Perennial Wildflower Mix“. There are also seed mixes that are Regional Mixes, such as “Midwest Native Wildflower Seed Mix“. Still other mixes contain species native to particular ecosystems, such as “Shortgrass Prairie Wildflower Seed Mix“. All these types of mixes can be planted in the fall or winter, as well as early spring.
The important question: Is the ground prepared? Seeds must have soil to fall on and eventually germinate into. They can become lost and unavailable if they simply sit on top of last year’s vegetation. So, with all these native, regional, or ecological-type mixes–worry less about time of year and more about seed bed preparation.