Due in part to the increasing urbanization of our state, many Alabama landowners have shown a growing interest in planting native wildflowers and grasses to enhance their connection to nature. This may be as simple as planting a wildflower garden or as complicated as planting meadows of wildflowers in an aesthetically pleasing manner to attract wildlife. No matter what the reason, several factors must be incorporated into the plan before the process can begin.
Gardening with native plants and wildflowers can attract various species of birds and butterflies to your property as well as reduce the need for fertilizers, herbicides and watering. However, much thought and consideration must take place when “picking” which wildflowers to plant.
Site selection is crucial for a successful wildflower planting. While some species do well in an open meadow receiving a minimum of one-half day of full sun, others may grow best in partial shade. Soil type and moisture must also be considered. A soil test prior to planting will provide recommendations for lime and fertilization that will aid in making your planting successful.
When establishing a wildflower garden or meadow, you should plant flowers and grasses together. The root system of the grass keeps unwanted weeds from invading the landscape by eliminating the availability of soil for weed germination. At the same time, the deep-rooted wildflowers will increase the efficiency of water utilization. Many wildflowers have roots that can grow to depths of 10 feet or more while grasses utilize shallow water.
Another important consideration when planting wildflowers is the desire for a nearly continuous bloom. Not all species bloom at the same time. To prolong the aesthetics of the planting, a diversity of species will be needed. Grasses provide a beautiful display in fall and winter and the early spring bloomers are most colorful. If the attraction of wildlife is one of your objectives, you should select varieties that will enhance viewing opportunities of desired species. Early blooming species will provide spring nectar for butterflies, while sunflowers and grasses provide seeds for winter birds.
Although the process of “picking wildflowers” to plant in our urban gardens and meadows seems overwhelming, it is good to know there is information available to help with these decisions. Multiple plant nurseries have informative Websites and offer mixes to address many of the considerations mentioned previously such as dry soil mixes, butterfly mixes and even mixtures that are just aesthetically pleasing due to timely and colorful blooming. For more information contact your county Extension office or Bennett Moseley, Certified Wildlife Biologist, 105 East 5th Ave., Linden, AL 36748; phone 334 295-8724.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.