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Wildflowers as Landscape Plants

Posted - Aug. 16, 2003 at 8:16 a.m.



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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office

Wildflowers are great additions to any garden. When they move to our gardens, they often provide stunning beauty and may provide a sustainable plant that needs little care. Most are reasonably pest free and are usually waterwise plants that need less water to keep them blooming.

The term "wildflower" seems contradictory when used to describe plants growing in the garden. In modern use a wildflower is a plant that has not undergone any change or improvement by humans and is usually still found growing natively somewhere in the region where it is being cultivated. By definition, this excludes most modern hybrids and nursery selections of flowers.

Most wildflowers are hardy and durable and grow in the garden with little care. Wildflowers often are well adapted to some sites and do not need extensive maintenance if a less "manicured" landscape is acceptable. Remember that some plants need very specific conditions to grow and thrive. If they do not have these conditions, they will never thrive.

If you are interested in developing a wildflower garden in your landscape, look for plants with these characteristics.

Make certain the plant is not a noxious weed and is not so aggressive that it will invade other areas or crowd out desirable nearby wildflowers. The plant should not be poisonous to humans or animals.

The plant must be perennial or an annual that self seeds to maintain itself from year to year. This quality helps eliminate yearly attention to fill bare spaces. They must compete and persist when mixed with other vegetation.

Look for plants with some showy characteristics that make them desirable in the wildflower area. The showy part may be flowers, leaves, stems or seed structures.

When selecting wildflowers, make certain they are adapted to the conditions available. The plant must be well adapted to the growing conditions. Plants must be shade tolerant for the woodland garden, sun and drought tolerant for the meadow garden and water tolerant for a bog garden.

Many wildflowers work well in combination with other perennials or annual flowers in a perennial border. Plant your wildflower garden in an area designed specifically for wildflowers. You can then develop a naturalistic look with lower maintenance.

Placement of plants in the design is very flexible. Nature is very random and wildflower plantings should convey this appearance. Clusters or clumps of flowers look more natural and avoid planting in rows or precise geometric forms.

These wildflowers do well in our gardens and are easy to grow. Most are native, but some are introduced and have spread throughout the area.

False Solomon seal Columbine Prickly poppy Alumroot or coral bell Evening primrose Showy gentian or elk weed Jacobs’s ladder or polemonium Sulphur flowered buckwheat Buttercups Wallflower Stonecrop Golden pea, yellow pea, or mountain thermopsis Monkey flower Blanket flower Common sunflower Rocky Mountain bee plant or pink bee flower. Sticky geranium Joe Pye weed Monkshood Larkspur Lupines Wasatch penstemon Scarlet gilia Paintbrushes

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