Wildflowers that compete best with Grasses

johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)December 30, 2004

Which wildflowers compete best with grasses? Coneflowers, Daisies, others????

I am planting a large meadow and want to plant the most grass tolerant wildflowers I can. The more agressive the better. My budget is very limited, so I need to get a lot of bang for my buck.

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John_Blakeman(z5/6 OH)

Sorry, but a wildflower meadow without grasses will quickly turn into a mass of weeds. Try to find a natural wildflower meadow (outside of deserts) that doesn't have an abundance of supporting grasses. There aren't any. In short, grasses are required to fill in spaces between the forbs (proper name for meadow wildflowers) and keep out the weeds. The grasses alwo support the forbs.

The only aggressive non-grasses that can aggressively compete with grasses are things like Canada thistle, queen anne's lace, and some other undesirables.

I'm afraid that you'll have to rethink your project. What's on the site now? How do plan to get rid of existing vegetation?

Sorry for the bad news.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 9:37AM
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As John (somewhat bluntly) explained, prairies are communities of native grasses and wildflowers. Depending on what grasses you're talking about...a prairie may be easy (or not) for you.
Mine is now 5 years old and filled with spots of color from March till November. The grasses and forbs are settling in nicely and both reseeding and spreading well.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 11:21AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

I've seen people plant small strips or squares of a mix of native forbs and grasses throughout a larger area they wanted to convert. The idea is that the native grasses and forbs seed themselves into the adjacent areas. It's a way to save money on seed. I've seen it work, albeit slowly. April

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 4:50PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

I think people may be giving you the wrong impression. Prairies are naturally very colorful, with a mix of grasses and showy flowers. The difficulty is getting them established, since annual weeds tend to outcompete the more conservative plants early on, and these are the ones found in more stable prairies with native grasses. Once the desirable flowers and grasses get established, they do a pretty good job of keeping out weeds.

A short list might include yellow coneflower, purple coneflower, rigid goldenrod, new england aster, blazing star, mountain mint, compass plant, shooting star, Monarda fistulosa, butterflyweed, purple prairie clover, rattlesnake master, hoary vervain. These will give you lots of flowers and will grow in concert with grasses throughout the year. For earlier blooms you might add prairie smoke, blue-eyed grass, prairie violet, ohio spiderwort.

You could probably use black-eyed susan and false sunflower and get lots of blooms for a year or two but then they will disappear and the site will probably revert to weeds.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 6:54PM
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johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)

I must have given the impression that I wasn't planning on planting grass with the wildflowers. Rather, the majority of the seed will be grass. I plan to plant a low growing inexpensive grass such as creeping red fescue with the wildflowers.

The site is currently 20 acres of bare land - cropland. Will plant next spring. Will plant approx 25 lbs of grass and 2 lbs of wildflowers per acre.

I would love to go with a low growing native grass such as buffalo grass, but it is way out of my price range for a project this large. I don't want grasses that grow over 12 inches tall. Creeping red is the only alternative I've found that is inexpensive and doesn't grow over 12 inches. I will probably mix in some white clover to help produce nitrogen (maybe 2lbs per acre).

I know creeping red fescue is somewhat agressive, that is why I want to plant agressive wildflowers.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 7:55PM
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I'd stay away from the white clover. That's my biggest problem right now. It grows VERY early in cold weather and inhibits germination of the desirable plants. It's listed in every prairie book you can find as a serious problem. I'd suggest you pick up a book like "The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook" before getting started. The book's a little pricey but blowing a bunch of dough and having to start over will cost even more!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2005 at 12:35PM
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macfairman(10 N. CA)

Buffalo grass has a low germination rate, sure, but blue grama sounds perfect for you. It's low growing, and germinated readily. Cute seed heads, too.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2005 at 11:32PM
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John - Since I'm in Missouri too, I'm curious whether you've gotten any financial assistance from MDC. Is there a grant or cost share program that could help you? It seems like you should qualify for SOMETHING with such a large project. Have you already looked through these?

Here is a link that might be useful: Incentives for Using Natives on Your Farm (Missouri)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 1:47PM
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johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)

Yes I am in a gov program, but not for the wildflowers. I signed this land up for a CRP-type program that is aimed at reducing soil erosion and sedimentation in public water supply reservoirs. I am planting 6500 tree seedlings in April and will be using the wildflowers to mix in with my cover crop. There is no extra payment for the wildflowers as I am already getting payment for the tree planting. I realize the wildflowers will eventually be shaded out, but that will be 15 yrs down the road. Purple coneflower and maybe some others may be able to tolerate the shade for awhile.

Anyone know of other wildflowers that can grow in both sun and shade?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 3:10PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

There are lots that will grow in both sun and shade..what kind of trees? It matters because some trees produce dense shade...others produce dappled shade, and most wildflowers require a bit of sun. Within your creeping red fescue, please put an ounce or two of little bluestem....c'mon, just for me? LOL ! April

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 10:05PM
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johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)

Dozens of varieties of trees will be planted. I'll have deciduous areas (many oaks) and conifer areas. Trees will be spaced 10' apart. Eventually most shade will be dense, but it will take awhile. Anything thats tolerant to some shade will last a couple years longer than those that one do well in full sun. I do have a small quantity of little bluestem that I'll add along with some indian grass. Happy? :)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 12:24AM
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I planted false indigo (baptisia australis) in a spot that's full sun now and will be in shade later for the same reason. You need to get a second opinion though in case I wrong. I know it's tolerating full sun (absolutely no shade) just fine but not sure how much shade it can take. Hope I was right. I really like that plant. The foliage is pretty even when it's not flowering.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 8:05PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Very happy.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 9:42PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

There are lots of things you could plant in your oak savannah...but it will take decades because, unless I've heard wrong(a distinct possibility)oaks grow slowly.

So, for quite some while you could still go with your original scenario. I have white oaks that have volunteered here that are only 8 inches high, and they're 4 years old.

Try to avoid Norway Maples and Autumn and Russian Olives! There are lots of natives you can use, instead. Just FYI.

Please keep us posted...and have fun planting ALL THOSE TREES! April

    Bookmark   January 10, 2005 at 8:31PM
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