Seeding Perrenials in Fall

gaia_girl(z 6 SW ID)August 30, 2008


I have a ton of wildflower seeds (Echinacea, Valerian, Mugwort, Poppies, etc...), that apparently can all be seeded in the fall. I was wondering if anyone has had experience with this, and particularly:

1. When to do it (how late in the season, is it too late now?)

2. How to seed (soil/water conditions, etc...)

3. Care in general (lots of water, mulch in winter, etc...)

And, anything else anyone has to add, it is as usual, greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancy_in_co(z5 CO)


I am not an expert at this but I will take a shot at answering your question. It might spark a little conversation with more gardeners.

I have successfully direct seeded several varieties of wildflowers over the years including Echinacea and poppies. I think the first thing you want to remember is that you want to mimic Mother Nature as much as possible. So if the seeds are starting to drop in your neighborhood from existing plants, you can probably start putting your seeds out now. If the plants in your neighborhood aren't dropping seeds, wait. NOTE: I live in a zone 5 want-to-be location (mostly zone 4 to zone 5) and it is too early here. If you put the seeds out too early, they are going to start growing and chances are, tiny little seedlings aren't going to make it through the winter. I generally put out my direct seeds in late Feb/early March. I still get some cold weather to mimic the cold stage of the seed cycle but I also get the spring moisture.

On how to seed, again look at mother nature. Wildflower seeds are blown about on the wind so they rarely require covering soil. I do not suggest that you just sprinkle seeds over unprepared ground. Depending on what you have in mind, you will at least need to rough up the soil a little. If you want nothing but wildflowers, you are going to need to seriously prepare the soil by getting rid of the weeds, grass etc and loosen the soil. A mixed field effect is going to take less soil preparation. And most wildflower seeds prefer lean soil so I would not add too much fertilizer. If you want no grass or weeds, you might prepare your bed this fall and plant in late winter/early spring. Depending on if you live in a windy area, you might have to cover the bed with some tarps until planting to keep the weed seeds from blowing in.

On the general care, it depends on the seed. The list you have above is going to need moisture to germinate but after they get a few inches tall, they are going to be quite xeric. If you don't get enough spring moisture, you are going to have supplement. Be careful not to overwater and they will rot.

Hope that helps, Nancy

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 5:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gaia_girl(z 6 SW ID)

Hi Nancy,

Thank you so much for the follow-up information! I actually have been observing mother nature and the Echinaceas in my neighborhood, and they have not begun seeding yet, so I will wait.

I plan on roughing up the bed pretty thouroughly, however where I want to plant the seeds, there were incredibly rhizomatous flowers already, so I'll have to dig deep and battle the weeds/old flowers during my seedlings' early growth.

I think that I will go with your methods, and will plant in early spring/late winter. That way, I can really prepare the soil well (I plan on planting a cover crop to add nutrients to the soil before planting.) and rid the soil of weeds and grass. Do you think that planting a cover crop first would be too nutritive to the soil?

thank again Nancy, let me know what you think!


    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 3:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancy_in_co(z5 CO)


Cover crops can definitely add good stuff to the soil. No, I don't think that it would add too much nutrients. And it is way better for your soil than pouring on the petrochemical fertilizers. (Can you tell I went almost completely organic about 10 years ago?) I personally have never done the cover crop thing but I think it is because I have such a big yard, that there is little chance of a cover crop getting tilled into the soil before I plant! Nto too lazy - just too many other things to do.

Good luck, Nancy

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 10:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Now hold on thar gaia girl. If you plant a cover crop now, you'll be lucky to get it tilled under by February or March. Then you need to give the tilled-under cover crop time to break down in the soil, and it will need warm weather to do that. So you shouldn't plan on seeding there unless you're going to wait until February 2010.

I did a cover crop one year, and that was some mighty tough tilling, believe me, and lots of de-tangling the tines. The cover crop mix I used had some kind of legume in it, which was good because it added nitrogen to the soil, but those dang things kept springing back up from chopped root sections all over the place the first year, and even the next year here and there.

So if you wanna plant early next year, I really think you want to mix in some already well-composted soil amendment, not plant a cover crop.

That'll be two cents.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gaia_girl(z 6 SW ID)

Hey thanks everyone for the advice. It is still so warm here in Boise that I am hesitant to plant any perrennials yet, everthough all over the neighborhood Echinacea is seeding! I guess I am afraid to put them out, in case they sprout and then will die once the frosts come.

I think that I will not do a cover crop this year. I was going to do buckwheat, which is really easy to till in I have heard, but I think that I'll just amend the soil w/compost and see what happens from there.

So, another question! Do you think that I should cover the bed with straw or some sort of mulch if I seed this fall, to keep the seeds somewhat insulated, and to prevent them from blowing away? I also do not have much money, so purchasing that neat-o ground cloth is kind of out of the question, as I am guessing it would be rather expensive. Lemme know what you think, and thanks again for your help everyone!


    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 12:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancy_in_co(z5 CO)

Hi Danielle,

I would sprinkle the seed, water well and leave it alone. Or sprinkle a little (and I mean a little) more compost on top. The problem with straw is that if you don't get much winter moisture, you are either going to have to rake it off in the spring - which will dislodge the seeds - or you are going to have to till it in - which will bury the seeds too deeply.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 3:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gaia_girl(z 6 SW ID)

Ah, I see. Thank you so much Nancy for all of your wonderful advice. I will let you know how things go! Happy gardening!


    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 11:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ditto Nancy. Also some seeds need freezing and thawing to break down a protective coating. That's an adaptation they have so they they "know" when to try and germinate in a climate with a pronounced winter.

One other thing I have noticed is that some annuals and perennials LOVE a gravel mulch for reseeding. That may not fit your plans, but I have a kind of semi-desert, gravel-mulched landscape area where stuff reseeds like crazy there, compared to bare soil areas.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 5:04PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Howdy from Montana
Howdy to all you Rocky Mountain folks. . . I cant believe...
Eating my Poppies
I know, poppies are supposed to be one of those plants...
Great Backyard Bird Count - 2015
Great Backyard Bird Count - Cornell Hi all, It’s...
Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado
Raspberry variety advice
I want to plant one of my sunniest garden beds to Raspberrys....
Help me plan my Colorado sunshed
This spring I'm converting an existing shed into a...
Golden David
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™