Section 5: General Wildflower Planting Guidelines

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When to Plant

Plant most Texas wildflowers (bluebonnets in particular) in late summer or early fall.

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Selecting Seeds

Select wildflower seed species appropriate for the area. See Section 7, Selecting Wildflowers by Natural Vegetative Region, for wildflowers acclimatized for specific vegetative regions to provide a variety of spring and summer color.

Mixtures of wildflower seed may be obtained:

  • premixed from commercial suppliers
  • by mixing the seeds of different species in specifically desired ratios
  • by planting various selections individually.

See Section 3, Obtaining Seeds, for more information.

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Determining Planting Rate

After the selection is made, call the Vegetation Management Section for assistance in determining the planting rate or use charts in the Wildflower Guide. The planting rate (number of seeds to be planted per acre) is based on the following factors:

  • type(s) of flowers being seeded
  • effect desired in the area being planted
  • percent of pure live seed (PLS) (see information on PLS in this section).

The effect desired in the area being planted will depend on whether the landscape is meant to be observed at long range (such as highway rights of way) or subject to closer scrutiny (such as walk-through gardens).

The department requires that seed vendors provide the current year PLS for each batch of seed. If the seed purchased was tested more than 12 months ago, it will need to be retested. (The Vegetation Management Section staff will provide assistance, if necessary.)

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Pure Live Seed (PLS)

All wildflower and grass seeding rates are specified in terms of "pounds, pure live seed." The total weight of the seed bag is not the pounds of pure live seed. This is not a reflection of poor business practices by the seed industry, but more a "nature of the beast" which can’t be changed. A certain amount of impurities (tiny pebbles, bits of stalk, etc.) inevitably find their way into each batch of seeds.

Assume that you went to the store and bought a one-pound bag of Bermuda grass seed. After getting home, you carefully read the seed tag and see the following information:

Purity: = 85%, Germination: = 75%

To figure the amount of Pure Live Seed (PLS), use the following formula:

%Purity x %Germination = %PLS

Using that formula with our bag of Bermuda grass, let’s see what we’ve got:

0.85 x 0.75 = 0.64 PLS

That means that your one-pound bag of Bermuda grass actually contains only 64 percent (or less than two-thirds of a pound in our case), of pure, live seed. (It also means that 36 percent or more than one-third of a pound of that one-pound bag is just useless material!)

So, in order to get one pound of pure live seed, you need to set up your basic proportion equation which says ".64 pounds pure live seed is to one pound, as one pound is to x pounds pure-live- seed." Or in standard math notation...

0.64:1 = 1:x

Solving for "x," you get...

0.64x = 1

...then finally...

...this means that you would need 1.56 pounds of bulk seed in order to get one pound of pure live seed (with the percentage purity and germination stated on the bag in this example).

The experts have recommended that you seed Bermuda grass at 1.2 PLS per acre and you have one acre to seed. How much of the bulk seed product do we need? Here’s the formula:

1.56(LbsBulk) x 1.2(LbsPLS/AC) = 1.88 bulk pounds needed.

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Preparing the Soil

Most species of wildflower seed can be drilled or broadcast over undisturbed soil; so soil preparation is not always necessary. However, there may be some delay in germination if the soil is not prepared, because seed-to-soil contact is essential. When sowing wildflower seed in turf areas, scalp the grass as low as possible with a mower before sowing to hasten seed-to-soil contact.

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Sowing the Seed

The method of sowing will be determined by the size of the area:

  • Small areas can be sown by hand or a mechanical hand device.
  • Large areas require a seed drill or other mechanical means that can be calibrated for the seeding rate.

After sowing, drag the area with a weighted section of chain-link fence or other rough flat object. This practice increases soil-seed contact.

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Watering newly sown wildflower seeds is not necessary, but may hasten sprouting.

If you apply an initial watering at sowing, wet the area thoroughly but gently. Follow the first watering with additional short waterings every three days for about three weeks. The additional waterings are necessary to keep sprouts started by the initial watering alive.

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