How To Grow Wildflowers

Springtime in Phoenix Means Desert Color

© Judy Hedding

Native wildflowers are beautiful and they are easy to grow. They are adapted to our soil, tolerate our sun and heat, and require little water.

In the Phoenix area, the fall months are the time to plant desert wildflower seeds in your yard if you want to have bright, spring color next March/April. Planting desert wildflowers is also a good way to attract native birds and butterflies to your yard.

Popular Wildflowers For Desert Yards

  • Mexican Gold Poppy
  • California Poppy
  • Toadflax (wild snapdragon)
  • Red or Scarlet Flax
  • Desert Lupine
  • Owl's Clover
  • Penstemon
  • Bluebells
  • Baby Blue Eyes
  • Tidy Tips
  • Arroyo Lupine
  • Verbena
  • Desert Marigold
  • Evening Primrose
  • Mexican Hat
  • Shirley Poppy
  • Phacelia
  • Blanket Flower
  • Dyssodia

10 Tips For Growing Desert Wildflowers

Finally, if you do plant desert wildflowers, remember that wildflowers which are left to go to seed must be cleared before they become a fire hazard.

  1. Plant wildflower seeds in sunny locations. You will need a minimum of eight hours of sunlight for good blooming. Avoid poorly drained or heavily compacted soils.
  2. You will need to water your seeds and seedlings to ensure a good wildflower display. Keep the soil moist for up to three weeks or until the seedlings emerge. This may mean watering every two or three days, depending on your soil type. When the seedlings reach one or two inches tall, water only when you see signs of stress such as wilt or yellowing.
  3. A decomposed granite landscape (rock) is an ideal medium for wildflowers. Simply sprinkle your seeds and hose them down into the granite to create a seed-to-soil contact and to protect them from hungry birds.
  4. If you are sowing seed in soil without granite, loosen the top inch of soil with a hard rake or cultivator to create niches for the seed. No need to loosen deeper than one inch.
  5. Before sowing your seeds, mix them with filler such as old potting soil or clean sand to help you distribute them evenly. Mix at a ratio of four parts filler to one part seed. Sow half the seeds as uniformly as possible in a north-to-south direction, and the second half east-to-west. This will ensure an even distribution. Hose them into the granite or press them into the soil with the back of your rake.
  6. Do not bury your seeds any deeper than 1/8th of an inch. Some of the seeds will remain visible on the soil surface. Remember that seeds not only need moisture, but light as well for germination.
  7. Weed early and often.
  8. Thin out thick stands of seedlings to one every six inches at most. You will be glad you did when it comes to blooming time. Otherwise your flowers will compete for moisture and nutrients and may become rangy and leggy. There is no need for fertilization unless the area is depleted of nutrients or is over-planted. Desert wildflowers are adapted to our soils. Fertilizing can produce lush foliage at the expense of the blooms. If you must fertilize, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer high in phosphorous.
  9. Birds are attracted to freshly seeded wildflower areas. Bird netting is easy to use in areas that are small. Another method is to spread a mulch of dried leaves or shredded palm fronds over the bed. When using mulch, check every few days for emerging seedlings and be sure to remove the mulch as soon as the seedlings appear.
  10. Remove the spent annuals either by pulling or cutting to ground level. Cutting to the ground level will keep soil disturbance to a minimum, preventing dormant seeds from being exposed. Cutting will also allow the roots to decompose in the soil providing nutrients and aeration. Cut back perennials for fresh growth.

Desert wildflower information and planting tips were provided courtesy of the City of Chandler and the Desert Botanical Garden.

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