Spring Wildflowers in the Garden

Wildflowers are such a rewarding feature in a native garden.  Your neighbors and friends will be amazed by the color and variety.  If last year’s flowers were allowed to go to seed, and followed by good winter/spring rains, the flowers will delight us by coming out in great numbers and all corners of the garden.

Tidy tips and California poppy (Layia platyglossa and Eschscholtzia californica), Photo: Laura Camp
Tidy tips and California poppy (Layia platyglossa and Eschscholtzia californica), Photo: Laura Camp

In the fall, you can plant seed obtained from commercial sources such as local native plant nurseries, or at botanical garden or CNPS plant sales.  All of the flowers pictured here were grown from seed obtained either at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s (RSABG) fall sale, Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano, or the CNPS San Diego Chapter fall plant sale.

In the spring, if it’s early enough you can still plant seed, and California poppy will have time to come up and flower even if the seed is planted as late as March.  You also may spot wildflower plants sold in small containers, and these can be great for that splash of color, and also to provide a seed source for next year’s bonanza.

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  1. All of the photos are all great, but I liked the first one the most (mixed wildflowers). I had someone ask me yesterday about a native California wildflower seed mix. Are there certain ones out there that are better than others, how can folks find out whether or not the seed contains harmful weeds? Are there certain seed distributors whose mixes you would recommend?

  2. Southern Cal readers will probably recognize one of Tree of Life Nursery’s seed mixes in that mixed planting. The Tree of Life mixes were designed in conjunction with S&S Seed to fit different garden situations – Mountain Mix, Shade Mix, Nature Mix, Meadow Mix, etc. I used Beach Mix when I seeded the Tidy Tips and Poppies, but they are both included in a few of the mixes. They can be mail ordered (sorry for the plug!!). Here’s the link to the mixes available:

    Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden had a really great variety of seed at their fall plant sale, all in individual seed packets, I believe. They also had some great bulbs.

    Other than that I don’t know where to get wildflower seed. I would also love to hear about other sources! I don’t know the answer to your harmful weeds question either.

  3. Well, I know I’m late to the party, but Beth is right, the absolutely bestest place to obtain wildflower seed mixes in northern California is from Judith Larner Lowry’s Larner Seed Co, http://www.larnerseeds.com. They have several loads of both annual and perennial California native wildflower seeds packs in various sizes, as well as several different mixed collections available. They also have bunchgrass seed packs which are essential for starting a wildflower meadow. n You can be sure of getting pure seeds without any weeds or invasive exotics.

  4. One of the best easy Californian annuals for attracting butterflies to the garden is globe gilia (Gilia capitata). Some butterflies and moths known to visit its flowers include Pale Swallowtail, Orange Sulphur, Harford’s Sulphur,
    Sara Orangetip (fq), Cabbage White, an unidentified native white, Variable Checkerspot, Gabb’s Checkerspot, Mylitta Crescent, Painted Lady (fq), California Ringlet, Lilac-bordered Copper, Boisduval’s Blue, Propertius Duskywing, Silver-spotted Skipper, Juba Skipper, Umber Skipper, Western Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris thetis), and Ridings’ Forester Moth.

    I’ve noticed plenty of pollinator action on Tansyleaf Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) — which is large and very easy to grow; a large patch working particularly well.

    1. Thanks for posting so much good butterfly info, Jeffrey. Agree about Phacelias – they are known to be great for attracting native bees.

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