Mow off the wildflowers once a year. This is best done after a hard
frost in the fall. Mowing before a hard frost can injure plants.
A lawn mower can cut up the smaller wildflowers. However, the
large stem plants; such as Purple Coneflower, need a heavy duty
trimmer line or a gas powered brush cutter or a heavy-weight
machete cutlass to get the job accomplished.
Why mow? Come spring time, the plants need direct exposure to the
sun. The thatch (the dead material) needs to be chopped up; broken
up into small pieces and widely scattered.
Also, mowing disperses the dried seed to replenish the plants.
In three or so years, the thatch build up may or may not appear, too
thick. If the thatch begins to look like a suffocating carpet, rake the
thatch off the plot.
Some insects lay in a deep sleep stage on some prairie plants. This
may be as a larval, pupa cocoon, or adult. To better protect these
insects you could do alternate mowing. Mow half of the wildflower
plot in alternating years.
If spring comes and you see grass coming up in your plot then you
can mow to thwart the grass. The rule is not to mow on the lowest
setting once wildflowers have grown a couple inches high. Prior to
that, the low mowing does shock the grass and slows it down
A prairie wildflower garden allows for easy care in contrast to that of
a non-native flower garden.
No fertilizers ever need be applied. Plus, these plants are able to fend
off and/or survive plant diseases.
Once the juvenile plants reach maturity then watering during dry
periods is not required. The plants meet their water needs simply
from whenever rainfall occurs. Indeed, a gardener adding water
regularly can induce excessive green growth which may cause
plants to be lanky and flop over.
Perennial wildflowers send down their roots the first year. As the
plants energy goes into root development, many perennial plants
wait until the second year before blooming.
This is a normal condition that plants appear stunted. Be patient,
the wildflowers do not need more watering or need fertilizing.
Actually, the perennial plants are growing an extensive root system
underground. Prairie plant roots typically account for two-thirds of
a plant's total mass.
Very few weeds grow among wildflowers if the weed seed bank has
been eliminated in the soil prior to planting the wildflower seeds.
Hand pulling weeds is best done the day after a rain occurs.