Every gardener needs a few plants that require little or no maintenance. A look at the prolific blooms in meadows and woodlands provides a key to unlocking the low-maintenance mystery. Using wildflowers in the garden just makes sense. They're not just colorful and fragrant; since they're local, they're tough enough to withstand late-season frosts, pests, rain, and drought cycles.
Wildflowers can be incorporated into existing annual, perennial and shrub borders. They can even be grown in containers and window boxes. Native plants provide food for wildlife; if you look closely at flowers blooming along waterways and the edges of forests you'll notice lots butterflies and moths collecting nectar. And, of course, buckeye and columbine flowers provide food for the first hummingbird visits.
When you take a close look at your landscape, what do you see? Sun or shade? Is it dry, moist, or full of standing water? It's these conditions that determine which of Nature's low-maintenance wonders will work best for you. A site with full sun means butterfly weed, blazing star and native sunflowers blooming their colorful hearts out in early to mid-summer. If your landscape topped with oaks, your garden can be one filled with the early spring bloom of native azaleas, phlox, violets and columbine.
Before you plant, be sure to have a soil test to determine pH of your soil and its nutrient content. Knowing the composition and the pH of your soil will help you determine the types of plants you choose to grow and give you an idea of what nutrients you need.
Adding organic matter to most planting areas is always a good idea. Organic matter acts as a sponge to hold moisture during times of drought. It also allows roots to penetrate deeply, making plants more productive. You can improve drainage in clay soils by amending them with Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil, or materials such as shredded pine bark, composted leaves, and kitchen compost.
Most natives like plenty of moisture with good drainage. Water plants thoroughly when first planted, and keep them well watered through dry spells. With annual applications of organic matter your plants should require minimal water after the first year.
Native plant societies are a great source of both plants and information. Check with yours to find out when they are offering plants to make your gardening experience more colorful and a little less work.