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Extension > Garden > SULIS > Maintenance > Sustainable Herbaceous Plant Maintenance > Wildflowers

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Wildflowers Wildflowers are defined as plants that grow in a natural, uncultivated site and survive with little care. They can be perennial, annual or biennial and they may be native or introduced to the site in which they grow. They are also typically divided into two groups - woodland and prairie wildflowers - though some species overlap. See Common Questions about Wildflowers and Native Plants by Mary Meyer and Peter Olin of the University of Minnesota.

While wildflowers are relatively easy to care for, they are not "no-maintenance". When selecting wildflowers for a landscape, it is important to understand and duplicate the conditions required by the plant when growing in the wild and to purchase plants from a reputable nursery licensed by the state. To learn more about using wildflowers in home landscapes and gardens, visit Wildflowers for the Home Landscape.

Many wildflowers are protected. Do not pick or try to transplant wildflowers from the wild as disturbing these plants may destroy populations. Some wildflowers such as the fringed gentian (Gentiana crinita) have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizae fungi and other organisms in the soil that is required for survival. In Minnesota, there are 2400 species of native plants, 191 of which are listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern by the Department if Natural Resources. Large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) and the showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae) are examples of such plants. For lists of endangered, threatened or special concern plants in Minnesota, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.

Woodland Wildflowers Woodland Wildflowers
Woodland wildflowers typically grow in conditions that mimic those of the forest floor: partial shade in moist soil high in organic matter. For a good list of popular woodland wildflowers, visit Native Woodland Wildflowers for the Home Garden from Iowa State University.
Prairie Wildflowers Prairie Wildflowers
Prairie wildflowers primarily require full sun. Their use in the landscape for the establishment of prairie gardens has seen increased popularity in recent years. Education and awareness of prairie restoration and the advantages of using native plants has fostered interest in incorporating these important plants into landscapes. Visit these websites to learn more about prairie wildflowers and how to incorporate them into landscapes:

For more on proper plant selection based on site and plant characteristics, see Plant Elements of Design plant selection database.

Click on any of the following headings and link to chapters that explain care and maintenance of herbaceous plants.

Dividing Plants
Dividing Rhizomes
Starting Plants from Seed
Collecting and Saving Seed
Self-Sowing Plants
Propagation by Vegetative Cuttings
Propagation by Spores
Transplanting Seedlings, Cuttings and Divided Plants

Staking, Supporting and Training Plants
Methods of Supporting Plants
Materials & Structures
Training to Improve Plant Health (FUTURE)
Training Plants for Ornamental Purposes (FUTURE)

Cutting Back Plants
Pruning for Plant Form
Pruning to Prevent Disease (FUTURE)
Deadheading and Pinching Back (FUTURE)

Mulching & Watering
Why Use Mulch?
Application of Mulch
Mulching for Weed Control
Mulching for Winter Protection
Mulching for Moisture Control
Organic Mulches
Synthetic Mulches
Watering Your Landscape
How to Determine the Frequency and Rate of Watering
Water Quality and its Effect on Plants

Nutrition, Fertilizers, and Compost
The Basics of Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers
Soils (FUTURE)
Compost (FUTURE)
Fertilizer: the Do's and Don'ts
Organic Fertilizers (FUTURE)
Inorganic Fertilizers (FUTURE)
Salt Tolerant Plants

Weed Management
Weed Identification and Lifecycles
Cultural Management Methods for Weed Control
Pruning for Weed Control (FUTURE)
Understanding Labels (FUTURE)
Alternatives to Chemical Herbicides (FUTURE)

Diseases and Insects
Integrated Pest Management (FUTURE)


Clemson University Cooperative Extension, "Wildflowers", Home and Garden Information Center, HGIC 1157, Bob Polomski and Lisa Wagner.

F.R. Vance, J.R. Jowsey, and J.S. McLean, Wildflowers of the Northern Great Plains, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN. 1984

Iowa State University, "Native Woodland Wildflowers for the Home Garden", Horticulture and Home Pest News, Richard Jauron, March 1, 1996. Updated by John VanDyk, July 3, 1997.

Michigan State University Extension - Home Horticulture, "Protected Wildflowers", #03900019, adapted from "Protecting Wildflowers", Weed 'Em and Reap, April-May 1985, by Nancy J. Butler, Michigan State University Dept. of Agriculture.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, index of endangered, threatened or special concern species.

Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, "Some Prairie Wildflower Seed / Plant Sources", Ricky Kemery and Dr. Michael N. Dana. April 16, 2002.

Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, "Methods of Installation for Prairie Wildflowers", , Ricky Kemery and Dr. Michael N. Dana. June 19, 1998.

Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, "Prairie Wildflowers Native to Indiana", Ricky Kemery and Dr. Michael N. Dana. June 19, 1998.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny, Peterson Field Guide: Wildflowers - Northeastern / North-Central North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY. 1996.

Sustainable Landscape Information Series, "Developing a Residential Prairie", Jillian Lay.

Tekiela, Stan, Wildflowers of Minnesota, Adventure Publications, Cambridge, MN. 1999

University of Minnesota Extension, "Prairie Garden Preparation", INFO-U, #209, Mary Meyer, Jill MacKenzie, and Char Menzel. 1998.

University of Minnesota Extension, "Common Questions about Wildflowers and Native Plants", FO-6065-GO, Mary H. Meyer and Peter Olin. Revised 1998.

University of Missouri-Columbia Outreach and Extension, "Wildflowers in the Home Landscape", G6660, Denny Schrock, August 1998.

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, "Wildflowers for the Home Landscape", NebGuide, G92-1074-A, Dale T. Lindgren, March 1996.

University of Vermont Extension, "Seeding a Backyard Wildflower Garden", The Green Mountain Gardener, Dr. Leonard Perry.

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