Hey I heard you like the wild ones.
July 16, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I need ideas for what wild, low-maintenance flowers and plants to try to grow in half our yard that was previously mulch.

One side of our yard is straight grass. The other half is a square of concrete tiles surrounded by what is now a mix of very old mulch and weeds. We think we want to just put low maintenance wildflowers or plants in that area and let it kind of get overgrown. Has anyone started from scratch with this? Would like it to be low cost. Thanks!
posted by Bacon Bit to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Your climate and exposure are going to dictate what you can grow but I can tell you that "wildflowers" are almost universally difficult to grow on purpose.
posted by lydhre at 6:42 PM on July 16, 2014

I see you're in the Twin Cities. Wildflowers won't be a good choice as you'd have to depend on them reseeding themselves and the seeds germinating the next year (rather than being eaten by a bird or something). They also can get very messy looking after they seed and die. Better to pick a low-maintenance perennial. I'd go for forsythia, hosta, and peonies. Stroll around your neighborhood and see which plants you like. Take some pics and take them to a nursery for identification.

If you're budget minded and happen to meet a neighbor with a nice plant, ask if you can take a cutting to root into a new plant. Even if you buy, perennials are a good investment because they come back every year and you don't have to get on the treadmill of buying annuals every year.
posted by quince at 6:56 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look into flowering perennials. Some smaller shrubs would give you the most bang for your buck. I like Sedum, lilacs, cornflower and stonecrop for ground cover. Also zebra or other ornamental grasses along the back make a nice background. Remember that the quality of soil is key so make sure to add LOTS of compost and manure and mix it well in (or till). I like to turn over the top 12-16" with a small tiller to work in the organic material (compost) when starting a garden. After the soil is ready you can cover the garden with landscaping material which will stop the weeds from coming through. Just cut a big "X" in the fabric and plant your shrub in the hole.

Cover the soil or fabric around the plants with 2" of mulch.

This sounds like a lot of work but it's about one weekend to set up then your are done. Water as needed. In the fall pull weeds and cut back the dead parts. In the spring add more compost and mulch as needed.

So big starting effort but very little ongoing effort for something beautiful.
posted by saradarlin at 7:16 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm also in the Twin Cities, and my vote would be peonies, dwarf lilacs, or spirea if it's a sunny area, hostas if it's shady. All of these do well in our climate, and take just about no maintenance. The peonies would be the most expensive option, I think, but if you shop carefully you should be able to get some deals.
posted by Janta at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2014

Lilies and irises. They even crowd out the chickweed. You can divide the clumps in the fall and get more.
posted by fshgrl at 9:34 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Will shasta daisy grow where you live? I planted some a few years ago and it just keeps going on and on. I think my step dad has some that have been around for a decade or so. Birds like them too.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:29 PM on July 16, 2014

Best answer: I think wildflowers are an excellent idea as they attract and feed bees. There are online shops where you can check out wildflower seed mixes that grow in your region. In buying a mix you'll get a dozen+ different flowers (annuals and perennials) that will bloom for a long period. You could also visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden for inspiration.

Here is a guide on wildflowers that grow in MN.
I'm sure you'll get the seeds locally, this are just example shops to give you an idea about what's out there.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:09 AM on July 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all, these are super helpful!
posted by Bacon Bit at 10:38 AM on July 17, 2014

One more source for a list of plants: http://www.pollinator.org/guides.htm

There's also a lot of good advice from similar orgs about creating "wildflower meadows," like this one. It sounds like it takes a few years to get really established, but I bet the results will be well worth it. Beautiful, low-maintenance and good for bees!
posted by purple_bird at 1:35 PM on July 17, 2014

Bacon Bit, you can get some lilies of the valley, day lillies, and hosta from our house. Just let us know.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:20 PM on August 6, 2014

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