Native Gardening in Oklahoma
Helpful tips, tricks and resources for your garden.
Using native plants and trees on your landscape helps Oklahoma’s native plants and wildlife flourish and avoids the spread of invasive species and the problems they can cause. Below you will find helpful tips, tricks and resources on planting wildflowers, where to buy native species, avoiding problems with City ordinances, and references for landscaping with and identifying wildflowers.
When to plant: Almost all perennial and many annual plants are best planted in the fall months of September, October, and November, seed is best planted in September and October. Plants can also be planted in the spring near the frost-free date.
Where to plant: Most of the wildflowers in our area require several hours of sunlight. They will usually do well in most soils as long as drainage is adequate. Those wildflowers that prefer shade will probably require alteration of the soil not discussed here.
Preparation of area: Although use of herbicides is usually not recommended, grassy areas are best treated with a glyphosate-containing herbicide. These must be applied to green vegetation well before seeding. Allow at least 2 weeks before seeding the area after application of the herbicide. Use the herbicide sparingly and be controlled in the application.
Alternatively, you can cover the dormant turf grass with several sheets of newspaper, then cover that with a couple of inches of sand or compost or a mixture of the two. Mow any dead vegetation as short as possible
Seeds: Seeds, purchased from a local source, usually will be better adapted to our area. They should come with instructions on how to treat the seeds or they may be already treated since some seeds require special treatments. They may require a different planting scheme from that given above because some seeds require light exposure for germination. There are specific guidelines that need to be followed for collecting seeds in the wild.
- Lightly rake the area. Raking deeper than ½ inch will encourage weed seeds to germinate.
- Hand broadcast the seeds over the area. If you are using a mixture be sure they are properly mixed. Commercial wildflower mixtures contain flowers not native to the area so mix your own.
- Lightly rake the area again to assure good seed-soil contact.
- Spray the area with water.
Care: Water as needed to keep the area moist until seedlings have a couple of true leaves. There is no need for fertilizer. Of course, avoid foot traffic.
What to Plant & Where to Buy
Before purchasing plants, consider asking to make sure they haven’t been treated with systemic insecticides. These chemicals can be harmful to pollinators and can negatively affect the soil.
Native plants are best. They require the least maintenance and are also beneficial to other types of native pollinators that are in decline such as monarch butterflies. Many native plants are also perennials that will come back year after year.
AVOIDING PROBLEMS WITH CITY ORDINANCES
There are some who think that only a well manicured lawn is acceptable. Use these tips when dealing with City officials and other authorities, such as HOA's, in defending your garden from complaints. Let your garden get wild, and go native!
- Do not have any plants that are noxious or allergenic.
- Do not violate any height restrictions near roads.
- Take care not to violate any easement requirements.
- Make the area look like a garden including hardscape.
- Keep records of what is present and their care.
- Keep records of all interactions with authorities.
- Keep a picture record of what your garden looks like through the seasons.
- If you're planting for monarchs and other butterflies, register your garden with Monarch Watch and utilize their educational signage.
NATIVE GARDENING REFERENCES
Many books describe planting flowers which would apply to wild flowers as well. Landscaping with natives is somewhat more problematic. If you have suggestions, please send them to the webmaster. Here is one that is specific and another rather specific to our area:
- Native Plant Selection Guide for Oklahoma Woody Plants, Darlene Michael, 1995.
- Gardening with Prairie Plants by Sally and Andy Wasawski, published by University of Minnesote Press, 2002.
For identifying our native wildflowers and trees:
- The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers, Pat Folley, University of Iowa Press, 2011.
- Roadside Wildflowers of Oklahoma, Doyle McCoy, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981.
- Field Guide to Oklahoma Plants, Ronald Tyrl, Terrence Bidwell, Ronald Masters, Oklahoma State University, 2002.
- Forest Trees of Oklahoma, revised by Elbert Little, Jr. Oklahoma Forestry Service, 2002
- An Annotated List of the Ferns, Fern Allies, Gymnosperms and Flowering Plants of Oklahoma, John and Constance Taylor, "ONPS", 1994.
- Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, George Diggs, Barney Lipscomb, Robert O'Kennon, BRIT, 1999.