Well it’s that time of year again. No, I’m not referring to the holidays or tax season, but to wildflower season. Wildflower season you ask? But that isn’t until late February and March! Actually in Arizona, it is the November through January rains that bring on the color in the spring. This November/December has been a little dry so far, compared to last year which saw six times as much rain. Last year, we had weather pattern that is called “El Nino”, which almost always results in a colder, very wet winter for us and a drought for Australia. Anyone one who was here last year knows that we had a pretty wet winter, especially in January.
This year, we are experiencing the effects of “La Nina”. It is essentially the opposite of El Nino, so we are expecting a warmer and drier winter. So what does all this mean with regards to wildflowers? Wildflowers in the desert may be sparse this year because of the lack of rain, although after yesterday’s rain they should get off to a good start. However, if you want to spruce up your yard with wildflowers, not all is lost. Now is the time to plant the seeds. By planting, I mean scattering the seeds over the areas you would like to have flowers, no other special preparation is necessary. While rain is best, if it turns out to be a drier winter, you can always supplement with additional watering.
Use an oscillating sprinkler (which I just did a couple of days ago) to supplement the lack of rainfall. I scattered the seeds (African Daisies, California Poppies, and Lupine) and watered enough to simulate about a tenth of an inch of rain or about ten minutes in each location. I have had to be careful about watering too much, because of the plants in my yard. Some plants can rot, others will start to grow (increasing the risk of frost damage), while others appreciate the extra water (such as Aloes) in winter. Unfortunately, we lost a number of South American cacti last year due to the excessive rainfall. However, cacti and other native plants from Arizona are use to higher rain amounts in winter, so they should be okay with some additional water.
Some people like to have a mixture of flowers in their yards while others prefer just one. Wildflower seed can purchased at most local nurseries including the big box home improvement stores and there are mixes for our region, as well as specific species like African Daisies. The flower colors range from blue (Lupine), to golden or red (California Poppies), to yellow and tan (African Daisies). There are many more to choose from, so be creative!
There will be some clean up involved in late spring as the flowers dry up and die. However, they will re-seed themselves so you won’t have to replant new seed every year. Wildflowers will add beauty and a sense of “nature” to your yard like nothing else can. You’ll be amazed at the wildlife that may visit, like Humming birds, Bees, Butterflies, Quail, and the list goes on. So what are you waiting for?