How to Grow: Spring Wildflowers

Learn about ways to grow spring wildflowers such as trout lilies and trillium.

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trout lily in ground

Our warm spell in March and cooler temperatures in April have made for perfect conditions to enjoy the spring ephemerals.  Ephemeral means transitory or fleeting. It’s an apt description for these early blooming wild flowers. Spring ephemerals take advantage of the excessive light in the forest before tree leaves emerge. They grow, flower, and set seed in 6 to 8 weeks before shade covers the forest floor. Trout lilies, hepatica, Dutchan’s breetches, and trillium are just some of the spring ephemerals to watch for in the woods.

The best locations to find these spring beauties is in a predominant deciduous forest, with large trees and little understory. I often find spring ephemerals growing on rocky ledges and in marginal soils. They seem to survive in less than ideal conditions. Enjoying these spring blooming perennials in parks and your own woods is fun, but you can grow your own as well.

First of all, never try to relocate wild growing spring ephemerals to your yard. They won’t transplant well and you’ll deprive others from enjoying the spring flowering show. Look for nursery grown seeds, bulbs, and transplants and plant them in early spring or late summer. Find a location on your property under a large deciduous tree. Dig a 4- to 6-inch deep hole, add some compost, plant and water well. Don’t worry about planting in rows or in any particular pattern.  Once established you can divide your spring plantings in early summer to move them about the forest. If they’re growing well, though, they have a way of spreading and naturalizing on their own. In fact, ants are known to collect spring ephemeral seeds, bring them back to their nest and disburse them around the forest floor.

Now for this week’s tip, water and fertilize your garlic now. With this dry spring, garlic plants need some nourishment and water. Sprinkle an all purpose organic fertilizer such as 5-5-5 around the plants and water well to encourage strong garlic shoot growth.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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