Wildflowers in Highway Medians

Many readers have noticed the beautiful wildflowers in the median strips of Ga. 400 and Ga. 316. They are so striking now that dreams of repeating the process enter the thoughts of the gardener/motor traveler.

Will Corley, Extension Specialist at the Griffin Experiment Station, says wildflowers can be beautiful but they are certainly not carefree. Weeds must be removed from the area before wildflower seeds are planted and must be removed during the summer as you would in a ‘normal’ flower garden. Wildflower beds can be strikingly beautiful at certain times and wretchedly ragged at other periods.

Wildflowers grow best when planted earlier in the spring but there is still time to start the process. First, use glyphosate (click for sources) to kill all plants in the prospective flower bed. Four days after spraying the weeds, water the bed thoroughly to encourage other weeds to sprout. Spray them similarly and wait an another seven days before planting the wildflower seed.

Purchase seed mixtures that are labeled for use in the South. Some flowers do better in our heat and humidity than others. Don’t waste money on flowers that won’t grow here. Most mixtures contain cosmos, cornflower, Shirley poppy, butterfly weed and coreopsis. In addition, perennials such as daylily, daffodil, Black-eyed Susan and Queen Anne’s Lace extend the period that something will be flowering in the wildflower bed.

In a perfect world, the annual flowers would sow their own seeds for the next year’s blooms. In reality, plan on reseeding your wildflower bed every fall to get maximum beauty the next spring.

Q: I have heard that there is a special blend of wildflower seeds that is grown in the median of the Georgia expressways. I would like to purchase some of these seeds. Can you tell me where to buy them?

A: The name “wildflower” implies that these plants will grow and flourish just about anywhere. Gardeners found out long ago, however, that a blend of wildflowers that prospered in California would languish in Connecticut. The reason is that wildflower blends contain seeds of plants which come back from their roots year after year (perennials) and plants which must re-seed themselves each year (annuals) in order to survive. Weather conditions in different parts of the country determine which blend of particular flowers can co-exist, without one plant dominating the others.

Several years ago, Will Corley, a researcher at the Griffin campus of the University of Georgia, began experimenting with different blends of wildflower seeds. After several seasons, he came up with a “Southeastern blend” which does well under our hot, dry summers. The Garden Club of Georgia now works with the Georgia Department of Transportation to purchase the seed for highway medians. Funding for the program comes from the sale of special wildflower license plates for your car.

Most garden centers carry a blend of wildflower seed appropriate for our region. Now is the best time to prepare and seed the spot where you want wildflowers next spring.


Wildflower Planting and Maintenance for Georgia (some information may be outdated)

Wildflowers for Mississippi (similar to Georgia)

There are two national distributors of wildflower seed: Stock Seed and Wildseed Farms.

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