Mid-Atlantic and Maryland Native Wildflower Seeds - Ernst Seeds
July 9, 2024

Mid-Atlantic and Maryland Native Wildflower Seeds

ERNMX 153_Show Northeast Native Wildflower and Grass Mix_Over Time_Northern VA_Mid-Summer_3rd Growing Season

For those looking to sustain the beauty, biodiversity, and ecological health of the mid-atlantic United States, native wildflower seeds are a must-have.

The right mix of these seeds serves all three goals. In addition to their benefits for pollinators, they can improve soil health and support a wide range of local wildlife. Urban areas, including those in Maryland, can greatly benefit from these plants by improving air quality and creating enjoyable green areas.

Today, we’ll cover some useful things you need to know about planting and caring for mid-atlantic native wildflower seeds and managing native meadows, including:

  • The benefits of choosing native wildflower seeds.
  • The best wildflower species for the mid-atlantic U.S.
  • Site preparation and the best planting methods.

Before you get started, you should know the benefits that native wildflowers bring so that you can make the best choice for your garden or project.

The Benefits of Native Wildflower Seeds

The most immediate appeal of native wildflower seeds is their aesthetic value, but that’s far from their only benefit.

Providing Nectar and Pollen for Critical Pollinators

Non-native flowers may look great, but they don’t fit into the local ecosystem. This creates problems for pollinators that are critical to local food chains.

When you plant native wildflower seeds, you are providing pollinators the species with which they have co-evolved. This means butterflies and moths have the correct host plants for their caterpillars. It also means native bees have access to pollen with the appropriate ratio of proteins to lipids required by their larvae. You’re not just creating a more sustainable garden—you’re contributing to the overall health of your environment.

Improving the Ecological Health of Urban and Suburban Areas

Urban and suburban environments often suffer from habitat fragmentation and a lack of green spaces. Introducing native wildflowers into urban landscapes can mitigate these issues by creating pockets of natural habitats.

Additionally, native wildflowers contribute to soil health in several ways:

  • Their deep or fibrous root systems reduce soil erosion by knitting soil particles together and anchoring them in place. This is especially beneficial on slopes and in areas prone to runoff.
  • Their roots create channels that allow water and air to penetrate the soil more effectively, improving soil structure and promoting the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
  • Native wildflowers like the Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) also return nutrients to the soil as they decompose, enriching it for future plant growth.

By choosing native wildflower species, you contribute to a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem while enjoying the beauty and resilience of these plants.

The Best Wildflower Species for Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic

The mid-atlantic is home to many native wildflower species. Here are five of our favorite native mid-atlantic wildflowers:

Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)

Wild Bergamot, or Bee Balm, features lavender to pink blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its aromatic leaves and long blooming period from mid-summer to early fall make it a delightful addition to any garden.

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan)

As Maryland’s state flower, the Black-eyed Susan is a must-have for local gardens. Its bright yellow petals and dark brown centers provide long-lasting summer blooms. It’s also highly adaptable to different soil types and conditions.

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)

Butterfly Milkweed is a stunning, orange-flowered perennial that serves as a nursery for monarch butterfly larvae. It adds a striking visual appeal to any garden with its vibrant color and upright growth habit.

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf Coreopsis)

Lanceleaf Coreopsis is a cheerful, golden-yellow wildflower that blooms from late spring to early summer. It is drought-tolerant and easy to grow, making it a great choice for low-maintenance yet visually appealing landscapes.

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Narrowleaf Mountain Mint)

Narrowleaf Mountain Mint is a white-flowered, short-statured, long-lived perennial that blooms from mid to late summer. It does well in a variety of soils that range from well drained to moist. In addition, it attracts the stink bug hunting wasp Bicyrtes. Its long life, long bloom, and attractiveness to beneficial insects make it a valuable addition to Maryland meadows.

Planting and Caring for Mid-Atlantic Native Wildflower Seeds

One great benefit to choosing native wildflower seeds is that you don’t have to worry whether or not they’re in the right environment. Your native wildflowers will be right at home in the mid-atlantic.

However, there are still some general preparations you should make and some knowledge you should have to optimize growth. To realize the flourishing meadow you’re envisioning, follow these tips:

Plenty of Sun

Many mid-atlantic wildflowers grow best in full sun. That means at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Soil Conditions

Mid-atlantic native wildflowers thrive in well-drained soil that is neutral or very slightly acidic. An ideal pH range is 5.5 to 7.0, but many species tolerate a range of 5.0 to 7.5. If your soil is more acidic, lime can be a great way to increase the pH while adding key nutrients.

To improve the nutrient and water holding capacity of a soil, incorporate well decomposed compost. Addition of compost increases soil porosity, allowing air into the soil. Remember, while plants give off oxygen, most terrestrial plants must uptake oxygen through their roots. 

Using Compost

When using compost, Ernst recommends application of a one-to-two-inch layer that is then rototilled to a depth of six inches.

For meadows, compost should not be derived from manure. This is because some weed seeds present in the manure will germinate and pose a problem in the field.  

Your compost should have no recognizable parent material (e.g., leaves). If there is recognizable parent material, further decomposition must occur, and that will require nitrogen that otherwise would be feeding your native plants.


Plantings of native meadows should be done in a window that is between your typical hard frost date in the fall and frost-free date in the spring. By planting within this window, you will typically have seedlings established prior to seasonal drought.

Seeding Methods

Direct seeding and indoor germination, followed by transplanting, are both effective establishment methods.

For direct sowing, plant seeds ½ to ¼ inch deep in well-prepared soil.

If starting indoors, sow seeds in seed starter packs filled with moist potting soil. Once the seedlings have 2-3 sets of true leaves, harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions before transplanting.

General Maintenance

Once your native wildflower seeds are planted, here’s a few tips to keep them flourishing:

  • Keep the soil consistently moist during the establishment period. For small meadows, irrigate with one inch of  water the week of planting and again the week after. For the balance of the growing season, it may be watered weekly or every other week. If a rainfall is one inch for a week, then irrigation is not necessary.
  • Many of these perennials are drought-tolerant. You may need to irrigate if leaves are wilting, otherwise it is not necessary. 
  •  Regularly remove spent blooms (deadheading) to encourage more flowering and maintain a tidy appearance.
  • Control problem weeds such as thistle and mugwort. A combination of mechanical removal along with directed spray of an herbicide, such as a glyphostate solution, can be effective. Be sure to apply herbicides carefully, as nonselective herbicides can damage your meadows.

These guidelines will help you cultivate a thriving perennial wildflower garden that blooms from early summer to fall, supporting pollinators and providing long-term visual appeal.

Achieve the Right Balance with Ernst’s Native Wildflower Seed Mixes

Native wildflower seeds can make a stunning addition to any garden or project in the mid-atlantic. Their contributions to the local environment match their visual appeal, and their relatively simple maintenance requirements make them a perfect option for beginners and experienced growers alike.

If you’re interested in adding some color and sustainability to your garden, check out Ernst’s native seed mixes. Our mixes are expertly chosen and combined based on our single, over-arching philosophy: to increase habitat and enhance native ecosystems in eastern North America.If you’ve got questions about how our high-quality seed mixes can contribute to your project, contact our experts today and let us know what you’re working on.

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