By: Amy Grant
Flower lovers who live throughout the nation’s southern region might opt to plant heat tolerant USDA zone 9 wildflowers. Why choose to plant zone 9 wildflowers? Since they are native to the region they have adapted to the climate, soil, heat, and amount of irrigation provided in the form of rain. Thus, incorporating native wildflowers for zone 9 into the landscape creates low maintenance plantings that need little extra watering, fertilizer, or insect or disease control.
Wildflowers are not only low maintenance, but come in a wide array of colors, shapes, and heights making them the perfect additions for those wanting to create a cottage garden. Once the wildflowers have been planted, they require little maintenance; they don’t even need to be deadheaded.
Native zone 9 flowers will often reseed themselves, naturally refreshing and replenishing the wildflower garden on their own, year after year. While they require very little care, like all plants, they will benefit from an occasional fertilization with a balanced plant food.
There are numerous native zone 9 wildflowers, really too many to name in their entirety. Seeds can be found online, in seed catalogs, or sometimes at the local nursery which may also sell seedlings. Among the plethora of wildflowers available to zone 9 growers are:
Ideally, plant wildflower seeds in autumn so they will have enough time to break seed dormancy. Wildflowers need lots of sun, so choose a location with full sun exposure, at least 8 hours per day. They will also thrive in soil that is well-draining and nutrient rich.
Prep the soil by turning and amending it with plenty of organic matter such as compost or manure. Allow the turned bed to sit for a few days and then plant the wildflower seeds or transplants.
Because most wildflower seeds are impossibly tiny, mix them in with some sand and then sow them. This will help them to be more evenly sowed. Pat the seeds into the soil lightly and cover them with a light sprinkle of soil. Water the newly sown bed deeply but gently so you don’t wash away the seeds.
Keep an eye on the bed and make sure it is moist as the seeds germinate. Once the wildflowers are established, it is probably only necessary to water them during extended periods of heat.
Both native annual and perennial wildflowers will return the next year if you allow the blooms to dry and self-seed before you cut them down. The successive year’s wildflower garden may not mimic the current years since depending upon the variety, some seed more rapaciously then others but it will no doubt still be alive with color and texture.
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Read more about Zone 9, 10 & 11
The Chapman’s azalea (Rhododendron chapmanii) is an evergreen shrub. It can get 4 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 10 feet wide. Leaves are leathery, dark green, and 1 to 2 inches long. Flowers come in the spring, are funnel shaped, and are rosy pink. Flowers are in clusters and 2 inches in width. Grow a Chapman’s azalea in filtered sunlight in moist acidic soil. Propagate via stem cuttings in spring or summer seed sowing.
Those delicate moth orchids that are so commonly grown as houseplants can also be grown outdoors in a shady spot during summer. But they're just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this flower. There are many terrestrial (ground-dwelling) orchids that would be perfectly content if planted in a sunny container garden, and they will add a considerable exotic flair to your outdoor gatherings.
Reed stem Epidendrum (Epidendrum radicans) resembles milkweed and pretty much blooms nonstop all summer whether grown in shade or full sun. The reedy stems may get lanky under their own weight by late summer, so tie them to garden stakes inserted into the potting mix for additional support.
If you’re seeking a more behaved orchid, Philippine ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata) is low-growing and bears colorful clusters of flowers ranging from deep pink to yellow atop graceful arching leaves. Both orchids are tender to frost but can be either grown as annuals or overwintered indoors as houseplants.
Before you get started with one of these fabulous flowers, be advised that they are all tropicals and will turn to mush in the event of a frost or hard freeze. Either bring them to a sunny window before the first frost or treat them like annuals, collecting seed and starting from scratch in spring.
All of these plants will bloom in summer, and many will bloom from spring until fall. While these tropicals can tolerate drought in the landscape, container gardeners must keep them watered at all times to keep them from burning to a crisp in the hot sun. But don’t let the extra care stop you— they’re totally worth it.