SAE: Establishment of a Community Roadside Wildflower Planting

Get Wild with your SAE.  Here is a great way to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants.

Getting Started

If you decide you want to plant a roadside area, you'll need to find out if the city, county, or state had jurisdiction over your site. Contact your state highway department's wildflower coordinator for information on the state wildflower planting program. What has worked? What hasn't? Asking these questions first can save you time and money.

Arrange a meeting with the area supervisor. Ask what the vegetation management program is. Will they defer mowing until after the seeds have matured? Do they spray herbicides that could kill your plants? Who is responsible for maintaining the site after planting? Find out what maintenance is planned before you plant. You don't want to waste your money planting seeds that will be killed after germination or that will be mowed before they're able to set seed. If you can provide seeds, many states will help with planting and management. Some states even offer cost-sharing or other funding programs. Select eight to ten indigenous species that will provide a blooming period of at least two months, and include annuals and perennials. Native species often prefer the poor soil that occurs along roadsides. However, it's best to choose a site that is relatively free of road salts, motor oil, competing vegetation, and construction activities.

You'll want to pick a highly visible site for the planting, such as a rest area, traffic interchange, park turnout, or the approach into town and you'll want to choose species that will be visible at 60 miles per hour. Bright splashes of color are more important than individual plants. Plant wildflowers at the recommended rates, concentrating on smaller, denser areas rather than on larger areas of sparsely planted flowers.

Remember that plantings covering one linear mile may be too ambitious! Existing vegetation at the site shouldn't be a tight turf. The ideal turf would be warm-season, clump, or bunch-forming grasses, but depending on where you live in Georgia you may have to plant cool-season grasses such as fescue or ryegrass on roadsides, which compete with overseeded wildflowers. Areas where cool-season grasses occur may have to be periodically replanted with wildflower seeds.

Watch out for newly constructed highways, whose shoulders are prime sites for wildflower planting projects. Seeds germinate more readily in loose soils than in hard, compacted ones. If you plan far enough ahead, the highway department could plant grasses that will be compatible with wildflowers when they plant along new roadsides.

Ask if your highway department, which probably owns a flail mower or other equipment that lightly scalps the ground, can prepare the ground for you. Leave the plots staked so you can monitor them over a three-year period. Knowing which species worked and which didn't will help you decide what to plant later.

Be sure to use signs to call attention to your wildflower area. You want everyone to know your FFA made this beautiful area possible and to remind road crews that they need to treat the area with care.

Written by: Teri Hamlin


Factors To Consider


1 = lowest

10 = highest

Time required


Investment 3
Equipment needed 7
Skills required 3
Facilities required 1
Land required 10
Labor Intensity 5
Potential for income 1
Transportation required 4
Expansion possibilities 7
Expertise needed 4
Advertising needed 4
Susceptible to disease 2
Susceptible to insects 2
Suitable for residential areas 10
  Other (specify)
Length of production cycle Year Round
Regional Statewide
When to start project Fall



Seeding Rate: In lieu of hydroseeding, simple seeding methods can be used to establish wildflowers. For large areas, use the seeding rate indicated for the individual wildflower mix or species, usually 10 pounds per acre. In smaller areas, seed at the rate of four to five ounces per 1,000 square feet or comparable species seeding rate. For small beauty spots, where intense color is desired, double the normal seeding rate. In small areas seeds can be mixed with damp sand and spread by hand. Seeding in large areas may be accomplished with a special drill seeder or by mixing seed with dry sand by spreading with either a drop spreader or rotary spreader. Maximum seed to soil contact must be made to give desirable germination of seedlings on sloping planting sites. Raking or pulverizing can accomplish this. When seeding wildflowers with soil stabilizing grass, reduce grass seeding rates by 25 percent and follow NRCS fertilizing recommendations. After wildflower establishment, competition by the nurse grass can be reduced by an overspray of Poast (Vantage), Fusilade, Ornamec, or Select.

Mowing and Maintenance: Wildflower establishment in normally mowed areas results in 25-30 percent savings in maintenance costs, with a payback in reduced maintenance after two to three years since average establishment costs for wildflowers is $500.00 per acre, discounting labor and profit inputs. Mowing is a valuable maintenance practice. Trimming the perimeter areas defines the wildflower area. In addition to the dormant mowing in late fall when seeds have matured, wildflowers may be mowed for reblooming in summer when drought/heat stress causes significant loss of color. Mowing high (four to six inches) and light fertilization will initiate reblooming of several species in three to four weeks. Desired annuals and perennials should be overseeded after fall clean up.

Some Commercial Seed Sources

*Applewood Seed Company, 5310 Vivian St., Arvada, CO 80002 - Wholesale

Burpee Seeds, 300 Park Ave., Warminster, PA 18991 - Retail

*Delta Landscape Supply, Inc., 5999E Goshen Springs Rd., Norcross, GA 30071 - Wholesale

*Environmentals, P.O. Box 2709, Lompoc, CA 93436 - Wholesale

Garrett Wildflower Seed Farm, 1117 New Castle Court, Raleigh, NC 27604 - Wholesale.

Harris Moran Seeds, 3670 Buffalo Rd., Rochester, NY 14624 - Wholesale & Retail

*Loft Seeds, Inc., Chimney Rock Rd., P.O. Box 146, Bound Brook, NJ 08805 - Wholesale

*NPI, 1697 West 2100 North, P.O. Box 177, Lehi, UT 84043 - Wholesale

Park Seeds, Greenwood, SC 29647 - Retail

*Pennington Seeds, P.O. Box 240, Madison, GA 30650 - Wholesale & Retail

*Robin Seed Co., 3670 Enterprise Ave., Hayward, CA 94545 - Wholesale

*S&S Seeds, P.0. Box 1275, Carpinteria, CA 93013 - Wholesale

*Wildflowers International, 918-B Enterprise Way, Napa, CA 94558 - Wholesale

*Wildseeds, Inc., 1101 Campo Rosa Rd., P.O. Box 308, Eagle Lake, TX 77434 - Wholesale

(* = Custom blending available)




Sources of Additional Information:


Art, H.W. A Garden of Wildflowers. Pownal, VT: Stoney Communications, Inc., 1986.

Jones, S.B. and L.E. Foote. Gardening with Native Wild Flowers. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc., 1990.

Martin, D.L. and G. Gershuny. The Rodale Book of Composting. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1992.

Paulson, A. The National Wildflower Research Center's Wildflower Handbook. Austin, TX: Texas Monthly Press, 1989. (Available from the National Wildflower Research Center, 2600 FM 973 North, Austin, TX 78725-4201, 512- 929-3600).

Phillips, H.R. Growing and Propagating Wildflowers. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.



-Ga. Extension Service “ Wildflowers”

-Project WILD National Office 5555 Morningside Drive, Suite 212 Houston, TX 77005

713-520-1936 Web site:

Project Wild provides instructional material designed to support state and national academic standards for grades K-12. The activities can be adapted to meet learning requirements for academic disciplines ranging from science and environmental education to social studies, math and language arts. It is a joint project of the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Numerous materials and guidebooks are offered on the Web site, including the publication "Wild School Sites: A Guide to Preparing for Habitat Improvements Projects on School Grounds." The Web site also lists other educational resources, including Web links, agencies and organizations. Project WILD also has state organizations.

-Plant Conservation Alliance Bureau of Land Management 1849 C Street NW, LSB-204

Washington, DC 20240 202-452-0392 Web site:

The Plant Conservation Alliance is a consortium of ten federal government Member agencies and over 145 non-federal Cooperators representing various disciplines within the conservation field, including biologists, botanists, horticulturists, habitat preservationists, nature lovers and gardeners. The organization works to solve the problems of native plant extinction and native habitat restoration. The Web site includes a "Celebrating Wildflowers" section, which discusses the importance of plants and plant communities. The site also offers educational materials and programs and links to other Web sites.


-Georgia Native Plant Society, Box 422085, Roswell, GA 30342

-U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, 400 Seventh St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20590.   The Federal Highway Administration publishes Greener Roadsides. This quarterly newsletter is for roadside decision makers. Articles may include articles on projects in which native plants are used, lists of publications and upcoming conferences, and other relevant information.