Growing and Propagating Wildflowers


Like many gardeners, I’m a creature of habit.  Sometimes this is good, but when routine becomes a rut, it’s a good idea to give yourself a boot and try something new.  ~Edward C. Smith


In my zeal to grow more native plants and wildflowers, I have been looking for a great source to help me.  After all, it can be hard to find plants or bare root natives that are reasonably priced.  Many times I will only find seeds for natives I want to grow, but feel wholly inadequate in my skills as a gardener to grow the seeds successfully.

And with retirement, I am constantly reminded of carefully budgeting my money.  So what better way to grow more plants than by gathering seeds, divisions or cuttings from plants I already own like the native Spiderwort above.  That way I can just spend my money on hard to find plants.  So when I saw this book, I was curious if it would give me the information I was seeking.


Growing and Propagating Wildflowers



Author:  Harry R. Phillips

Paperback: 341 pages

Publisher:   The University of North Carolina Press (May 23, 1985)

Amazon Price: $25.16 (paperback; $12 used)





In A Few Words


This book is based on ten years of pioneering research at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.  That in and of itself drew me to this book.  The book was written to help gardeners find easy ways to grow their own native plants.  As the author states:

This book is designed, first, to give you a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of gardening with native plant material and, second, to provide specific information on the propagation and cultivation of some 100 genera of native plants.


The first part of the book gives attention to soil preparation, maintenance of plants, propagation through the seasons, and ends with details and ideas/plans for designing a garden bed with natives.  The second part is all about propagating native plant seed.  There are sections on seed collecting, seed storage, seed dormancy, pregermination, propagation by seed and asexual propagation (division and cuttings).  The third section deals with the almost 100 wild flowers featured in the book.  Section four is all about carnivorous plants while section five deals with ferns.  For each plant they include drawings instead of photos.  Also provided is a description of the plant (habitat; height; time in flower; flower shape, color, size; leaf or frond characteristics), its fruit and seed characteristics, how to collect/clean/store the seed, propagation, cultivation, uses in the garden, related species and any special notes.

The last part of the book includes a glossary, recommended reading and how to organize a plant rescue.



What I Liked


I found the book to be an extensive resource for just about any of the most well known native plants.  That they included  carnivorous plants and ferns was a big plus as most books tend to focus on the wildflowers.  I didn’t mind that they did not use photos of plants.  I think the drawings force you to really pay attention to the features of the plant, and certainly will hone my visual identification skills.

While the extensive information provided for each plant is wonderful, I especially love the cultivation section and extra notes.  In these sections, I learned more about where best to site the plants and the important details on which to focus my attention for cultivating natives.  I also found great little tidbits like how to make your own bog for some of those natives that love this habitat.  I actually have a section of my garden perfect for a bog (it actually has almost become one).  I look forward to studying this section of the garden more this year.  Maybe I will finally get the right plants to grow there.

One of the most important sections of the book for me was designing with natives.  There are lists of plants and simple designs for gardens in full sun, partial sun and full shade.  And in each plant profile they also provide a list of companion native plants.




Not So Much


Some may not like the lack of photos in the book.  And the fact that this is a resource for native plants found east of the Mississippi River makes it limited to those states.  Although I do think many of the same natives are found in the Plains and Northern Plain States.



Final Thoughts


There is so much information in this book that you cannot read it all at once nor would you want to.  For home gardeners, I suggest using it as a resource to better know your natives, how to grow them whether from seed, cuttings or divisions and how to use them in your garden or landscape.  For those who want to sell natives, it is a great resource as well with production notes scattered throughout.

As I make my observations of the garden this year, I will note plants I want to cultivate and move to other areas of the garden.  These will be the plants from the book, I will focus on.  For now I am taking copious notes from the research and information found in the book, and also culled from gardeners just like us who have had experience (positive and negative) with these plants.  In the garden, I think there is nothing better to cultivate learning than experience.



I am joining in with [email protected]Roses and Stuff for her meme Wisdom Wednesday.  Include the quote she has chosen or chose one of your own.  You know how I love quotes.

Wild Geranium


“Gardening engages the mind in an unending quest for knowledge, for it would take many lifetimes to know and understand everything that is found in even one small garden.”  ~Allen Lacy



Seasonal Celebrations will be starting on March 1st.  Please join us as we celebrate our next season spring.  Details about how to join are below.


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether winter or summer or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting March 1st.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of autumn here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (around the 20th of March).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page.  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!


Next up on the blog:  Monday will bring another Simply The Best Native plant profile.

I am linking in with [email protected]Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my latest post.

I can also be found blogging once a month at Vision and Verb.  You can see my posts here.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.sharethelove

I am also joining in I Heart Macro with [email protected]Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.



70 Replies to “Growing and Propagating Wildflowers”

  1. I wish you like with your choices for your garden. Unfortunately, even when I have bought beautiful perennials in the spring, when the hot summer comes around (I despise the heat), they don’t always get the care they need, so they don’t survive. Only the hardiest ones are still around. But I will keep trying.

    1. Thanks Leora. I also don’t give mine too much TLC or fuss over them. They need to be hardy plants. That is one reason I started planting more native plants as they seem to do best with little care. And now I hope to grow some from seed and cuttings so I can grow even more. Gardeners just keep giving it their best. It is all we can do!

  2. Donna I know you will succeed in growing wildflowers from seeds. I bet even without the book, which looks like a wonderful resource. I love books and one can never have too many on gardening. I look forward to seeing your babies in the garden come Spring!

    1. Thanks Kathy. I have been a bit hit or miss with my seed starting of natives, so I wanted a bit more info. This book has so much you really can’t fail if you follow their advice. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Do they tell you how long each perennial natives take to bloom? I like planting the annuals by tossed seed, and do let the perennials reseed in the garden, but I have always started with a purchased plant or cutting from another. I find it takes a couple of years for the volunteer plants to mature. If I had a large property of many acres, seed in the long run would be the way to go. The book is a nice start though.

    1. Donna they go into great detail about how to propagate from seed, cuttings or divisions. And yes they tell you how long it may take to see a flower (many I read were 1-2 years). I found it to be an extensive resource for anyone wanting to grow native plants. I hope to start this year and even begin to collect seed my own seed following their carefully written advice.

      I too love to grow many annuals from seed scattering…but I am always up for a challenge. I’ll keep folks posted.

  4. Donna, I can imagine this book would be very useful. Its strange to think that you could be visiting another part of the world and find gardens full of what you would call natives or even weeds in some cases. I remember the first time we had Tradescantia in the back garden, we felt we were growing something very special, and here I see it being referred to as (Spiderwort), oh and I was well proud of our Gaillardia.

    1. Alistair I love it when I see our native plants grown in other parts of the world. It is so interesting to see the common names and learn that the gardens around the world are so interconnected. And some of your prized natives (thistle) become weeds or invasives here…but still lovely plants!!

  5. I do like my tradescantia and I have some that is a volunteer. Just goes to show that birds plant nice things sometimes, not just weeds and mulberry seedlings! Have a lovely week, Donna.

  6. The thing I really like about this post, Donna, is being able to identify with a book that really educates you on an area of interest…for you, gardening. I have great interest in astrology, natal charts, tarot, palmistry, etc. and so love finding the books that really explain exactly what I want to know. There’s nothing like a good primer (I tend to like the ones with photos but also have the ones with drawings!).

    1. I agree Ginnie. I have so many books and love to review the gardening ones here. And I also am interested in astrology and tarot. Fascinating subjects. So much to learn and I love books!!

  7. Good Morning Donna, this comment is not really ‘on topic’, but I just wanted to say that your site is BEAUTIFUL. The new colors, the layout…it’s gorgeous. I wish I had the technical skill to create what you’ve done. Oh, and I also loved the photo of the the Trillium. They grow wild in our forested lands here and we even have them in our ‘wild’ areas of the yard. They look as though they are marking the way to a fairy gathering…-:))

    1. Susie i wish I had those too…this is a preformatted theme available on WordPress…but I am glad you like it. I love looking for the wild trilliums in spring…they carpet the forest floor and it is a bit of heaven. I love the idea that they are a ‘fairy gathering’.

  8. As my husband is approaching retirement and I am presently choosing not to work, the budget thing is a little tricky when I’m used to just going out and buying what I want. But I’m happier without all the “things.” Just put a camera in my hand and put me outside. Hope your garden is successful this year!

    1. Gail your comment touched me….my husband retired a while back due to a lack of work so we are downsizing and clutter clearing…the simple life is freeing but I do miss not being able to buy at a whim….although I really don’t need things anymore….just the garden, camera and some money to travel now and then.

  9. I get so excited this time of year
    to try new things…..always thinking of expanding
    and building and always hoping that this year we’ll get
    more rain or less rain or it will be different.
    I love wildflowers for their hardiness and not-fussy-ness.
    Crazy beautiful things. Inspired today by your post.

    1. Oh to inspire is a great achievement Jennifer…the excitement builds here everyday we have a warm spell in hopes the garden blanket is thrown back and the new spring growth awakens…thank you for putting the image in head!!

  10. Sounds like a great resouce book, but I am one who never advanced beyond the picture book stage. Not only must I have photos, but they must be in color!

    1. I completely understand the need for pictures Deborah…but if you ever decide to grow wildflowers from seed or divisions it is a great resource.

  11. I have a lot of native plants but I’ve also let exotics overrun my yard as I’ve gotten older and haven’t had the energy to deal with it. Sounds like an interesting book.

    1. I understand completely Carver. I do have exotics still as it is hard to be completely native unless you start that way…so many of each kind are beautiful.

  12. I really need photos with my inexperience, but it looks like a good resource. I planted some native seeds last fall. It will be fun to see what if anything comes up…. I will need some advice as what to plant between my neighbor’s house and mine besides the 2 spice bush. …. Michelle

  13. Those photos are beautiful for weeds or native plants in the wild. I wish there are books like that here too, at the moment we lack same references. But books on these plants without photos are a bit weird, in effect they look like the scientific journals, but journals have tables and graphs!

    1. I agree it seems a bit more scientific with drawings instead of pictures….these beautiful wildflowers are never weeds to me Andrea.

  14. This sounds a great resource, I actually have more success with seed I collect myself than with bought seed especially of difficult plants which also cost a lot even as seed.

  15. I have been thinking about how I could “pretty up” the fields surrounding my gardens, and I’ve been thinking about putting in some native plants, using seeds, etc. to have flowers blooming here and there. Not sure it would work with the Bermuda grass, but something I’d like to try – of course, on a budget! So, this might be a good book for me to look into. You state it’s for states east of the Mississippi, though, so do you think this book would be beneficial for me in Texas?

    1. I checked lists of TX wildflowers at least East and central TX and there seem to be many in the book that are native to you Holley. Perhaps if you could find a library copy to see if it meets your needs. To successfully seed, you need to remove some of that Bermuda grass or the seed won’t germinate. It sounds like a wonderful plan that I look forward to hearing more about.

      Let me know if you need any help. I would be happy to look in the book for plants you may want to make sure are included in the book. Also the basic info about growing natives in the book is great too. Good luck!

  16. I am not much of a seed planter either Donna. Your book reviews are always a welcome read. I buy way too many garden books, and can use an unbiased report as you do so well.

  17. Dear Donna,
    I love the idea about the bog garden. How many flowering plants do well in nutrient deficient bogs? I wish you the best with whatever you decide to do with your garden this spring!

    1. Thank you so much Jay. I will update all on my efforts especially with the bog garden. It seems many natives really love the bog environment.

  18. Seeds scare me! I’m really no good at little things. I have though given some a go this winter. I much prefer the tear and share approach to propagating my plants. Lazy I know but it works for me 🙂
    Sounds like a worthwhile book to have and I do like seeing a well done drawing of a plant, it makes you see them in a different way.

    1. That was one reason I loved the book Angie….it gives great propagation by division or cutting advice for the plants in the book. If I can cut or divide, I much prefer it as well.

    1. Carole Gaillardia is a trooper of a native plant. It loves my zone 5b garden. I would warn that it can be a self seeder. If it is not a native for you, do be careful.

  19. Hi Donna, we really do seem to be in a similar place, I too am determined to develop my propagation skills to make more plants so that I can I sent my funds better. Its exciting but I am so lacking in experience it will be steal learning curve when it comes to taking cuttings.

    1. Kindred spirits Janet….I too am trying to learn more about cuttings and I hope this book will help. I’ll keep you posted.

  20. Good information. Are those photos from your garden? Such beautiful flowers and photos. One thing I most in my garden is taking lots of pictures or good pictures. Perhaps need to do it this year. Many of the native plants might be difficult to grow from seeds as they might need so much cajoling — like getting temperature below certain temperature, heat, fire, snow — I am forgetting what that word — there is this special word which tells you about all these.

    1. Yes these are natives flowers that grow in my garden. I rarely use pictures from somewhere else and then only with permission. Yes many natives can be fussy to grow, but that is what I love about the book. They give you detailed instructions on how to grow from seed or cuttings so you have a better chance. I think you might be referring to, ‘cold stratification’. 🙂

  21. Wildflower seeds are about the only ones I’ve ever had any luck with. One year, I threw a bunch in each corner of my back yard and they keep coming back every year.

  22. As always, a good book review. Sometimes books do need to specialize for particular areas as the native plants can vary from region to region. I think I could draw somewhat from the book as many of the same plants grow here.
    Before they started building homes in a previous field of wildflowers, I collected seeds and even dug up a few plants to put in my yard. I’m so glad I did because there is no evidence of these natives any more, only new homes and fancy plants that likely won’t survive.

    1. Absolutely this book would fit for you Judith. Many, many of the natives in the book are native to you. How fabulous that you cultivated the wildflowers before they were gone. Same thing happened here, luckily many reappeared as we kept some wild spaces. Which plants were you able to bring into your garden?

  23. This is a subject that interests me quite a bit. Like you, I prefer to spend my money on special plants and create my own plants when I can. Too bad the book only covers native plants found east of the Mississippi River!

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