Ontario Wildflowers: Good for Low-Traffic Areas

Residential lawns and turf areas in golf courses demand a high degree of maintenance. This includes expensive inputs such as weekly cutting, proper fertilizing and watering, and the application of chemicals to control weeds and other pests. In an effort to cut costs and improve land stewardship, we evaluated wildflowers as a natural, lower maintenance alternative to intensively cultivated turf areas.

During the first growing season, the plots were very colorful, with annual wildflower species predominating. In the second growing season, perennial wildflower species began their colorful show, as the annual species provided less than half of the floral display in most plots.

The third growing season was characterized by the failure of the annual wildflower species to reseed themselves. Only one annual species was still present. Several perennial species appeared to dominate in each mixture, and throughout the replications more similarities among the composition of the mixtures of wildflowers became apparent.

Weed competition throughout the three growing seasons was a concern. Generally, none of the wildflower mixtures that was tested was successful at eliminating or controlling weed competition. To that end, the wildflower mixtures were unacceptable for use as total replacements to turf in highly maintained areas.

If the most successful of the annual and perennial wildflower species were grouped together, the resulting mixture would have potential use in lower traffic turf areas and areas with lesser visibility. The edges of golf course fairways and service areas could be planted with wildflowers to reduce the maintenance required and to provide colorful summer floral displays. Lower visibility areas along roads, railways, and hydro lines could be planted with wildflowers to reduce the maintenance and input costs.

The recommended mixture or improved blend of wildflower species useful in the cooler, shorter season regions of Ontario is:

annual: California poppy, scarlet flax, dame’s rocket, baby’s breath, and bishop’s lace
perennial: yarrow, bachelor’s buttons, coreopsis, purple coneflower, blanket flower, blue flax, iceland poppy, mexican hat coneflower, and black-eyed susan