|My favorite native biennial is Phacelia bipinnatifida.|
|It's an excellent pollen and nectar source for early pollinating visitors.|
The easiest way is to find a source of first year seedlings and/or second year plants of the biennial of your choice. That's not always possible with underused natives like Phacelia bipinnatifida. Sometimes native plant nurseries sell annuals and biennials, but, most of the time you'll have to start with seeds. (Locals, you can call GroWild to see if they still have plants available otherwise, check the internet for seeds).
If you only have one flowering plant you can still have blooms every year, it will just take a few years. It will take a little bit longer if you start with seeds.
First Spring with your biennial. If you have a second year plant, it will bloom! Collect mature seeds (on my Phacelia it's when the ovoid capsules are ready to split), save some (Cleaned seeds should be stored dry in sealed, refrigerated containers) and direct sow others. Biennials reproduce through seeds.
If you're starting with seeds, sow them now! The seeds will germinate early the next spring, here in Middle Tennessee that often means in late February.
|first leaves and true leaves|
Second Spring: Seedlings will be everywhere you sowed them (cotyledons of Phacelia bipinnatifida are oval) and will rosette up (pinnately divided leaves) as the growing season continues! You can transplant them anytime, but I like to wait until fall when the rains and cool weather return.
Now is the time to sow those seeds you saved last spring! Direct sow them into the garden and gently press the seeds into the soil. I promise you they will germinate if you've chosen the right spot in your garden. Phacelia likes moister conditions, so I plant them where I know they'll thrive.
|first year seedlings with pinnately divided leaves November 2015|
Third Spring: You should now have first and second year plants and be on your way to having a wonderful yearly show! Continue to collect seeds for sowing wherever in your garden that your biennial will be happy or let them drop onto the soil where they've been growing. Continue transplanting first year rosettes during the fall.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.