All About Clarkias: How to Grow this Annual Wildflower
All About Clarkias: How to Grow this Annual Wildflower

Farewell to Spring, Clarkia

I’m not much of a “scatter seeds” type of gardener, but only because I haven’t had much luck with the process. However, I recently gave it another try in a client’s garden with a shady wildflower mix and….voila! Why this time? Maybe the stars were aligned or it was a full moon. Either way, it was in this miraculous floral show that I found my new favorite: Clarkias.

For the best advice and insider info on growing these pretty annuals, I spoke with Judith Larner, owner of Larner Seeds in Bolinas, California, and author of two gardening books. Judith is the ultimate seed, garden restoration, and Clarkia guru.

Please keep reading to learn more about this easy-to-grow flower:

Photography by Kier Holmes.

The best time to sow Clarkias is mid to late fall.
Above: The best time to sow Clarkias is mid to late fall.

“Clarkias are so easy. You don’t really need tips,” Judith tells me. Okay, but we are Clarkia newbies, I say. Tell us more.

Clarkias are annual wildflowers that were once called Godetias. They were named after William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition. You can find different species, varieties, and hybrids of Clarkias in wildflower mixes—or focus on your favorite. But all, like Judith mentions, are easy to sow and grow, and even a cinch to collect their seeds (unlike explosive California poppies.) “Like most wildflowers, we sow them in the mid to late fall. And if you space them out, sowing every two weeks or so, you will have a long bloom period,” she says.

Judith recommends preparing a weed-free seed area before you sow, because if you just scatter the seeds without de-weeding, you run the risk of the flower getting out-competed. You can plant starts instead, of course, either from four-inch pots or larger one-gallon pots, but sowing your own seeds is often more satisfying. “It’s a skill every Californian gardenista should consider having,” says Judith. (Visit her site for more information on sowing annual wildflowers.)

A medley of wildflowers, including Clarkias.
Above: A medley of wildflowers, including Clarkias.

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