Planting Instructions and Suggestions for Prairie Seed Mixes

The wildflower and grass species contained in Morning Sky Greenery seed mixes originate from plants growing in the prairie and transitional areas in much of Minnesota and the Northern Great Plains prior to European settlement. Each species has adapted to differing amounts of light, soil and moisture conditions. The better the match of species to their familiar environments the more successful the planting will be.

Let Morning Sky Greenery choose a seed and/ or plant mix that will best suit your needs. We will take a careful look at your unique situation and provide you with a sound recommendation. We will take into consideration location and match species to your site. We pay particular attention to local species found in your area and will try our best to provide you with an assortment of species which will add diversity and beauty to your landscape.

I. Choose Location

Make sure you choose the right location for your plants. Click here to shop for plants by soil, sun, and water requirements.

II.Time to plant

1. Spring – Early Summer

Plant in the spring when the ground has warmed up. In West Central Minnesota this usually occurs around May 15th. However, planting time will vary from year to year. Planting may continue on into mid July, although late season plantings will most likely need irrigation. Please note: For optimal germination to occur seeds may need to be stratified* for 30-60 days prior to planting.

2. Fall

Plant in fall from early October, when the soil cools, until freeze up. Fall is an excellent time for planting prairie seeds because seeds will be naturally stratified through the winter.

3. Frost Planting

Seeds can also be planted on bare ground in winter or early spring. The process of freezing and thawing will naturally mix the seed with the soil. This method can be particularly useful when planting small seeds or for adding new species to an established planting. Gopher mounds and other exposed or disturbed sites are also good for frost planting.

* Stratify- A treatment used to break the dormancy of seed. Seeds are mixed with moist sand or vermiculite and placed in refrigerator for 1-4 months.


III. Site Preparation- Two methods

1. Succession Restoration – No Till

  • The site should be burned or mowed as close to the ground as possible before planting.
  • Rake or scratch the surface of the site to expose bare soil.
  • For areas as large as 1 or 2 acres, seeds can be easily scattered by hand. Add a “filler”, such as lightly moistened sawdust or vermiculite, to the seed mix. This will help to “stretch” the mix so that the seed can be distributed evenly over the entire area. (An area of 1-2 acres can be planted in approximately 3 hours.) A Truax or other native seed drill is needed for larger areas.
  • Lightly cover the seeds with soil by raking the area again.
  • Firm up the seedbed to insure good soil to seed contact. This can be done by a hand or “pull behind” roller or by simply walking or driving over the seedbed.
  • Watering is only necessary for the first year if seeds have been planted late in spring or early summer and little rainfall is to be expected. In other words, soil should be moist until the seeds have germinated and seedlings watered during dry spells only.

2. Planting on bare ground

  • Eliminate the weeds by
    1. tilling throughout the season.
    2. opaque ground cover can be used for the entire growing season.
    3. use a short duration herbicide (i.e. Round-Up)
  • Lightly cultivate the soil to produce a fine seed-bed.
  • Follow the directions for successional planting.

IV. Maintenance is very important!


1. The First Year

Mowing throughout the season using a lawn mower set at its highest level (4-5 inches) will work well. Mow when the plants have reached a height of 6-10 inches or before the weeds are allowed to set seed. Be diligent about this! Mow at least 3-4 times in the first year. Do not worry about cutting the tops off of the prairie seedlings.

2. The Second Year

  • During late spring or early summer you should mow the area once. Raise the cutting level to 6-12 inches. This should be the last mowing necessary.
  • You may want to hand weed but be careful not to pull up the roots of young prairie plants. Weeds will come up easier after a rain. (Wait until soil has dried down a little before walking on it or soil compaction will occur.)
  • Spot spraying with a herbicide such as Roundup will also help in the fight against persistent weeds such as Canada Thistle and Sweet clover.

3. After the first and second year

Mow trouble spots only.


After the second or third year the planted prairie needs to be burned annually until it is well established. In order to protect wildlife, it is best to divide the site into sections and to burn a different section each year. A March or April burn will set back cool season “weeds” and will stimulate the growth of native prairie plants. Please check with your local fire regulations and obtain permits before attempting to burn. For more information on burning prairies; How to Manage Small Prairie Fires by Wayne R. Pauly is an excellent reference.

Alternative to burning

If for any reason you are unable to burn your site, you can mow in late fall after seed has set or early spring if the ground is not wet. Raking and removing debris will be necessary to avoid thatch build up.