Cold Stratification of Native Wildflower Seeds
Native wildflowers like Bee Balm, Showy Milkweed, Blue Flax, Blanketflower, and Yarrow benefit from a period of cold stratification prior to planting. Cold stratification is basically giving your seeds exposure to a false winter. Most plants evolved away from accidentally germinating in the middle of the winter by requiring a certain number of days exposed to low temperatures before they will sprout. Our vegetable crops don't require this period of cold simply because thousands of years of gardeners have bred this trait out of them! But our native plants still like to know they've been through the worst of it before they begin to grow. While a fraction of seeds may begin to grow without cold stratification- germination rates of these flowers will be higher if we give them the cold.
The good news is, cold stratification is simple and easy to achieve. Roll your seeds up slightly damp paper towels and then place them in a sealed ziploc bag for 4-10 weeks in the refrigerator. Place them toward the back of the fridge or in a drawer that doesn't get opened a lot so that their temperature doesn't fluctuate every time the refrigerator door is opened. When it's time to plant, simple take them out and follow planting instructions! Who knew it was so easy to be Mother Nature! In this case at least:)