Farewell to Spring: Growing Godetia From Seed
Nov 15, 2018
We love North American wildflowers, especially those that are indigenous to the Pacific side of the Continental Divide. They often have every bit as much charm and beauty as fragile species cultivated for generations by obsessive gardeners, but with the ruggedness that's characteristic of any leading character in a John Ford movie.
Members of the Godetia genus are among the most resilient, and we're proud to offer Farewell to Spring, the most popular and easy-to-grow godetia available.
Godetia in the Garden
Not everyone has naturally-fertile garden soil, and even if we do, there are always those neglected areas we haven't bothered to amend with yards of compost, passed-on family pets, and murder victims. Godetia actually prefers low-nutrient soil, as long as it's well-drained. Spoiling this species with overly-rich bedding will do more harm than good; add a bit of aged compost or sand to loosen compacted soils, but don't add fertilizer unless you're living directly on top of either a sand dune or the Sea of Tranquility, in which case you'll want to opt for a low-nitrogen fertilizer and a better real estate agent.
So if you have a sunny spot that could use a little color, but you're too busy creating an alibi to properly enrich your soil, godetia's probably a good species for you. Plus, it grows quickly, which means you have a chance to enjoy it before you go on the lam for good, and it's low-maintenance, meaning that it will thrive while you're in hiding...or in prison.
Growing godetia from seed makes for a fantastic rock garden specimen and edging plant and, of course, it fits in well with xeriscape schemes. Want to take it with you? Godetia is a great container plant, especially the dwarf varieties. Or you can harvest them for fresh cut flowers.
Godetia amoena flowers are nectar-rich, attracting and sustaining native pollinators as well as European honeybees. You'll find them included in butterfly garden and wildflower mixes, or in collections chosen for deer-resistant gardens.
True to its nickname, godetia announces the closing of spring and the beginning of summer with blooms from June through August in its native range. The flowers are white, salmon, or varying shades of pink and purple; they're four-petaled, cup-shaped, and often (if not usually) patterned with several shades of a single color, or contrasting hues on the same flower. Godetia petals slightly resemble hearts, each with a shallow notch carved into the outer lip.
Godetia flowers close at night and in extremely overcast weather. The petals have a shimmery, satiny texture, and the blooms are 1" to 2" across.
Godetia flowers bud from nodes on the plant's upright, often hairy stalks. Long (1" to 3"), narrow, lance-shaped leaves are dark green to green-gray, growing in an alternating pattern. The plants tend to be leafier towards the top, as lower foliage drops when flower production begins.
- USDA Hardiness Zones: Annual in zones 3 through 7.
- pH: Godetia’s ideal pH range is 6.6 to 7.3.
- Sunlight Preferences: Full sun; part shade in extremely hot or humid areas.
- Moisture Requirements: Drought-tolerant once established.
- Plant Height: 1' to 3' tall; dwarf varieties from 8" to 14" tall.
- Plant Width: 1' spread; dwarf varieties 6" to 1' wide.
- Days to Maturity: 30 to 60 days.
Pests, diseases, and maintenance
Godetia is generally hardy and rarely suffers serious pest or disease damage, but it's not immune to mites, Japanese beetles, aphids, powdery mildew, leaf spot, and verticillium wilt.
It may need staking if it's in an area exposed to wind. Tall plants do tend to "lodge" (fall over like a drunk soldier), especially if they're grown singly. Mass-planted godetia tend to support their neighbors. Deadhead spent flowers to prolong the bloom, and to curtail self-sowing. They do reseed easily in their ideal environment but they're not invasive. (Interestingly, they naturalized in Quebec.)
Selecting companion plants
If you've decided to purchase seeds separately from wildflower mixtures, you can choose from any number of hardy plants to grow alongside your godetias. Choose species based on tolerance for sunlight and poor soils; godetia doesn't do well with coddling or shade, but it can handle an increased watering schedule.
Native Range, History, and Medicinal Uses
Godetia amoena is a maritime plant native to the West Coast, from Monterey Bay, California to British Columbia. It's been spotted, on rare occasion, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, and as far south as Mexico though it prefers the cooler, more maritime conditions found in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and western Canada.
Its native communities, according to Calflora.org, include:
- Northern Coastal Scrub
- Coastal Prairie
- Redwood Forest
- Mixed Evergreen Forest
- Northern Oak Woodland
Godetia's preferred environment overlaps with that of another of our favorite California wildflowers, globe gilia, though godetia leans toward slightly cooler climates. Nonetheless, both would make excellent neighbors in your garden.
Godetia is a member of the evening primrose family (Onagraceae), known for flower parts appearing in fours. Thomas J. Elpel, widely considered the guru of edible plant foraging and identification, describes members of this family as having four petals, four sepals, a four-lobed stigma, with an equal number or, as with godetia, twice as many stamens as petals.
Godetia is the plant's former genus name, and is an honorarium to Swiss botanist Charles Henry Godet (1797-1879). It was later changed to Clarkia to honor Captain William Clark (1770-1838) of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Amoena is Latin for "beautiful" or "pleasing."
Botanists and gardeners have bestowed the plant with several common names, including "clarkie," "farewell to spring," and "satin flower."
Is it edible?
According to Elpel, "The plants of (Onagraceae) are mostly edible, with astringent, mucilaginous and antispasmodic properties." The USDA Natural Conservation Resource Service notes that Miwok native cultures in California's Central Sierra Nevada foothills parched, then pounded the dried Clarkia amoena seeds into edible meal.
We did some digging of our own. There are (well, were) the Coast Miwuk, the Lake Miwuk, and the Sierra Miwuk, and we suspect only the former two groups regularly encountered and used C. amoena...and the Lake people only through trade with their neighbors immediately west between San Francisco and Mendocino, where the plant thrives best.
If you want to check out an astonishing list of Miwuk subgroups, check out this page on Access Genealogy. One of our friends spent a great deal of time cavorting on the banks of the Stanislaus River, where she found pestles carved into granite boulders. She's seen plenty of godetia there, too. We'd give her a shout-out by name, since she got excited upon her discovery of godetia in our catalog, but we have a sneaking suspicion she's in the witness protection program or something.
Growing Godetia from Seed
Godetia seedlings don't handle transplanting very well, which is why it's difficult to find them at nurseries. If you do opt to start them indoors, be sure to do so under lights, and use peat pots or CowPots.
For direct sowing, clear the area of any weeds or grass, add just enough compost or sand for drainage, and gently rake the soil surface so it's loose. Scatter the seeds in a sand mix for more even distribution. Water the area, with a low-pressure hose, and keep it moist (but not wet) until the plants have established themselves.
- Seed Treatment: None required.
- When to Plant Outdoors: In its native range, or in areas with temperate winters, direct-sow during the fall rainy season. In spring, plant after all chance of frost has passed.
- When to Plant Indoors: 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last spring frost.
- Seed Depth: Surface sow; no deeper than 1/16". Godetia requires sunlight to germinate.
- Seed Spacing: Tolerates crowding, but ideal spacing is 12" to 18".
- Days to Germination: 14 to 30 days at 70°F.
Transplanting Tips: Before you transplant your seedlings, thoroughly soak their biodegradable pots. Gently score vertical ridges on the pot edges with a sharp utility knife to aid in the natural breakdown process. Then, plant the entire pot into a moist hole in the garden bed, fill it back in, and give the area a good final watering. Keep the area moist until the plant appears to be establishing itself.
Grow Wild With Seed Needs
Widespread water restrictions and our customers' busy schedules are causing our native wildflower varieties to become hot commodities. We offer godetia as a stand-alone product, or as a component of one or more pre-mixed wildflower collections. Gardening doesn't have to be a time (or resource) suck, and everyone deserves the chance to enjoy a little bit of nature at home, whether it's by way of a patio container garden or in the nooks and crannies between junked-out transmissions and old tractors in the back 20.
Let us know if you really do need enough seed for larger areas, and we'll see what we can do to create custom quantities for you; We only stock enough godetia seed as we can expect to sell in a single season, so the seeds we send you have the best germination rates. Contact us with plenty of lead time so that we can special order your godetia seeds, or help you design a custom wildflower mix!