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growing tidy tips from seed

Housewife Approved! Tidy Tips for the Perfect Home Garden

Every modern housewife knows that appearances are everything. What does your front yard say about you and your household? You owe it to your husband and your family to keep a well-maintained, vibrant garden to let everyone know you're respectable and deserving of your position in the community.

But how do you juggle cooking, cleaning, and raising children without encroaching upon the three hours required to make yourself pretty for The Mister before he comes home? Why, plenty of those peppy diet pills, and Tidy Tips from Seed Needs, of course!

Growing Tidy Tips from seed is easy (just add water!*) and just as easy to maintain. No need to hire that neighbor boy to handle all the dirty work. Which is a relief; we've all heard he smokes the reefer and listens to Hard Bop (jeepers!).

Tidy Tips are compact plants with bright yellow, white-tinged petals that will look absolutely neato along your front walkway, without hiding your prized concrete statuary. In fact, nothing goes better with bright pink lawn flamingos than cheery yellow Layia platyglossa!

Still not convinced that this is the right plant for you? Keep reading! Then, if you think they're the best thing since instant iced tea, don't worry...there's no need to consult with the head of the household before you place your order; the next time you vacuum the sofa, you'll find more than enough pocket change to purchase your very own Tiny Tips seeds. You can always ask for forgiveness later!

Native range and history

There's no family as wholesome as the daisy (Asteraceae) clan, to which Tidy Tips proudly belong. Platy means "flat," and glossa means "tongue." This may refer to the flower's tendency to open up on a flat plane, rather than take on either a cupped or convex shape.

Some gardeners refer to tidy tips by its genus name, Layia or as "coastal" or "common" Tidy Tips. They're typically thought of as a California wildflower that thrives from the western Sierra foothills all the way to the ocean, from the Mendocino coast down along Baja. (Is anyone thinking of Gidget right now? Don't worry! Layia platyglossa has all her sunshine and perk, but none of those unsavory tomboyish interests. Tidy Tips are all girl!)

Part of L. platyglossa's native range includes Arizona and Utah, though it seems to have dodged the scandalous state of Nevada. It's adapted to desert (high and low) regions, grasslands, and sparse, sun-baked coastal hillsides. California's deserts are famous for their spring wildflower displays, and carpets of Tidy Tips earn top billing.

The New England Wildflower Society theorizes that Tidy Tips' first discovery on the East Coast occurred at a Massachusetts dump, where the seeds likely arrived in wool waste from the western US and then naturalized throughout the area.

The wildflower conservation organization Calflora has a comparison of various Layia species in its wildflower database, including two species that look nearly identical (Fremont's, Jones', smooth, and Munz's) but L. platyglossa is the plant most often cultivated for ornamental use.

True native Californians, such as the Cahuilla, Mendocino (Pomo, Yuki), Ohlone (Costanoan), and perhaps the Miwok people relied on Laylia seeds as an essential part of their diet. They were likely ground into meal and made into primitive bread. We couldn't find a connection between Laylia seeds and the people of Arizona and Utah, but if we're pretending to be in the 1950s, all our information about ethnobotany in these regions would be coming from a John Ford movie...and would be wrong.

Tidy Tips in the garden

Would you believe it? Tidy Tips are one of the few plants that actually thrive in dense, salty soil! Tidy Tips is adaptable enough to thrive in the same garden environs as many other hardy western wildflowers, or with higher-maintenance ornamentals. They're often grown with five-spot (Nemophila) in spite of the latter plant's preference for rich, sandy soil.

We love them with poppies from the Eschscholzia genus, and you'll find these as well as other compatible species in our Low-Growing Wildflower Mixture. Tidy Tips are most spectacular when grown in carpets of color, either as a monoculture or as part of a colorful blend.

Their petite height lets them grace borders and walkways, and they're delightful groundcover plants for hiding the graves of those annoyingly pushy encyclopedia salesmen. (For more on this subject, read "Cover Your Tracks with Creeping Thyme." Mother of thyme is a potential co-conspirator for tidy tips!)

Everything might be prim and proper here in the 50s, but the 60s are right around the corner. If you've been hanging out with that naughty neighbor boy, you might be inclined to break with propriety and plant tidy tips with the similarly-patterned perennial plant, fire on the prairie (Gaillardia aristata) for that groovy psychedelic look.

Flower description

True to the daisy family, Tidy Tips have compound flowers: Their centers are a collection of disc florets, and their "petals" are actually ray florets. The centers on Tidy Tips aren't as dense and smooth as those of their daisy cousins. There are usually 5 to 18 petals, all bright yellow to gold with the appearance of each having been dipped in your favorite bright white lead-based paint. The boundary between the colors is sharp, rather than gradual. Tidy Tips flowers are roughly two inches in diameter.

When they're grown in optimal conditions, the flowers will be so dense that they nearly hide the foliage. Tidy Tips, in their native habitat, bloom from March through mid-June.

Foliage description and growth habit

When your tidy tips plants first become established, the basal rosettes of long, narrow, deeply-serrated weeds could be mistaken for dandelions. Eventually, multiple sturdy, hairy, branching stems, with a few leaves growing oppositely, will support flower buds well above the plant's main silhouette.

  • Plant Height: 8" to 12" tall
  • Plant Width: 6" to 10" spread

We've seen one popular garden website refer to Tidy Tips as a succulent. They're mistaken. The dark green to blue-green foliage is somewhat rugged, but it doesn't "hold" moisture the way actual succulents do.

Sun and moisture requirements

Tidy Tips are sun-loving plants. They'll tolerate partial, light shade on the hottest afternoons, but under deeper shade, they'll lose their bloom density. They prefer a bit more moisture than other native dryland species, but they're still considered to be drought-tolerant plants. They've evolved to take advantage of heavy spring rains, to power up their rapid growth.

Once established, they only need about an inch of water every 10 to 14 days. Irrigation through the latter half of summer may lengthen the bloom period.

Soil and nutrient preferences

Tidy Tips' tolerance for slower-draining, clay-like soil may be related to its dependence on heavy, infrequent rainfall. If you grow them in a naturalized setting, you'll get sufficient blooms with little soil amendment, as long as the area doesn't pool up. We recommend providing them with well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Too much nitrogen—just as too much shade—will impact flower density, so don't go overboard.

Tidy tips endure a broad pH range (5.0 to 8.0) and tolerate alkaline soil better than most ornamentals.

Ideal climate

Layia platyglossa is an herbaceous annual reported to thrive in all USDA hardiness zones; we recommend them in zones 3 to 10. They don't like extreme heat and humidity, and in these regions, their bloom period might not extend beyond early summer. In milder climates (and with deadheading) you might get consistent blooms throughout the summer.

Pests, diseases, and maintenance

Tidy Tips don't require much care beyond irrigation and trimming off spent flowers. They're resistant to pests and diseases, though over-watering and high humidity can cause fungal problems. Deer don't go out of their way to devour them, but they'll probably help with premature deadheading.

Benefits to wildlife

These plants are very popular with beneficial flies and wasps, and they draw in pollinators like crazy. According to the California Native Plant Society, Tidy Tips are an essential food source for threatened checkerspot butterflies.

*Growing Tidy Tips from seed

"Just add water" might be a bit oversimplified, but not by much. We strongly recommend direct-sowing your Tidy Tips directly outdoors, but you can plant them inside 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost if you use 4" pots and keep them in bright sunlight.

  • When to Plant Outdoors: As soon as the soil can be worked in spring
  • Seed Depth: Surface to 1/8"
  • Seed Spacing: Plant, thin, or transplant 4" to 6"
  • Days to Germination: 7 to 21 days at 65°F to 70°F

Prepare your outdoor beds by loosening the top inch of soil, and removing all clumps and debris. Surface-scattering the seeds is usually sufficient since they need sunlight to germinate, but spring songbirds might raid your garden. We recommend covering them (the Tidy Tips seeds, not the birds) with a very thin layer of soil, or covering the planting area with suspended bird-proof mesh. If you do the latter, take care; wildlife, including pest-eating snakes, might get entangled in the netting. (Of all the plastic products used in gardening, we dislike mesh the most; they're the six-pack plastic rings of horticulture.

Be sure to keep your Tidy Tips' seedbeds evenly moist until the plants have become established. In the wild, heavy rains wouldn't push them too far under the soil, but in loose, fluffy gardens, it's a possibility they can be "drilled" too deeply under the surface.

Tidy Tips in floral design

Since the flower stems account for most of the plant's height, Tidy Tips lend themselves well to floral arrangements. And as a diligent housewife, you know how important it is to have lots of cheery flowers around the house! They can last up to 10 days, provided you put them in water as soon as they're cut. We recommend you use a flower preservative to prolong their viability.

Seed Needs' Take on Atomic Gardening

Fun fact: In an attempt to promote the "peaceful" use of atomic energy, Dwight Eisenhower and atomic scientists promoted "Gamma Gardens" with irradiated seeds. As Ripley's Believe It or Not reports, "Irradiated seeds became the 'in' seeds for farmers, and 'Atomic Energized' seeds were even marketed to housewives to conduct their own atomic gardening experiments at home." The hope was for the development of artificially-mutated plants that would become resistant to pests and diseases. Gamma Gardening was, essentially, the first foray into genetic modification as it's come to be defined today. Of course, we at Seed Needs don't sell GMO products of any kind; all our varieties are either wildflowers, heirloom varieties, or naturally-bred cultivars improved over generations through selection from hardy parentage.

Now that gardening is an occasion to relax and get dirty, and the ladies of the house can flip the bird to crinolines and corsets, your garden only needs to impress you. And so do we! If you have any questions, or you'd like to know more about our favorite easy-to-grow plants, contact us today. Our operators are standing by!
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