Local Wildflowers Blooming in an August Garden: Naked Buckwheat

This is part two of a short series reporting on the gardenworthiness of some local natives I'm growing from wild, graduates of my propagation program. First was Madia - now let's see how naked buckwheat is shaping up. Like Town Mouse's last post on what's naughty and nice - there is good and bad to say about how this plant has behaved in the garden. It may be to do with where it's growing though.

First the good - Tall sculptural hollow stems branching out with a cloud of little pompoms on top! Wonderful and the bees absolutely love it. When it gets maybe a bit too much water and too much shade, the stems flop over, as in the opening photo - still, it is lovely spilling over a path.

Even in full sun where the pompoms are getting a bit brown now, it's quite appealing. But look at the foliage -

Go on, take a closer look -

Now this plant in June had quite nice foliage -

But it didn't stay that way. At its best, it's not that lovely - sort of cabbagey. Here is a young plant:

But when the leaves all crisp up and turn brown, and the lower stem extends bearing them upwards about a foot -- no no no.

I forgive the plant though. Here's another June photo when the flowers were all white and pink - a bit weighed down by an unexpected hearty rain shower.

June, July - and through August this buckwheat has been blooming and giving me a lot of pleasure in many garden nooks. As long as I don't look at the foliage.

Around our neighborhood, naked buckwheat grows in just one spot: on a dry sandy slope about thirty feet above a river. That's where I gathered the original seed. But I think it may not have been getting as much sun as in my garden.

So my advice for naked buckwheat  is to give it a little water and grow out of the full sun -- or put in the back of a sunny border so you don't see its feet. You'll enjoy the interesting stems and flowers without the foliage becoming an issue.

On a aside note, I'm starting to despair of finding local native plants that will thrive on our baking sunny ridge top. I'm going to try for more of a prairie plant community - but even so, the bulbs and clarkia that I planted this year did not do so well. The bunch grasses were great though. I started a post series on prairie and I hope to pick up that theme when it comes to fall and early winter planting.

Meanwhile, I've planted some warty ceanothus and I have some coffeeberry to plant in Fall - hoping to create a little shade here and there, without too much fire risk, if I can keep them fairly low. And thank goodness for coyote brush - my stalwart friend. I hope these scattered shrubs will create growing spaces were plants may find some respite from afternoon sun.


Diana Studer said…
when we were in the Karoo gardens, I often saw the little plants tucked in the shade and shelter of big succulents like aloes
Hi Country Mouse,

I know this is an old post, but hope that you might see my comment/question.
Is that normal for buckwheats? I have almost 1 year old buckwheats that had a stunning display of flowers spring through summer, but now all I'm left with is dead looking little mounds of foliage. It sounds like this may be normal and do you expect they will bounce back? Or should they be pulled?

Native Novice
Country Mouse said…
Hi, Native Novice - Don't give up on the buckwheats quite yet - they can come back after fall and winter rains. This has been such a hard year on buckwheats and other plants too. Also different buckwheat species will do differently. I had Eriogonum crocatum this year for the first time - and they croaked! Shasta sulfur doesn't do well for me either. But for the first time I'm trying, E. grande var. rubescens and - it's still blooming in one of the driest parts of the garden. The naked buckwheat is still blooming too, though the foliage is brown. So - you might try one or two different species next time you plant to see which ones suit your garden - and you can trim back really dead blooms and foliage on your current buckwheat plants and see if they come through. Good luck!
Hi Country Mouse,

Thank you so much for your help! I will not give up on buckwheats. I have a rubescens and its still blooming too. I will keep at it and remember this is their ugly part of their year (summer is like the awkward tween years for native plants).

Thank you again!