How to Grow Self-Seeding Plants

Learn all about plants that reseed themselves without being invasive.


By: Marie Hofer
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Start some chamomile in your garden and the next spring you'll have clusters of little reruns. Volunteers in the garden can be welcome - as long as they're not invasive and as long as you don't care about having a little disorder in your garden. The seedlings pop up not in the neat curvy lines you may have originally sown the parents, but willy-nilly according to how the seeds scattered. Letting a few self-sowers have their day is a good way to populate a semi-wild part of the garden.

"I would use them in little pockets throughout a perennial border where other things can be planted in their place once they die out, and then they come back the next spring," says Susan Hamilton, associate professor of horticulture at the University of Tennessee. "Another use can be in a meadow-type setting, an area where you let everything go to seed and just let things die down naturally, only mowing once or twice a year."

Depending on your region and climate, there may be a fine line between self-sowing and invasive. Before you plant any flowers that self-sow, call your local county extension agent to make sure they're not invasive in your area.

You may not want self-seeders to pop up in certain places; if so, limit your self-sowers to a particular spot in the garden. Also, if you hope for volunteers next year, it's best to keep your color scheme somewhat consistent.

Self-Seeding Plants

Hamilton, associate professor of horticulture at the University of Tennessee, helped compile the list of these self-cleaning plants; they don't have to be deadheaded to prolong bloom:

  • ornamental okra (Abelmoschus)
  • Salvia coccinea
  • impatiens
  • celosia (plume, wheat, and crested)
  • melampodium

Deadheading will not prolong bloom on these plants:

  • poppy (California, Oriental)
  • larkspur
  • love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
  • jewel of Opar (Talinum paniculatum)
  • cosmos
  • cornflower/bachelor buttons

Deadheading prolongs bloom on these plants:

  • rudbeckia
  • ageratum
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