Benefits of Self-Sowing Plants

Introducing self-sowing plants to your garden adds big benefits at little cost.



Most wildlfower seed mixes include numerous self-sowing annual varieties.

Photo by: Image courtesy of High Country Gardens

Image courtesy of High Country Gardens

Most wildlfower seed mixes include numerous self-sowing annual varieties.

Including self-sowing plants in your garden will provide a number of valuable benefits, whether your focus is on flowers, herbs or vegetables. Depending on your needs and aesthetic preferences, allowing your plants to go to seed will save money, time and labor in the garden. You may also find that these plants are healthier, having a greater degree of resistance to pests and requiring less attention in general. 

Self-sowers act similarly to perennials in that they reappear each year. While perennials come back in the same location, however, self-sowing annuals can take root anywhere their seed is carried. In many instances, this means that they provide a much fuller look more quickly than perennials. Those that sprout out of bounds can easily be transplanted, mowed, hoed or pulled. While perennials may take a number of years to grow large enough to be divided, self-sowing annuals can quickly fill in the empty spaces in your garden. 

Self sowers are relatively inexpensive. They are often found in the annuals area of the garden center, or in seed packets. Starting seeds in trays for transplant is a very inexpensive way to get lots of plants and a wide variety started. Once the initial investment is made, there is no need for further cash outlay. Each plant, when it goes to seed, produces up to ten times the number of seeds that a seed packet contains, or more.

Seed savers know another wonderful benefit of growing your own seed: each new generation is better adapted to your yard than the previous generation. When you grow from seed, you get slight genetic changes in each crop. Because they are growing in your yard the whole time, the survivors are those best adapted to your particular conditions. The differences may be subtle, but over time they accrue and make a difference. 

The benefits of self sowers extend beyond your personal gain. Many of these plants are good wildlife plants. Some of the seeds will be gobbled up by birds. Pollinators will be attracted by the abundant flowers. Beneficial insects find food and shelter in the foliage that is left intact as seeds ripen. These plants provide a haven for tiny wildlife in abundance. 

Self-sowing crops give you flexibility as well. It is not necessary to harvest, store and sow seed, because these plants do the work for you. However, if you want more control (as in the case of vegetables), you can easily snip ripe seed heads off the plants before they drop and place them in your preferred location. You can also save them to trade or share with other gardeners. Those varieties best suited to your individual climate take the guesswork out of seed starting in that there is no scarification required, no concerns over planting depth, hardiness, light/dark germination, etc. For the easiest plants to grow in your area, check with your local Master Gardeners or a local garden center professional. 

Listed below are a few flowers, herbs and vegetables that may be a good place to start. Just as with live plants, cold hardiness and cold requirements may demand that you provide special treatments to keep seed varieties that are not adapted to your climate. 

10 Self Sowing Flowers 

  • alyssum
  • cleome
  • cosmos
  • impatiens
  • melampodium
  • morning glory
  • nasturtium
  • portulaca
  • viola
  • zinnia

5 Self Sowing Herbs 

  • basil
  • chamomile
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • parsley

10 Self Sowing Vegetables

  • beans
  • beets
  • carrots
  • chard
  • collards
  • cucumbers
  • melons
  • peppers
  • squash
  • tomatoes
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