Plants which are self-seeding can be great choices for a low maintenance garden – but which are right for you?
There are many different plants which will self-seed readily in the right conditions. But in order to take advantage of these self-seeding plants for easy propagation, you need to make sure that you understand the conditions in your garden, and the plants which can thrive in the particular environment that you are able to provide.
Remember, even plants which can self-seed readily in one garden may not do so in another. While some plants are generally considered to be good self-seeders, this is really a relative thing. What works well for a southern garden, for example, may not self seed in more northern gardens, for example. Climate, micro-climate and soil are all things which need to be taken into account.
That said, here are some great self-seeders that you could consider growing in your garden:
This perennial is a stalwart in many gardens, which will readily spread by forming clumps and by self-seeding. It can grow in full shade, partial shade or full sun, in most soil types as long as they are moist but well drained. For many gardeners, this plant is a particularly easy plant to grow. Though it can potentially be a little too successful in certain settings, and can spread onto paths or grow in the cracks in paving, it can be an excellent ground cover plant to consider.
Ornamental alliums are reliable and attractive border flowers which can often self-seed rather readily. This means that they can often be a good choice for a low maintenance perennial border, and can spread to fill in any gaps in a planting scheme. They will typically grown (and set seed) most effectively in full sun, in a free draining or moist but free draining soil.
Angelica is another great self seeder. It is a perennial, H6 hardy. It can thrive either in full sun or partial shade, in a location which is sheltered or exposed. It can thrive and self-seed very readily in moist but well-drained or water retentive chalk clay or loam soils. Fertile soils are a must, and conditions must not dry out too much. But as long as these conditions are met, angelica should spread well through your garden.
An annual which self-seeds remarkably easily in the right conditions, borage is a wonderful plant to include in a vegetable garden, or in mixed borders. It can work well in most typical garden soils, and can even tolerate dry soil, though it will struggle in wet and waterlogged soils, or in heavy shade. Borage is not only an attractive plant, it is also a useful companion for common crops, and is an edible flower with a range of uses. The flowers have a delicate, cucumber-like taste.
Calendula, also known as pot marigolds, are remarkably easy to grow. These are another annual which can often readily self-seed from year to year. They can thrive grown as a companion plant in vegetable gardens, while also working wonderfully in ornamental planting schemes. They will flower and set seed most readily in full sun or very light shade, in moist yet free draining soils, though are not particularly fussy plants can can thrive as long as the soil is not overly wet or waterlogged, and as long as they are not in deep shade.
These daisy-like flowers, also known as fleabanes, can also self-seed in the right conditions. These can be a particularly good choice for coastal gardens. They flower over a long period throughout the summer months. There are annual, biennial and perennial varieties and many can be good self seeders where there is full sun, and well-drained chalk, loam, or sandy soil.
Foxgloves are biennials and are another famously prolific self-seeder. Though their toxicity should be noted, these can be very valuable plants for the wildlife in your garden. And they are also extremely attractive flowering plants. They are unfussy about soil type, and can thrive in any soil which is moist but well drained or free draining. And can work just as well in a border in full sun, or in partial or dappled shade. The self-seeding can be rather too prolific in certain settings. But you can easily control their spread by deadheading after flowering where self-seeding is too excessive.
Lamium is a genus of around 50 species of flowering plants. And many species within this genus self-seed readily. Some self-seed so readily, in fact, that they are considered to be weeds in agricultural crops and gardens. Both lamiums commonly utilised as ornamental plants in gardens, and those considered weeds can be useful garden plants. They can spread to create great ground cover, and have a range of uses. Many can be very useful shade-tolerant perennials, great for growing beneath trees and shrubs. Lamium purpureum and Lamium album can also be edible plants – the leaves are great for foraged salads in spring.
French Marigolds, Tagetes patula, are an annual which can work well in a vegetable garden. And these can also self-seed readily in the right conditions. Though they will need to be in full sun, in a warm spot, in clay, loam or sand soil which is moist but well-drained or well-drained, and which does not become waterlogged or soggy for prolonged periods. They are an excellent companion plant for many common crops. In colder areas, you may have more success saving the seeds and sowing them indoors, but in the right conditions they will self-seed prolifically.
Forget-me-nots are another great self-seeding plant. They are a biennial which can pop up everywhere if you allow them to self-seed. They can look particularly wonderful when allowed to self-seed among tulips and other spring flowering plants, creating a beautiful blue froth among other plants. It can grow well and self seed readily in areas of full sun, partial or dappled shade. And can thrive in most soil types.
Nasturtiums can be another very useful self-seeding plant for your garden. They are excellent companion plants for common fruit and vegetable crops, and every above ground part of the plant is a useful edible. Nasturtiums will thrive and set seed readily where they are placed in a free-draining soil, in full sun. Collecting the seed and resowing may be more successful in chillier gardens. But in warmer spots they should pop up on their own each year.
Poppies may have only fleeting blooms. But they are one of the best annual self-seeders. These will pop up throughout a cornfield meadow planting scheme, or in beds or borders, delighting with their bright and delicate blooms year after year, and spreading to fill any gaps in a planting scheme in full sun, with well-drained yet fertile soil.
Verbenas, Verbena bonariensis for example, can be beautiful flowers for mixed beds or borders. And V. bonariensis is also an excellent self-seeder. It will thrive in a moist but well drained or well drained soil in full sun.
Working wonderfully well in mixed borders, prairie planting, cottage gardens or the sunny fringes of a forest garden, yarrow – Achillea millefolium – is another plant which self seeds readily. In fact, it can self-seed so readily that in some areas, it comes to be considered a weed. But yarrow is a very useful garden plant – great for wildlife and also medicinally. It thrives in moist yet free draining or free draining soil conditions, in full sun.
Edible Self Seeders
We mentioned ornamental alliums above. But some edible alliums (chives, for example) can also self-seed readily in the right conditions. It is also worth noting that there are many other common vegetable garden plants which will self-seed readily. Sometimes, allowing crops in a vegetable garden to self seed is not a good idea, since you will not want certain crop families to grow in the same growing area year after year. However, in certain situations, self-seeding can be beneficial.
Of course, some of the flowers mentioned above are also useful edible plants. Some other edible self-seeders to consider are radishes, mustard, lettuces, rocket, and Asian greens. Herbs such as dill, coriander, chamomile and (in the second year) parsley can also all be good self seeders. These might be good candidates for inclusion amongst perennial vegetables and herbs.
There are plenty of other plants which can often readily self-seed in a garden. But the plants mentioned above could be a good place to start.