Gardening Answers

What are your favorite self-sowers?

Chloe_Moderator | Posted in Northeast Gardening on

My favorite thing about gardening is the element of surprise, and to me there’s no better surprise than seeing desirable volunteer plants pop up in the garden! Of course, sometimes they can get out of control, but I still love a good self-sower. What self sows for you? Anything you love to see seeding in? Anything you regret planting because it’s just EVERYWHERE now? Here’s one I have a hard time weeding out – Fringed bleeding heart (dicentra eximia)


  1. User avater Moderator
    LSweeney_moderator | | #1

    I love self-sowers too! Some of my favorite self-sowing annuals are nigella, cosmos and poppies of all kinds, annual larkspur, bachelor button, ageratum and celosia. Even though I end up editing many of these volunteers, it's wonderful when they show up in the perfect spot!

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #5

      Poppies, chamomile, and bachelor's buttons are one of my favorite spring volunteer combinations. I didn't know celosia seeds in. I'll have to add it!

  2. michymoo | | #2

    I'm always thrilled to see columbines pop up - I've confirmed some tiny true leaves amongst a sea of suspected cotyledons just yesterday! - and my anise hyssops are always welcome to volunteer. The goldfinches have been plucking the flower heads lately, so they end up volunteering where they stand, for the most part. The rudbeckias, however, could stand to be a little less willy-nilly; I find them between patio stones, in various deck containers and all sorts of places!

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #6

      Yes! I never have the heart to pull columbine babies. That's true about the hyssop. It does tend to stay in the immediate area of the parent plant, but I never thought about the finches as the enablers. I agree, rudbeckias are easy to sacrifice at this point!

  3. user-6900891 | | #3

    I am working on adding more self-seeders to my garden, but one I always welcome is Cerinthe major purpurascens.
    I garden in zone 5/6 in the high desert of central WA, where we have sunshine and wind year round, and I do not water more than once or twice a month during the dry season. We often go from April-August with no rain. I appreciate any plant that looks this good and performs so lustily! And it comes back every year, albeit sometimes in odd spaces. As long as the plant won't be a tripping hazard I tend to leave them in situations, enjoying the serendipity while it lasts. I am enjoying seeing what volunteers other gardeners find and delight in!

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #7

      I just tried cerinthe for the first time two years ago and was enchanted with the incredible color. That's a lovely self-seeder to have! Coincidentally, I just noticed yesterday that some volunteers are coming up in the rocks near the container that held the parent two years ago! I'm not clear what the impetus to germinate now was, but our temperatures have been on the low side lately for a Connecticut summer. Do you have cool nights where you are?

  4. joe_green_thumb | | #4

    Calendula annual
    Foxglove biennial
    Fringe Cup
    Candelabra primrose

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #8

      Thanks for the list! I love that primrose.

  5. User avater
    dremnghrt | | #9

    We have Lemon Balm popping up everywhere, but I use it in so many foods, drinks, in floral arrangements, etc that I love seeing it in new places. It's easy to remove, if necessary, too.
    Another plant that has "volunteered" everywhere is Dame's Rocket. I know this can be invasive, so I keep a close eye on it and control it, but I do love having small patches of it here & there. The colors range from soft pinks to lilac purples and the fragrance is **wonderful**!
    I cherish any volunteer Violet that wants to make a home in our gardens, too. Some years are better than others for these, but I will go out of my way to protect it from being crowded out by other plants. ;D

  6. readndig | | #10

    I love Mexican feather grass. It is very easy to pull up any place you don't want it but has added some beautiful contrast in areas where I would not have thought to plant it.

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #11

      I love that about self sowers. As you say, they come up in spots you wouldn't have necessarily thought to plant them, giving you new ideas for plant combinations.

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