Self-Seeding Perennials For The Garden – Growing Perennials That Self Seed

Self-Seeding Perennials For The Garden – Growing Perennials That Self Seed

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Perennials are dependable flowers that, once planted, live to beautify the landscape for several years. So, exactly what are self-seeding perennials and how are they used in the landscape? Perennials that self-seed not only regrow from the roots every year, but they also spread new plants by dropping seeds on the ground at the end of the growing season.

Self-Sowing Perennials for Gardens

Planting perennials that self-seed can be a very good thing if you have an area you want to cover with perennial blooms. However, most self-seeding perennial flowers tend to be a bit aggressive, so plan carefully before you plant.

Here is a list of some of the best self-sowing perennials for gardens, along with their USDA plant hardiness zones.

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), Zones 3-7

Four o’clock (Miribilis jalapa), Zones 8-11

Bachelor buttons (Centaurea montana), Zones 3-8

Coreopsis/Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.), Zones 4-9

Violet (Viola spp.), Zones 6-9

Bellflower (Campanula), Zones 4-10

Verbena (Verbena bonariensis), Zones 6-9

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.), Zones 3-10

Gayfeather/blazing star (Liatris spp.), Zones 3-9

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Zones 3-10

Butterfly weed (Asclepias incarnata), Zones 3-8

Growing Self-Seeding Perennial Plants

Be patient, as perennials may need a year or two to get established. However, if you start with the largest plants possible, the plants will be large enough to put on a show much sooner.

Determine the needs of each perennial and plant appropriately. Although most need sun, some benefit from partial shade, especially in hot climates. Perennials are also relatively accepting of most soil types, but most require well-drained soil.

Wildflower mixes are another good source of self-seeding perennial plants. Look for packets of seeds suitable for your growing zone.

Mulch perennials with dry leaves or straw in fall to protect the roots from soil freezing and thawing. Remove the mulch before new growth appears in spring.

An inch or two of compost or well rotten manure dug into the soil gets perennials off to a good start. Otherwise, one feeding in spring, using a general-purpose fertilizer, is sufficient for most perennials.

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Read more about General Flower Garden Care

There are over 250 species of beardtongue, the largest genus of flowering plants in North America. They can be tall and spiky or short and shrubby, and come in colours from light blue-ish to bright green. Most importantly, they like it dry and are highly drought tolerant. Even better, they’re highly resistant to pests. They also don’t need to be heavily fertilized or have their soil amended. The common name is a bit odd…but the flowers are lovely!

With large, pink flowers that are very attractive to bees and butterflies, the Blazing Star is large and showy. It also thrives in less than ideal soil conditions, including a lack of water. One thing to keep in mind is that it spreads through underground roots, so one plant is usually enough in a single garden.

20+ Ground Cover Plants That'll Immediately Improve the Look of Your Yard

Looking to upgrade your flower beds, front yard, or footpaths with some new landscaping ideas this season? Then we suggest considering an oft-used, but occasionally overlooked greenery: ground cover plants! This category consists of a variety of low-growing low-maintenance perennials. Why use ground cover plants? They're great for adding color, preventing weeds, and avoiding soil erosion—and many plants are good choices for both sunny areas and darker spots (we've got tons of ideas for shade perennials here as well). We've also made sure to include options for light, moderate, and heavily trafficked areas of your yard. After all, there are few things more disheartening than coming up with a few genius backyard ideas—only to watch them get trampled on by your guests as they innocently traipse through your garden.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener looking for a few hardy plants that'll make it all the way through the winter months or are a novice still trying to understand annuals vs. perennials, you're in the right place. Our picks are comprehensive, thoughtful, and most of all beautiful—and each of these ground cover plants are proven winners for small backyards and English gardens alike. Just don't forget to check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map before adding any of these plants to your outdoor space.

P.S. While you're knee-deep in the flowerbed, take a moment to check out our list of the best perennial flowers too—it's sure to provide even more inspiration.

"For a perennial garden, flowering thyme is such a nice addition because it's both ornamental and edible," says Tara Nolan, author of Gardening Your Front Yard. "Plus, even in the winter—assuming it's not covered in snow—you can grab a few sprigs of thyme to enjoy in your kitchen." Perhaps in a fancy lemonade!

White alyssum is a great way to fill in the areas of your garden that aren't already populated by plants and flowers. Its heat and drought hardiness make it an obvious choice for tons of different climates.

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 7-11

This incredibly hardy plant features a lovely red color—hence the name "Dragon's Blood."

"It really does provide year-round interest," says Nolan. "Even when there's some snow, you might be able to see the little rosettes. It's just a really pretty option in any season."

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 3-9

This low-growing plant features succulent, spreading leaves, and striking flowers that open in the sunshine and close when it's shadier. "'Firespinner' is one of the lovelier varieties," says Nolan. "It's this really beautiful blend of orange, fuschia, and white colors."

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 5-9

Black foliage might not be your first choice, but when you see how beautiful this grass is, you might change your mind. "If you plant a lime green foliage around it, that not only makes the black grass pop the green foliage also looks even brighter," says Nolan. "It's also an evergreen perennial, which means it'll have visual interest in the winter as well."

The Latin name, sempervivum means "live forever," which should give you a sense of how these tough, drought-resistant plants hold up. Their common name refers to the way the hen-like plant grows tiny rosettes around its main plant—like a hen caring for baby chicks.

Commonly known as lilyturf, all four species of these grass-like blooms are perennials. The towering purple buds make an appearance starting in the late summer and into the fall.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 6-10

Consider this one of the easier perennial ground covers, namely because it can bloom in partial shade with moist soil. Bonus: it's also one of the sweetest-smelling.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 2-9

Known as Lamium maculatum, this perennial plant is deer- and rabbit-resistant and boasts a lengthy bloom time: from mid-spring to early summer.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 3-10

These blooming beauties come in a variety of colors—white, purples, blues, and pinks—and won't grow taller than six inches.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 3-9

A cousin to mint that's also called woolly hedgenettle, you’ll enjoy this plant’s lush, silvery leaves year-round. The purple flowers that bloom come spring are also pretty.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 4-9

This variety of Viola sororia is moderately fast-growing and sports freckled purple flowers in mid-spring. When combined with shade-loving mosses, it creates a woodland effect.

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 4-11

Tiny pale-mauve blossoms appear in summer on the mint-scented herb Mentha requienii. Ideal for shade, it can also handle some afternoon sun and is easily divided.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 6-10

The moisture-loving Leptinella gruveri can withstand some morning light. It's an aggressive grower with tiny, pale fernlike leaves and small green-gold flowers in mid-spring.

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9

A variety of the moderately spreading Dianthus gratianopolitanus, featuring blue-green foliage and clove-scented pink flowers. It requires relatively little water.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 3-9

The abundant purple flowers of Mazus reptans, also known as creeping blue, bloom in mid-spring and remain through early summer. This drought-tolerant plant can also be grown in full sun.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 4-10

Easy-to-grow blue star creeper ( Isotoma fluviatilis) produces pale-blue flowers that last from spring through early fall. It spreads quickly in filtered light but can also take full sun.

The teardrop-shaped, variegated leaves on this drought-tolerant succulent ( Sedum album) turned red in autumn. The spikes of white flowers that burst forth each summer are a bonus.

Scented Chamaemelum nobile thrives in hot, dry conditions. Cut stems back to two inches from the ground after the plant blooms to maintain its compact form.

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9


The herb Thymus pseudolanuginosus, also called mother of thyme grows into a sturdy, scented carpet of fuzzy gray-green leaves that becomes dotted with miniature light-pink flowers each summer.

Good For: Plant HardinessZones 6-10

Also known as Breckland Thyme, this low-growing plant is great for walkways, as it tolerates pedestrian traffic and the leaves, when disturbed, release herbal or lemon scents.

Dwarf impatiens flank this pathway planted with Soleirolia soleirolii.

Good For: Plant Hardiness Zones 10-11

Eight plants that self-seed

Self-seeders are the opportunists of the plant world. Discover eight of the best.

Published: Wednesday, 17 July, 2019 at 8:49 am

Self-seeding plants are nature’s gift to gardeners – if they’re happy in your garden they will provide you with free plants, in flower beds, between slabs of paving and in the crooks of walls. Sometimes these unexpected guests can really make your borders sing – self-sown plant associations can surpass whatever you’d carefully planned. They can help the garden look a little more informal and can help to merge one area of the garden into another.

Some gardeners are a little afraid of plants that arrive unexpectedly. But you can always just dig them up or pull them out, transplant them elsewhere or give them to friends and neighbours. It pays to be able to identify the tiny seedlings from weeds – take a look at our weed seedling identifier.

No soil preparation is involved, and no cultivation necessary. Stepping in to cull or move seedlings when there are too many competing for the same resources may at times be necessary, but apart from that, all you need to do is sit back and watch nature takes its course.

If you favour a more laid-back approach to gardening, then self-seeders are for you. Discover eight plants that self-seed, below.

Alchemilla mollis

Perennial lady’s mantle is a lovely plant, with soft round leaves that look especially lovely with rain or dew drops on them and a froth of lime-green flowers. It grows to around 45cm high and is useful for softening the edges of a border.

Aquilegia vulgaris

This woodland dweller, also known as granny’s bonnet, likes to grow in a shady spot. It can grow to about 90cm high and comes in a range of colours including white, pink and purple. The offspring are often a completely different colour to the parent plant. Discover 10 aquilegias to grow.


Popular with pollinators, eryngiums (sea holly) are herbaceous perennials that come in shades of steely blue and like to bask in full sun. They look great in gravel gardens or large borders – give them ample space to shine. Browse more wildlife-friendly plants.

Meconopsis cambrica

Happy in woodland conditions, these yellow or orange-flowered Welsh poppies are annuals that don’t mind shade, making them perfect to weave under trees and taller shrubs, where they will provide a splash of bright colour in spring. Take a look at these 10 plants to grow under trees.

Geranium pratense

A cottage garden favourite, our native meadow cranesbill is a perennial that flowers in June and grows well in an open spot. It often puts itself among other perennials in borders. Though our indigenous plant has blue flowers, self-seeders can also be pink, mauve or white. Discover 10 hardy geraniums to grow.


Forget-me-nots (Mysotis sylvatica) will pop up everywhere to create a frothy blue cloud, and look lovely planted among tulips and other spring bedding plants. They are very easy to pull out if you have too many.

Stipa tenuissima

Stipa tenuissima (often sold as Nasella tenuissima) produces abundant feathery panicles in summer. For a naturalistic effect, plant it among with perennials near the front of a border. It self-seeds readily – look out for little tufts around your garden. Discover five beautiful combinations of grasses and flowers.

Verbena bonariensis

With its tall, airy stems, Verbena bonariensis doesn’t crowd or smother other plants and is perfect for integrating disparate plants into a unified scheme. If it likes your garden, it can be a prolific self-seeder, distributing its seeds in autumn. You can dig plants up easily if you have too many but they don’t transplant very well.

Balloon Flowers – Mature Flower and Bud

I love perennials in a flower garden. There are so many to choose from and they come back year after year. Some are as tough as old boots and live a very long time. In the southern part of America, you can walk through forested areas and come across a stand of beautiful flowers. The house may be gone but the perennials are still flourishing where they were planted 100 years ago or longer.

One type of perennial that I especially like are self-seeding perennials. The name says it all. They love to seed themselves around the garden. Sounds like trouble, but not really. The original clump of plant that you planted comes back the next year and brings some friends along. Sometimes the plant just keeps getting bigger and wider. And sometimes you find that the flower has seeded itself on the other side of the garden entirely. Because of this I try to be careful when I weed and let some seedlings grow-up if I recognize what perennial they are. Sometimes I don’t want them there and I just easily pull them out.

My 3 favorite self-seeding, flowering perennials are Balloon Flowers, Lamb’s Ears, and Sweet William. These 3 have given me so much joy in the garden. Every year that they come back, it’s like seeing an old friend drop by to pay a visit.

Balloon Flowers (Platycodon Grandiflorus) are some of the most unusual perennials. I just love how they look as they prepare to bloom. A large stalk reaches skyward and then tiny pea-like flower buds form. The upper most “pea” on the stalk will start to swell and resemble a tiny expanding balloon. When the balloon pops, you have a beautiful, open, star-shaped flower. When this flower fades the next “pea” in line starts to swell. Balloon flowers come in shades of pink, white, purple and blue. This wonderful plant has one down side, it can be top-heavy. To combat this problem, I either stake them or most often shear them shorter early in spring and this creates a shorter plant that tends to not fall over.

Lamb’s Ears (Stachys Byzantina) are a soft, fuzzy, gray flowering perennial. This plant also has a look that cannot be compared to anything else. It is unique. The base of the plant looks exactly like ears on a lamb. It is incredibly soft to the touch and its color doesn’t clash with anything else in the garden. The blooms are also unique looking in that they are tall, fuzzy spikes of tiny pink flowers. This plant is considered to be a perennial and a herb. I love this plant in bloom and without blooms. When the flower spikes have faded, I’m just as happy clipping them off and just having the “ears” left.

Sweet William (Dianthus Barbatus) is a member of that wonderful, sweet-smelling family that includes delicious, sweet-smelling Pinks. It ranges in colors from white to pink to lavender to red. This is a classic, cottage garden flower. Mixed together in various hues, and planted under rose bushes, you’ve planted a dynamite, cottage combination. This is described as a short-lived perennial, but I disagree. It should be described as a prolific self-seeder. It spreads its sweet-smelling self into large patches in the garden. And I’m so happy it does. I picked up a package of Sweet William seed at Jefferson’s Monticello because it was named after my lovable hubby. Over the years, it has turned into one of my favorite flowers.

Even though these prolific seeders do a great job, I help them out. I love to cut down the spent flower stalks that have gone to seed, dump the seed in my hand, and then sprinkle the seed in a bare spot that needs flowers. One year, as I “dead-headed” a large patch of Sweet William, I whacked the seed laden flower heads around inside a paper bag. At the end of my gardening session, I ended up with quite a lot of seed to scoop out into a new flower bed.

I love pictures in gardening magazines that show a large swathe of flowers all the same kind and color. This is the way to achieve those results. And on a budget, too. Happy gardening to all!

Cottage Garden Small Plants

They sway gently in the breeze adding texture and a weightless feel to borders. Take cues from this verandah which is entwined by ornamental grapevines.

Beautiful Small Cottage Garden Ideas For Backyard Inspirations 07 Small Cottage Garden Ideas Small Garden Design Cottage Garden

Hybrid lavandin varieties like L.

Cottage garden small plants. For most of these plants plant in blocks of three for maximum impact and ease of maintenance. Cottage garden plants represent a great variety of plants usually planted in mixed plantings and combinations to produce romantic gardens with plenty of form texture colour and fragrance. A small independent nursery based in the beautiful Hampshire village of Freefolk near Whitchurch today we stock over 1200 plant varieties including many rare and exciting species youll simply never see in your average garden centre.

Here are our top 10 plants for achieving an attractive cottage garden design. Many gardeners crave the cottage garden look and the secret is in the plants. Like most cottage garden plants bellflowers are great for cutting.

Showing 116 of 515 results. X intermedia Sussex AGM flower later and are taller at around 90cm 36in. A cottage garden is less expensive than its more formal counterparts.

Grow a mix of these charming old-fashioned favourites and the cottage garden effect can be yours. A cottage-garden favorite this species is a shrub covered in large trumpet-shaped dark-pink flowers and toothy dark-green leaves from June to October. The origin of cottage gardens is in the plants grown small yards of the homes cottages of workers where they were grown in close proximity to each other allowed to self seed and provided flowers.

Sugar Tip sometimes also called American Irene Scott bears light-pink double flowers and uniquely streaked white-and-blue-green foliage in a cultivar that holds up well to humidity drought and poor soil. The mini cottage garden for city dwellers You can have a mini cottage-style garden even if you live in a town or city you just need to pick plants that epitomise the soft informal feel typical of that sort of garden. Reliable and elegant they will add to your cottage garden soundtrack in a sunny space in any soil type.

Another traditional perennial flower in the cottage garden delphiniums range from 1-2m tall depending on the variety. Although you wont get an immediate impact you can start a cottage garden with a few packs of seeds and some patience. Photograph by Clare Coulson for Gardenista.

Now recognised as one of the UKs leading plantsmen nurseries Hardys Cottage Garden Plants was founded by Rosy Hardy in 1988. If you have small clumps of many kinds of plants you will limit loss to pests and diseases. This garden also features a number of impressive garden arbours.

Even if you splurge on some anchor plants like rose bushes or flowering shrubs you can temporarily fill in with less pricy plants. The most archetypal cottage plants are the spikes and you really cant do without them. Cottage gardens often are a dense mix-and-match jumble for a practical reason.

Many cottage garden planting schemes are designed for medium to large gardens but these five plants are perfect for a smaller scheme such as a border just 18m x 18m 6ft x 6ft. Cutting back after flowering means you can get as many as three flowerings out of a plant. Alternatively smaller varieties can be grown well in containers.

You need a rich soil with full sun or partial in hot areas and wind protection. Best for cottage gardens. Geraniums however should be planted singly to drift through the border.

In a cottage garden self-seeding plants with bright bold and vibrant flowers are best. Delphiniums lupins foxgloves and hollyhocks. Climbing plants are a must in any cottage garden.

Scatter these liberally through the borders. Some of Trouts favorites on his cottage garden plants list include spring-flowering bulbs purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea wild indigo Baptisia australis Stella dOro or Happy Returns daylily Hemerocallis New England aster Aster novae-angliae Alma Potschke and Russian sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spire. More stories you might like.

These gardens were informal photo right and productive with a mix of scented flowering and edible plants a combination of flowers and bulbs herbs roses perennials and self seeding annuals. Cottage garden plants Perennials are a must for cottage gardens. Hardy geraniums ladys mantle and shorter types of geum are perfect at the front of displays.

3-8 depending on variety. Delphiniums verbascum and hollyhocks will provide height at the back of borders while foxgloves lupins phlox achillea and bellflowers will help to bulk out the middle. Cottage garden plants bring back memories of Nanas garden but have a timeless quality thats all their own.

Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote AGM is a compact hedge growing up to 60cm 2ft in height with purple flowers. Postage Packing 395 which is Royal Mail First Class on small items and My Hermes for larger orders. Colorful Flower Borders in an English Garden Tattenhall Edition.

Many have a clove scent. To 3 feet tall. With their pretty flowers with a strong clove scent pinks Dianthus are essential cottage garden flowers and come in a range of colours and forms.

A box containing RHS Cottage Garden Seeds with a Kent Stowe Trowel and excellent quality gardening gloves is the perfect gift for birthdays anniversaries or a new home. Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. For more see Garden Visit.

Short-lived perennials they make good bedding plants grow at the front of sunny borders and in containers. Grasses are sorely underused in garden design. The front bed is planted with escallonia while the side is a mix of agapanthus salvias and valerian.

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