What Is Reseeding: How To Manage Self-Seeders

Flowerbed of Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)
Image by songphon

By Bonnie L. Grant

One of the best bangs for your gardening buck is a reseeding plant. What is reseeding? The term refers to plants that set viable seed, which finds fertile ground in a zone for which it is hardy and grows anew the next season. They are essentially renewable plants, an environmentally responsible way to garden. That being said, these plants can quickly get out of hand without the right management. Read on to learn more.

What is Reseeding?

Self-seeding plants are often annual or biennial flowers. You may also find your fruits and vegetables are prolific reseeders, sometimes springing from your compost heap. Any seeds that are allowed to mature and sprout the next season are often called volunteers. These plants don’t sow themselves in well behaved rows but in unruly abundance, and mix among themselves. This can give a flower bed a unique charm and lively color. For fruits and veggies, they will often not grow true to the parent but something will grow and it will be a fun experiment to let them thrive and see what you get! Out of bounds, however, they can become something else altogether.

Once a plant has produced flowers, it generally produces seed after the blooms fade. These seeds are designed to carry the plant’s genetic material on in the form of new plants. Seeds fall or get scattered by animals, birds and wind. If they land in a favorable location, all that is left is to wait for the warm season and they germinate and make more of the original plant. Reseeding is simply this process. The little guys can come up anywhere, serendipitously, but that is half the fun. You can always transplant for a formal bed but at least you don’t have to save or purchase seed or another plant. Reseeding is one of nature’s ways of keeping things simple – or not.

Types of Self-Seeding Plants


There are many plants that reseed themselves. Popular flowering plants that will come back year after year include:

Interestingly, fruits and vegetables that self-sow may come back as slightly different than the parent plant but still produce edibles. Some common volunteers in spring include:

Radishes, broccoli rabeturnips and most types of mustard will grace your garden annually and may even produce a fall crop. If you can keep them alive through winter, some plants are biennial and set seed the second year. Examples of these are:

Annual herbs should left to flower with a good chance of spring volunteers are:

How to Manage Self Seeders

Now that you know what types of plants to allow to set seed and self-sow, you need to know how to manage self-seeders to prevent having them get out of hand, or in the case of veggies, prevent issues with pests or disease.

The most important bit of information for vegetables is that of crop rotation. Vegetable and fruit seeds germinate fairly near where the parent plant was located. Any old plant matter, and sometimes the soil itself, can harbor insect pests specific to that plant family or disease. That is why crop rotation is important. Choose initial plants that are resistant to diseases like powdery mildew and certain insects. Alternatively, move the plant to a location where that family group had not been growing for some years.

Another consideration is total invasion. For example, you may want a few borage plants to set seed, but if you allow all the plants to self-seed, you are going to have a problem on your hands the next season. Only allow a certain number of flowers to seed in order to start early containment. Using edging around the garden can also help, but sprouts may still pop up in unwanted areas. Should this occur, you can normally pluck the seedlings when the soil is moist (they come out easier then) or mow over them in the lawn.

For the most part, however, you can simply pick your favorite plants and let them flower and seed. Consider it an experiment which may reap a heap of benefits.

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