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THE JOY OF SELF-SEEDING PLANTS—WITH A SIDE OF CAUTION

July 11, 2022

Lovely and tough plants for free—who wouldn’t want that??  Great plants that often carry memories of gardens and gardeners long gone can be yours; plants that in many cases would be hard to find in a shop.

Pollinator gardens are perfect for self seeding plants.  They attract and nourish the bees that carry out the pollination for one thing  Seeds cannot form with out pollination.  The garden and the bees need lots of plants and flowers—big  and small simple and complex—all sorts of plants and flowers.  Perennials are the backbone of the garden, of course ,but the bees and butterflies need flowers for as long as possible and as many of them as possible—so annuals are a must have.  Planting lots of annuals can be expensive.  There is the cost of buying them of course and that can be significant.  But its not the only thing to consider.  Think of all those plastic pots—really the world needs a lot fewer of those no matter how hard the gardener may work to recycle.  Then there is the growing medium—what really is involved with that—something to think about!. Those plants were likely transported from a distance—another cost.  It takes time and effort to plant them and additional water to get them started.  

Plants that come back all by themselves—those are starting to look better and better.

So why aren’t they loved by all???  There is no perfection in this world and there are no perfect plants.

There are so many good things about self seeders—they come up at the right time for them and seem strong from the very beginning without special effort to get them established.  

But they aren’t perfect and the faults cannot be ignored.

One of the big problems is—they come up where it suits—them—not the gardener!  The middle of a garden path often seems a great place.  How to get around this—some plants will have to simply be pulled out but be alert often young plants can be easily transplanted to  a different place with minimal effort.  A bigger problem can be sheer numbers.  This is so variable some years seem to favor certain plants and at times the self seeding can be for the gardener—way too successful.  Again, be alert its almost always very easy to simply pull out the tiny plants—remember just because you have too many a friend may have none—a sharing opportunity.

They are not predictable every now and then—they don’t come up as expected.  Its always good to save some seeds from treasured plants—remember its not so easy to obtain these plants.

The last—but significant problem is that for a plant to self seed—it must form seeds!!  Seems obvious right—but the gardener can fail to realize that this means the plant must fully mature, flowers cannot be deadheaded.  Unfortunately—this is rarely a pretty sight. 

The circle of life must be accepted.  However—this does not mean that every plant has to be allowed to go to seed.  Choose only the best plants—the others can be deadheaded or removed altogether.  In allowing a few plants to go to seed the gardener not only ensures new plants for the next year but look at it as an educational opportunity the whole cycle can be explained to garden visitors—maybe even share a few seeds.

On your next visit to Raincatchers pollinator garden be sure to look for self seeded plants—and try some in your own garden.

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Rather than being broiled outside in our summer heat, read about these self-seeders indoors with a glass of ice cold tea:

Separating the Seeds from the Chaff

That Doesn’t Look Like Milkweed!

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