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.
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.
Lime flowers of lady’s mantle
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.
Purple-brown flowers of granny’s bonnet
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.
Spiky, blue sea holly flowers
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.
Small orange Welsh poppy blooms
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.
Pale blue meadow cranesbill flowers
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.
Tiny blue forget-me-not flowers
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.
Gold and green grass Stipa tenuissima
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.
Tall-stemmed, purple Verbena bonariensis flowers
Spires of white and purple-pink foxglove flowers
Give these self-seeding plants a go too…