Self-seeders dilemma

woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)July 14, 2014

Rouge's Kalimeris thread fit with an internal discussion I was having with myself today as I was taking advantage of the pleasantly cooler temperatures to do some weeding in the front beds. Over the past couple of years I have been trying to whittle down the number of vigorous self-seeders in the garden. Most of the asters are gone - being replaced with mums; most of the Shasta daisies are also gone, but I have kept a few clumps that will (hopefully !) be more rigorously deadheaded; ditto re purple coneflowers. Alliums, campanulas, knautia, and a few other thing are on the to-be-reduced-or-eliminated list. On the other hand, there are empty spaces that need filling in around shrubs where groundcover self-seeders would be welcome. I will be seeding Fragaria vesca next month to add to ones I already have that aren't spreading fast enough. I want to add more Iberis 'Little Gem' as a groundcover. Not sure what else...

What are your good and bad self-seeders? Has your attitude to them changed over time?

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Connie K

How do you get asters to reseed? Or Shasta daises? Or allium? Do you mulch your beds? If you don't, that might be the difference. All my beds are mulched, and I don't get any reseeding.

A groundcover I have been happy with is Lamium Pink Nancy. I don't know if it reseeds, but it does fill in fairly quickly. I spaced my plants about 2 feet apart, and by the third year they should completely cover the space.

I've heard some Lamium can be invasive, but this particular cultivar is well behaved.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 3:45AM
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Good: The two I notice most often are Penstemon 'Mystica' and Virginia knotweed 'Painters Palette.' I just dig out the volunteers, pot them up and either give them away or find a spot for them. Anything else is a weed that gets pulled. Echinacea has self-seeded but I leave it to grow where it will for the bees & birds. Shasta daisy has never self-seeded in my garden, nor has knautia. Ladybells is at the top of the must-be-eliminated list. So far my one campanula is well-behaved. Rose campion has self-seeded sparingly and is so far allowed to bloom where it grows.

My attitude hasn't changed: rampant self-seeders aren't welcome. Things I enjoy that self-seed at a moderate pace are tolerated so long as they don't bother me.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:13AM
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Campanula UK Z8

It's a tricky one isn't it? Seems to come down to mulching which I hate with an insane passion - there will never be those patches of drying dead stuff between plants in my garden.....but on the other hand, I do have to sacrifice many. many hours on my knees, weeding out every volunteer. There is, I suspect, no middle ground between these two scenarios because regardless of whether it is a self-seeded flower or a pernicious weed, every spot of bare earth will get filled with one thing or another.....and I think I would prefer nigella, knautias, poppies and even sow thistles and fat hen rather than bark chips or that straw looking stuff I see a lot.
There's always something to detract from the perfect vision of a beautifully filled and maintained garden.....and in my case, when it really comes down to it, because of the plants I grow and the way I grow them, messiness (and weeds) are less of an irritation than ugly mulches. YMMV, especially if you have a garden with defined swathes of perennials and shrubs and an attempt at order and harmony (as opposed to a mish-mash of.....stuff.)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:40AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I can't say I really have any perennial self-sowers that are problems or maybe I'm just to anxious in the spring to get out there with the hoe and weed out any unknowns.

The only plant that surprised me was Nepeta 'Blue Wonder'. It's suppose to be sterile, but there sure were a heck of a lot of seedlings this spring. I'm still pulling them out, but I love the plant so much I don't care.

I did have a big surprise the other day. I was out in the garden doing some tidying up and came across one lonely seedling of Talinum paniculatum (Jewels of Opar) growing in the middle of an iris clump. What's odd is I haven't grown this plant for a good 6-7 years. I use to have lots of it, but it's self-sowing tendencies kind of turned me off to it, so I stopped. I guess that one seed has been sitting there just waiting for the right opportunity to grow again. I think I'm going to leave it grow. I kind of miss the plant now.

I also have the same situation with morning glories. I haven't grown them in a good 10 years and am still pulling 1/2 dozen seedlings a week.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:41AM
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Totally agree with Talinum>>.I bought one years ago and still have it reseeding even in my driveway. Another horrible reseeder is the eupatorium 'chocolate', which reseeds green and with abandon. Hard to pull also. Coryalis lutea and fern leaf corydalis also >>but easy to pull. Sometimes I just take some round up. Wood poppies, and phlox divaricata self seed way too much but beautiful in the spring. Geranium phaeum has become a thug.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 7:04AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

No mulch here other than the pine bark mulch on the paths. Like Campanula, I don't like the look of it in beds. Dense plantings are my 'mulch' and I do most of the garden clean-up in the spring to allow the previous year's foliage to rot down to add organic matter to the soil - the woodland area plants particularly like/need that layer of fallen leaves and dead plant material. If you like the look of a neatly mulched garden with spaces between the plants, you'd hate my garden! :-)

But I do like to have some say over which plants go where, so plants that seed around too vigorously are unwelcome - in the front bed in particular. In the backyard white corydalis is a vigorous seeder but it suits the garden and is easy to remove if necessary so I've let it become the groundcover in difficult areas. I wouldn't mind something equivalent to that for the sunnier front garden. I had hoped that the alpine strawberries (runnerless plants - see link) that I had planted a number of years ago would be good filler plants. They have seeded a bit but not as much as I hoped, so I'll be sowing seed for them in the garden in the fall. I had planted Beacon Silver lamium many years ago in some areas. It does a good job where it survives, although some of it has reverted to a rather messy-looking green-and-white. It has never spread to sunnier areas, restricting itself to under the old cedar.

My Campanula persicifolia seeds around very vigorously if it's not deadheaded promptly. Shasta daisy 'Becky' both seeds and spreads from the roots - the clumps creeping wider and wider each year. Purple coneflowers also seed like mad. Phlox 'David' is another vigorous seeder. They are all pretty plants and I used to let them spread freely when the bed was not as full in the first years of the garden. But now I'm trying to switch to a more shrub-based planting using shrubs and shrub-like larger perennials. So I need/want fewer mid-sized seeding or spreading perennials. But low ones as groundcover under shrubs would work if they are otherwise suitable for the garden pictures I want to make.

So I think there remains a lot of weeding and editing in my immediate future :-) as well as experimenting with low plantings to fit under the taller ones and cover the soil to reduce the opportunity for weed seeds to take hold. A gardener's work is never done.... :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: alpine strawberries

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:48AM
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It's an annual, but my sister shared a few perilla frutescens plants with me last year. She warned me that they were vigorous reseeders, so I was careful where I put them. I couldn't believe the carpet of seedlings, but they were easy to yank, easy to transplant, and came in really handy to fill some bare spots. But I'll have to deadhead all but a few strategically-placed plants later this summer.

I too love Persicaria Painter's palette, and for years have taken advantage of its reseeding. Because the flower is late and not ornamental, this is another that's easy to deadhead if seeds aren't wanted. Also, I discovered it grows very easily from cuttings (as in "stick them in the ground, water, and they grow"), so I don't need to rely on seeds so much.

I get tons and tons of hellebore seedlings too. Usually they stay close to the parent plant, so it's not a huge pain, but I moved some things around late last summer so ended up with hellebore seedlings growing in the middle of hostas, sedges, a lot of other perennials, and in between my flagstones too.

Most of my phlox is in a wild area, so I let it seed around. Ditto Joe Pye Weed. My monarda runs wild, but I think most of it's from runners vs. reseeding, and I welcome having more to move where it's needed.

Carex Ice Dance wants to reseed too. I try to cut off the seed heads, but inevitably end up with some very vigorous solid green seedlings that need to be yanked.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 4:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

an internal discussion I was having with myself today

==>>> internal is the good way to do it...

but you know you are in trouble... when you start having them aloud.. in the garden.. and the neighbors start wondering who you are talking too all the time.. lol


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:37PM
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In my case, runners present more of a problem than seeders. I got rid of my Kalimeris as a runner.

I plant and maintain mixed perennial beds with the plants placed close together. From July on, I believe that seedlings are shaded out by the perennials which are then taller. That even goes for the seedlings of excessive seeders like a Malva moschata (musk mallow) that I tolerated until recently.

I'd say that weeding is more necessary before July, but feel that our blocks of spring flowers like primulas, lungworts and brunnera (latter, not the species) help to limit the spread of weeds, except for around the edges of flower beds.

I don't need mulch, but agree that it's not particularly attractive.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:38PM
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Hmmm. One of my rampant self seeders in one garden is alpine strawberries! I tried them for a low cover and they do cover--everywhere! The birds carry them all over the place in all four gardens! I started out thinking "Great!" More berries!" Now I just hoe them out. Enough is enough.

I noticed something when I moved. I never had much self seeding except for Jupiter's beard, lettuce, and dandelions. The soil I had at the other house was a heavier clay soil. Here at my new house I have a sandy silty soil and I have everything reseeding. All herbs, flowers, vegetables, you name it, if it isn't sterile it reseeds. Mulch helps, but lots of things just sprout in the mulch. I really think weeding is part of the package no matter what.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 7:11PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Did your alpine strawberries choke out any desirable plants? I've had them in the garden for years now but they haven't multiplied much. (The soil here is fairly heavy neutral-to-alkaline clay - maybe that makes a difference.) As long as they don't choke out the sturdier perennials but do help reduce weeds and unwanted seedlings by covering the bare ground, I wouldn't mind if they provided a fairly unbroken groundcover around the perennials and shrubs. DH also likes jam made from them - at this point in order to get enough berries for a small batch we have to pick them as a few ripen, freeze them, and wait until we've collected enough to make a small batch of jam, then thaw them all and cook them.

I know I'm never going to eliminate weeds or unwanted seedlings entirely without needing to hand-weed, but reducing the numbers of both weeds and unwanted seedlings by reducing the opportunities for them to take hold is a reasonable objective - especially if I can do it by adding attractive plants to the garden!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 8:23PM
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My least favorite or annoying volunteers/self-seeders are japanese anemone (OMG! Why did I ever plant that?), Northern Sea Oats (note to self - be sure to cut the seed pods off this fall rather than leave them on for winter beauty) and my Russian Sage - the past two years it appears in the middle of just about everything.
I like space between my plants - just a personal preference, so I'm ruthless when it comes to yanking out something that I either don't want in that location, or there is just no room. I love to see my mulched leaves between the plants, knowing that it's feeding my soil for free!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 6:29AM
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German Chamomile! It flowers, it grows fast, it reseeds and you can use it to make teas or just enjoy the look and the pineapple-like fragrance. It is airy looking, so it should fill in nicely and add really interesting texture to your garden. Hope this helps. I LOVE this stuff! Oh, and it will grow with partial sun.

Here is a link that might be useful: German Chamomile

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 12:19PM
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The alpines haven't choked anything yet, but I have only been here three summers and I don't have things really packed in so they are competing in the place where the alpines are. I just have been noticing seedlings cropping up in the veg and other perennial beds. But everything seems to reseed here, like I said. I bought a hand held hoe which has sped things up on the weeding front. I even have seedlings in my bed of Jewell strawberries, which I have never seen before. It's about 50 m between the two beds with a house in between. But I don't make jam with alpines, I just use them as something sweet to eat while I am out weeding. German chamomile is way more thuggish than alpines. But it is pretty.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:09PM
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Northern sea oats is a liberal reseeder (to put it mildly) but the seedlings are pretty easy to remove. Perilla and Amaranthus are also "enthusiastic" reseeders but again the young plants pull out/hoe out easily.

The absolute worst pest for me now is Filpendula ulmaria (dictatress of the meadow). The kind I have has modestly attractive white flowers. Japanese beetles love the foliage (a real problem when JBs were plentiful). It seeds all over the place, often in the middle of clumps of other things and it is difficult to remove even small plants due to tough clinging roots. Do not plant this one.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:40PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

asedisapromise - do you know what variety of alpine strawberry you have? The one I linked to in an earlier post is wrong. The one I'm thinking of getting seeds for is 'Ruegen'. I'm not entirely sure which one I have now, but I think that is it. I have tried to help mine spread by dropping ripe berries where I want them to grow - sometimes it works; sometimes not! As long as they don't choke out other things, I wouldn't care if they spread widely. So, it's the risk of them choking things that I'm trying to assess. From my experience with the ones I have now, I can't see it being an issue, but your comment made me wonder whether you had a different experience.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:59PM
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Okay, I dug out the package-I save the packages of seed that I have used up in a big envelope so I can remember names-and the ones I planted at the other house that would get a few seedlings each year were Ruegen. I had fewer plants there due to space, and so they were more heavily grazed (by me) so that may explain the fewer seedlings. I did move them from the flower garden where I had them, but mostly because I wanted to put another low growing plant there, and the soil was pretty much depleted and they seemed to yellow in the alkaline soil. I put something there that I replaced a lot, so I worked with the soil more then. They seemed to stay where they were and didn't really get too much bigger than a foot or two across. The ones I planted here I looked and they do have a name on their package-Summer Sweetness. They had a lot better germination than the Ruegen and maybe more vigor, but the soil is different here. Also it is a different seed purveyor, so that might make a difference, and I might just be a better seed starter now than I was. I just have more plants here, about twelve at first, and I have the Jewells, so I don't snack as much, so maybe that is it. I just had about forty+ plants pop up all around, and if they each get to be about two feet across then that will be too much room devoted to alpines for me, so I've been pulling them out. I do let them reseed around where they are planted, so if they spread there that is okay. I just don't want them in the vegetable beds or in the xeriscape beds or the perennials. I just planned for them to be ground cover between a couple of plum trees maybe about like you are thinking. Just give them the foot or two that they seem to want and get your dh to pick them to make jam and I think you'll continue to be happy with them.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:31PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Thanks for that information. I'll definitely be ordering the seed for Ruegen, which is what I think I have. I've been paying more attention to them as I walk around the front garden. They are scattered here and there throughout several beds and borders. Some are in too much shade to produce much fruit, but all are cute, tidy clumps that are not too big. I want to use them as a border in places around the main front bed as well as to help fill in under some shrubs to cover bare ground to discourage weeds. I will sow the seeds on the ground in September and let them germinate in place. I gather they need light to germinate so I'll just drop them on top of the soil and see what happens....

In the reading I've done about them this past week I've read that they are runnerless, but do produce short underground stolons that produce new crowns near the mother plant. They can be easily divided by digging out the offset crowns. In theory then, the clump could get large if it produces a lot of new crowns but that has not been my experience with them, and they are easy to dig up/out if necessary.

For anybody who may be interested in the plants we're talking about, I've linked an article (looks like on a blog) that's a bit old but describes them well and has good pictures.

Here is a link that might be useful: alpine strawberries

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 4:15PM
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