Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Encouraging Self-Seeding

dry seed heads of Black-eyed Susan in snow.

Hello fellow readers,

Since my recent admission several of you have fessed up that you have yet to cut back your perennials.  Glad I am not the only one!  And it is true that leaving seed heads on your dormant perennials over winter will encourage many of your plants to spread.  John from Bangor and Terri from Frelinghuysen asked if there is a way to encourage self-seeding.  If you want to foster seedlings, don’t deadhead, don’t use Preen (weed preventer), and don’t mulch heavily (yay- another reason not to mulch). Giving your seeds a hand self-seeding is a bit of an oxymoron; a quirky word for an expression using words with opposite meanings.  Nonetheless I am all for helping good things along.  I’ve found that self-seeding occurs best in soil with a loose or crumbly surface. Before the ground freezes you can scratch the surface with a garden rake and broadcast seeds or simply lay the deadheads on the naked soil and let Mother Nature do her part. It is also fun to collect seeds and start your own plants come spring. But leave some if you don’t mind.

Even if you aren’t particularly interested in encouraging self-seeding, birds will be grateful if you leave your dry flower heads. There are oodles of flowers that produce seeds to tempt birds. A few popular ones include: Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Daisies, Goldenrods, Marigolds, Sedums, Sunflowers and Zinnias.

There’s a nifty fact sheet published and online by Minnesota based Dundee Nursery which provides tips to keep plants looking their best listed by botanical and common names.  It includes if deadheading the plant during the growing season will encourage re-blooming, if letting seed heads remain will encourage spreading, and what plants provide winter interest.  Busted!  Some of my dormant plants neither are particularly good self-seeders nor considered interesting in the winter.  Good thing beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are hungry birds to feed.  Rationalization rocks!

Garden dilemmas?





Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.