What to do about seedlings

This morning when turning over soil for a new planting I came across several tiny apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) seedlings.

They were far enough away from the mother plant that I knew they were seedlings and not suckers and so I dug them up.

This western native shrub does not transplant well and so maybe they will make it and maybe not, but I love to find new, free plants already growing.

Free is not the only reason to collect wanted seedling; the act of saving them makes your garden more sustainable.


I would never stop visiting nurseries to see (and buy) all the latest and fanciest new plants, but there is something to be said for not having to buy new for at least a few of your plants.

As to what will self seed, a quick trip to the internet will give you a long list of them, but much depends on your soil, amount of moisture and climate. Many lists show oriental poppy as a good self seeder, but they have never self seeded in my yard and I suspect that although the plant grows well here, the seeds may need some pampering to germinate under our dry conditions.

Once I planted dill and parsley I have never had to plant them again; they come up in abundance and need to be weeded out frequently.

The same held true for cilantro for a few moist years but it quit appearing when the weather grew dry.

During the same moist years a gorgeous red leaf lettuce put in an appearance each spring; salads have not been the same since it quit. And once you let arugula go to seed, you may have it for several years.

Which plants self seed well here?

I will list those that I know from my own experience but your soil and conditions may be different.

Some species of campanula, the early spring blooming pasque flower (Pulsatilla sp.) alyssum, California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), coreopsis, plains coreoposis (Coreopsis tinctoria), sweet peas, sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), nasturtiums, coneflowers (Echinacea sp.), chocolate flowers (Berlandiera lyrata), snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), many species of poppy, zinnias and marigolds are among them. And there are many more.

None of the above should be named varieties if you are looking for a plant just like the one you had last summer.

For example, Echinacea purpurea will self seed, but Echinacea ‘Harvest Moon’ is not likely to, or if it does reseed the progeny could be very different from the parent.

And if you are growing any of the wonderful, colorful array of special sunflowers they may well cross pollinate with each other and with the wild sunflowers, and the result will be different from the parent plant.

This can be, however, a delightful surprise.

Can a plant reseed too efficiently?

Of course, and many do if they are in the right location and under the right conditions. Chocolate flowers like my yard and so despite their luscious aroma I keep trying to get rid of them.

They don’t appear to be a problem for many of the people I know, however.

California poppies in the demonstration garden at Cattail Crossing are extremely prolific; in my yard, they reseed lightly and I generally wish there were more.

What if you want more of a particular plant in another location?

You can save the seed and plant it, but seed saving and starting is an entirely different subject.

An easy way is to transport the plant with ripe seed heads to the new flower bed, lay it down and press it into the soil.

Walk on it if need be but gently as footsteps will compact the soil. Do this anytime in summer for little seedlings that will get a start the current year or in the fall so that some of the seeds may produce new plants in the spring.

Marilynn Chambers is a master gardener and native plant master, and a member of The Gardeners of Pueblo West, who designed the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden under construction at Cattail Crossing park. You can e-mail her at

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