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Can a Plant Reseed Itself?

By C. Martin
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many different plant species can reseed themselves. They are sometimes referred to as reseeders, and they effectively sow their own seeds in the surrounding soil. This self-sown seed results in repeated growth year after year. Reseeders may also be described as "seed propagated plants."

Plant propagation by reseeding is common among many kinds of weeds, so experienced gardeners often concentrate on getting rid of weeds before they can self-sow. More popular with gardeners are self-sowing perennials, such as foxgloves, delphiniums, marigolds, and periwinkles. To encourage desirable plants to reseed, it is important to allow the dead flowers to remain on the plant long enough for the seeds to mature and be shed.

Many species of grass are also reseeders. It is important to note that the ability of grass to reseed an area of soil depends on the grass plants being allowed to grow sufficiently long to shed their seeds. Lawn care practices such as frequent mowing usually mean that lawn grass cannot be relied upon to reseed bare patches.

While most wild plants can reseed, there are some varieties of cultivated plants that are not able to. Corn is one example of such a plant, and it relies on human cultivation in order to successfully reproduce. Genetically modified plants are also often unable to reseed. In addition, many hybrid plants such as a number of varieties of garden flowers, while they may be able to reseed, often produce seedlings that are unlike the parents.

There are many factors that affect how successful a plant is in reseeding. The physical environment is of crucial importance. For a plant to reseed successfully, usually there must be some bare soil for the new seeds to grow in. Certain species of plants will need the soil to have particular nutrients or characteristics for reseeding to be successful. The presence of some substances may prevent a plant from reseeding. An example of this is alfalfa, which is not a good reseeder due to the fact that an old, decaying alfalfa plant produces chemicals that may prevent the new alfalfa seedlings from growing.

Some plants, originally sold as desirable garden plants, are so effective at reseeding that they have become pests. One such species is pampas grass, a prolific seed propagator that can spread rapidly in gardens, along roadside verges, and even onto beaches. This grass species has become a noxious weed in several states of America.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Dec 15, 2011

Gaillardia is my favorite reseeding flower. Its blooms are bright orange and yellow, and it produces an abundance of seed to ensure that it will always return to my garden.

As a seedling, it looks almost identical to a weed. It has only oval green leaves in its beginning, but they soon give way to a bud in the center.

This plant grows rapidly and produces dozens of blooms on each plant. As the blooms die, seed are formed. The seed resemble the white tufts on dandelions, but they are larger and spikier.

They travel easily on the wind, and lots of them fall to the ground immediately surrounding the plant. The sharp spikes anchor them to the soil. I usually have about ten plants spring up for each gaillardia I had planted the previous year.

By wavy58 — On Dec 14, 2011

@kylee07drg – I also let my zinnias reseed, but I have noticed one undesirable thing about the process. Only certain colors come back the following year.

I planted seeds from a packet that brought forth white, orange, purple, pink, peppermint-striped, and yellow blooms. I was excited about having such a colorful garden, and I figured the seed would produce the same colors the following year.

Instead, only pink and purple blooms grew from the seed. I guess I will have to buy a new packet of seed each year if I want to keep my garden colorful.

By kylee07drg — On Dec 13, 2011

I prefer growing flowers that reseed over having to plant new ones every spring. That is why I love zinnias. These tall, colorful beauties spit out plenty of seed to keep the following year's garden stocked.

I always leave the dead blooms on the plants until they have dried up and shed most of their petals. This is because the seed are located on the end of each petal, where it connects to the center of the bloom. As the petals fall, they take the seed with them to the ground.

If I wish to spread the seed elsewhere, I will collect a few from the dead flowers and keep them in an envelope until mid-April. I plant them under just about half an inch of soil and water them until they sprout. Viable seed will be green or brown, so I toss out the white or cream colored ones.

By shell4life — On Dec 13, 2011

Pampas grass may be a nuisance to some, but I think it is beautiful. My neighbors have some lining their driveway, and the seed blew over into the edge of my yard, so I now have some as well.

They saw it growing on my property and apologized for the spread of it. I thanked them, because I had been wanting some, and I got it for free!

There is another type of pampas grass that I would love to get to go along with what I have. It has pink plumage, like a flamingo! That would definitely be an eyecatcher to people driving past, but my neighbors might not be too happy if it reseeded over in their lawn!

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