When a plant is self-seeding, it means that it produces seeds which can be collected or allowed to fall to the ground and replant themselves in that location. These seeds germinate during the fall and lie dormant during the winter months. They being to sprout and grow at the start of the growing season, at the end of which new seeds are produced and begin the cycle over again. This trait is found in different varieties of flower, shrub, herb, tree, and vegetable.
Self-seeding plants are typically annuals, though some few varieties of perennials also have this trait. An annual is a flower or shrub that grows from one individual seed and dies at the end of the growing season. The plant can produce mature seeds while it flowers and grows which are of the same type, but represent a second generation. These next generation seeds may fall to the ground or be carried to another part of the garden by pollinators, like bees and pets, to germinate and grow the following season. Some perennials grow from bulbs, and the same plant remains dormant during the cold months so that it may bloom and grow again every spring.
Gardens that are filled with self-seeding plants tend to bloom again at the start of each spring growing season without the assistance of a gardener. No additional seedlings need to be planted for flowers and shrubs to reappear. Pollination and germination typically occur during the fall season, allowing seeds and roots to remain dormant during the winter and store up nutrients that will be used for foliage growth when temperatures begin to warm again.
These plants also prefer natural soil over highly cultivated flower beds. Natural soil reflects the conditions of the land in which the seeds are planted, whether acidic or alkaline. Soil may be rocky, sandy, or clay, depending on the local growing zone. Self-seeding plants do not flourish well when exposed to compost or soil additives, which tend to incorporate large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium into the mixture and balance the soil's pH. They require very little water and prefer full to partial sun during the day time.
The seeds from a self-seeding plant may be collected by a gardener or allowed to fall and plant themselves. When a gardener collects these seeds, she should typically wait until the flower has begun to dry and deaden. She may then clip the head from the plant, cut it into small strips, and store it in a cool and dry location until she is ready to scatter it in a new part of the garden or lawn. Seeds that are allowed to fall to the ground will simply sprout where they land and grow in that location the following year. This type of scenario, also known as naturalizing, is ideal for those who prefer a low maintenance garden or wildflower patch that continuously plants itself year after year.