Self-seeding plants can often be found in cottage gardens.  God knows me well and has blessed me with so many beautiful free plants. Perhaps our garden is working up to being a cottage garden!

One day I noticed that there were some little self-seeded plants growing in a shady, mossy area of our front lawn.  I recognised the leaves of the plants, dug them up and transplanted them into pots, to be planted out later.

Once I had prepared a new shade border (where an old shed used to be), I had these free plants to add, along with the bought ones.  Now they’re flowering their socks off and filling our shade border so beautifully.  If I had planted bought plants only, the border would still be mostly empty, while the plants established themselves.

Here’s a list of 5 self-seeding plants that we got for free in our garden, in no particular order:


1. Cranesbill Geraniums (Geranium Endressii)

pink flowers of self-seeding plant hardy perennial cranesbill geranium endressii

The first of our free self-seeding plants are hardy geraniums, Geranium Endressii. These cranesbill geraniums are perennial, evergreen ground cover plants.  Their name comes from the shape of their seed pods, that look like a crane’s bill.

The ones that self-seeded into our garden have smallish light pink flowers.  The plants form low mounds and are covered in lots of flowers in spring and summer.  Their mounds of prettily cut leaves quickly cover areas of bare soil and brighten up darker patches in the garden.

  • Height: 40cm
  • Spread: 60cm

Plants are available from:


2. Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

how to grow self-seeding plants pink foxglove flowers digitalis purpurea

The second self-seeding plants on our list are foxgloves.

Last year we had some foxgloves self-seed into our garden.  I was a bit disappointed when they turned out to have white flowers, as I don’t love white flowers.  But hey, they were good for the bees. 

After that, I thought that the new plants that appeared last autumn must surely have the same white flowers. So, I didn’t leave many of the plants that came up. But we had an empty space in our new shade border, perfect for a tall plant, so we planted one in there.

Great decision!

As the flowers grew this spring, they turned out to be pink, not white!  I am so happy with the beautiful pink foxglove flowers. 

These foxgloves are biennial plants, though there are perennial varieties too. Most foxgloves like growing in part shade, in moist, but light soil, and flower in early summer.  They’re great for naturalising in outer edges of woodland.

  • Height: Up to 1.8m
  • Spread: Up to 90cm

Plants are available from:


3. Columbines (Aquilegias)

how to grow self-seeding plants aquilegia - bumblebee sleeping on a columbine with blue purple flower

Aquilegia plants are number three on our list of self-seeding plants.

As part of a Thompson and Morgan offer in Gardener’s World Magazine, from three years ago, I got some Aquilegia plants, among other perennials. 

aquilegia columbine purple and white flowers of self-seeded cottage garden plant

I love the shape of aquilegia leaves and was very happy to see new little plants popping up in moist, shady areas of the garden. 

Now that they’ve been flowering, I realise that the self-seeded aquilegias are not the same as those from the offer.  The new aquilegia plants seem to have self-seeded from other plants in our neighbourhood.

It’s exciting to see new flower shapes and colours appearing in our garden.

Our self-seeded aquilegia plants have grown in damp, shady areas which were a little bare, as, like a lot of people, I usually want to buy sun-loving plants, rather than shade-loving plants…

Aquilegia plants will need staking, as the long thin flower stems fall over easily in the wind, and break.

Aquilegias flower from May to June.

  • Height: 100cm
  • Spread: 45cm

Similar plants are available from:


4. Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis)

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) leaves with water droplets

Fourth on our list of self-seeding plants is Lady’s Mantle. Lady’s Mantle is a lovely little ground-cover plant with beautifully shaped, fuzzy leaves that trap water droplets in such a cute way. They make clouds of tiny, acid-green flowers which can be used as cut flowers, and self-seed freely.

A few plants self-seeded into our garden, and I’ve planted them in shady areas of the garden, and also into a pot.

Lady’s Mantle plants are hardy perennials, perfect for the front of a border or along the edges of paths. They do well in moist, well-drained soil, in sun or shade, but don’t like to dry out.

Lady’s Mantle dies back in the autumn and grows back in the spring.

Flowers appear from June to September.  If you’d like to control the amount of self-seeding, remove the flower stems straight after flowering.  Deadheading can also help the plants to flower for longer.

  • Height: 45cm
  • Spread: 60cm

Plants are available from:


5. Welsh Poppies (Meconopsis cambrica, Papaver cambricum)

Welsh poppies are fifth on our list of self-seeding plants.

They grow so freely, and quite often in the wrong places, like pathways and between paving blocks.  That means that they’ll most likely be good at growing in difficult areas of your garden, such as damp, rocky sites.

Bumblebee pollinating an orange Welsh Poppy flower in early Summer

The yellow and orange flowered welsh poppies that grow in our garden have thin petals, and tall, narrow seed pods. 

Welsh poppies are perennial plants, with deep taproots, and flowers of 5-7cm wide. They prefer slightly acidic soil and partial shade.

They flower May – September.

  • Height: 30-45cm
  • Spread: 30-45cm

Plants are available from:


So that’s 5 free self-seeding plants that grow so well in our garden.  And if self-seeded plants appear in your garden, and your neighbours are growing them, they will probably do well in your garden too.

Self-seeding plants can be a bit of a pain if you’re trying to keep neat and tidy garden edges, but they do grow so well. Move plants that have grown in the wrong places, and plant them into borders or pots. They’ll do their own thing and fill your garden with lush growth, without much work from you.

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