Ask Elaine: Plants for Three Seasons of Bloom

I would like to expand my flower garden. I love the sequence of bloom with perennials and the long blooming annuals. Is there a way to get more plants without having to buy more next spring?

Thank you,

Dear Viola,

[su_row][su_column size=”1/2″]Flowers can really perk up a property. But please know that your perennials will return next year because of their hardy rootstock and crown. Some annuals self-seed and can continue to grow and bloom in your garden for many years. This could be an economical way to get more plants and fill in the gaps between perennials. We encourage and allow self-seeding of some plants at Laurelwood Arboretum.

Self-seeding plants drop their pods, capsules or seeds at the end of the season. The plants may be annuals, biennials or perennials. The seeds then need nothing but soil and seasonal changes to grow again in the spring. Some self-seeders can become a nuisance because of their exuberant growth. They may need to be thinned late April/early May to about 6-8 inches apart. Another thinning may be needed 3 weeks later.  Modify your mulching. Apply about one-inch of an organic mulch like shredded leaves or compost when you plant your annuals next spring and after the second thinning (do this by hand).

You have two ways of getting seeds to grow into flowers in your garden. Perhaps you are already growing annuals that will self-sow. Or you have seeds (purchased or collected) of hardy annuals that can handle a period of cold and you will distribute them in your garden. If you purchase seed, get open pollinated and heirloom varieties; hybrid seed and cultivars are usually sterile and will flower but not produce a seed.[/su_column][su_column size=”1/2″]

Here is a list of seeds that you might collect, or purchase next spring, to keep your garden blooming in living color for months:


Alyssum, Amaranth, black-eyed Susan, Calendula, Centaurea (bachelor buttons), Clarkia, cleome, Coreopsis, cosmos, Eschscholzia (California poppy), feverfew, forget-me-not, impatiens. morning glory, nasturtium, Nigella (love in a mist), Nicotiana (flowering tobacco), Portulaca, sunflowers, sweet William, sweet pea, Verbena bonariensis, violets, zinnias


Digitalis (foxglove), Lunaria (money plant), Lychnis (rose campion)


Asclepias, Columbine, corydalis, evening primrose, poppy
Good luck and have fun!

—Elaine Fogerty
Executive Director


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