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Self-sowing annual flowers

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Courtesy of Karan Davis Cutler

(Read caption) Calendula, or pot marigold, is an annual that often self-sows. It is frequently planted in herb gardens, but makes a fine addition to flower beds and borders.

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Talk about easy — under each of my bird feeders is a stand of sunflowers, sown by chickadees, goldfinches, and their friends. The plants sprang from seeds dropped during the summer.

Better yet, there are a few true annuals -- plants that germinate, flower, set seed, and die in one season -- that you may not have to plant twice. If your location, soil, and weather are congenial, these determined and self-reliant flowers will return, growing from over-wintered seeds that were produced last year.

The most likely candidates are species, rather than hybrid cultivars, or older, open-pollinated varieties. Fancy-pants hybrids are unlikely to self-seed, and those that do rarely produce uniform progeny. Mama and daddy may be redheads, but their offspring are likely to be magenta or mauve.

Reliable self-seeders

In northern New England, where I live, the number of self-sowing annuals is smaller than it would be in warmer regions. My list — some more dependable than others — includes

Borago officinalis, borage

Calendula officinalis, pot marigold

Centaurea cyanus, cornflower/bachelor’s buttons

Cleome hasslerana, spider flower

Coreopsis tinctoria, golden coreopsis,

Cosmos bipinnatus, cosmos

Euphorbia marginata, snow-on-the-mountain/ghost weed

Lunaria annua, honesty/moneywort

Malope trifida, annual mallow

Nigella damascena, love-in-a-mist

Papaver rhoeas, Flanders Field poppy/corn poppy

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy


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