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Enjoy, But Beware Of Re-seeding Plants
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
"They re-seed prolifically" is a warning I give quite often when discussing various plants. Even though I said "warning," more and more gardeners are looking at it as a blessing, and the same when we tell them a particular plant may have invasive tendencies. It seems gardeners are ready for those plants that are so happy to "be fruitful and multiply" as the Bible says.
One of the plants that I have bumped into more frequently this year in gardens is the larkspur. Then while attending a statewide master gardener conference in Starkville, Dr. Jerry Parsons, Extension horticulturist from San Antonio, spent a great deal of time on the larkspur (Delphinium grandiflorum).
Parsons and a group of Master Gardeners have been planting fields of larkspur and removing the white ones and leaving only the pink. After a few years the fields, and thus the offspring, become only pink.
These particular two-toned larkspur develop a cute pronounced bunny face on each flower. Since these are pink and bloom around Easter, they believe this paves the way for great marketing possibilities.
Jerry Parsons and gardeners I have seen in Mississippi sow seeds in October and the plants bloom in the Spring. Parsons says they are also easy to grow as transplants, even though most do not think so. The re-seeding they do, however, may put them in a spot where you do not want them. They are so pretty and tall, they look just fine mixed with any other annual or perennial.
Even though the group in San Antonio is selecting for pink, and I do like pink, I still love the blue, purple and white larkspur.
Another prolific re-seeder is the cleome. Cleome has long been a southern favorite but the newest colors are still rare as I travel around. A few years ago the Queen series was developed. There are rose, pink, cherry and violet in this Queen group.
Cleomes have a pungent leaf odor when touched but otherwise they are outstanding plants. I have seen some gorgeous arrangements using their flowers in a vase. Hummingbirds also find this plant a delicacy.
Last year's Mississippi Medallion winner, Melampodium, is another excellent re-seeder. The Melampodium, or butter daisy, is one of those plants that literally blooms from early spring until frost with yellow daisy-like flowers.
Salvia coccinea, "Lady in Red," is a plant of the year in Arkansas and is perennial in much of Mississippi. If it is not perennial, it is definitely one that will re-seed. It is a beautiful plant especially when planted in mass and is one of the best choices for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Finally, my last favorite for re-seeding is cosmos. The dwarf forms don't return nearly as well as the full size 3 1/2 to 4 foot varieties. I am partial to the blossoms of purple-pink and white blends although the almost fluorescent orange flowers that bloom later in the summer are equally good at making a return.
One of the most important considerations when allowing plants to re-seed is that they will probably need to be thinned to the correct spacing much like you would when you are the sower. What is extra special about the way Mother Nature does it is that they will more than likely be planted in scattered groups instead of straight lines like many gardeners do.
So my choice is to celebrate the volunteers I want and either leave them where they are or transplant to where they are needed. If they are not needed, they fall prey to the hoe.