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The Best Annual Flowers That Reseed (Even in Cold Climates)

I’ve been gardening for a very long time and I’ve always invested the most in perennial plants, because they are the most budget friendly and live longer than one season. True annuals only last a single season and need to be replanted every year. But, with annual flowers that reseed, you will likely get seedlings from those plants again the next year.

Annual flowers are nice to fill in and add season long color to perennial flower beds. Several years ago, it was sort of by accident that I discovered annual flowers that reseed themselves. At first, I thought they were a nuisance, but now I’m embracing them and love the cottage garden element they add to my flower beds. After all, they’re free flowers and you can’t get much more sustainable than self-seeding annuals.

Purple impatiens and snapdragons in a flower garden

Just a disclaimer. I am writing this post from a Zone 4 perspective and either I’ve had experience with these reseeding annuals in my gardens, or I know other gardeners who’ve grown these re-seeders. If you live in zone 3, your experience may be different. And, if you live in warmer gardening zones, the list of annuals that reseed in your zone is likely much longer.

Disadvantages of Annual Flowers that Reseed

  • Unlike perennial plants that return from the parent plant, one of the disadvantages of self seeding annual plants is that they reseed wherever they want to and not necessarily in places you want them. If you’re a control freak (sheepishly raising my hand) that can make you a little crazy.
  • Some self-seeding plants may reseed like crazy and come in thick.
  • Another disadvantage is timing. Here in my zone 4 gardens many of the flowers that reseed are very late to the spring garden party. Some of my re-seeders don’t start blooming until middle to late summer. I turned this around from a disadvantage to an advantage, because when some of the annual flowers in my garden beds are getting tired, the new reseeded plants are taking off.
  • And one more disadvantage, reseeding annuals are not necessarily dependable. Some years there are lots to go around, and others… not so much.

I think the biggest hindrance to actually getting plants from reseeded flowers is knowing what their seedlings look like. It’s hard at first to tell the difference between weeds and flower seedlings. Someday I would like to have corresponding pictures of seedlings to accompany the list below. For now though, the more experience you gain and the more you know your garden, the easier it will be to tell the seedlings from weeds. If you have your original seed packet, some will show what the seedling will look like. Although the plants don’t always come up the following season in the same place, It may help to tag the spots where your annual plants were.

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Advantages to Self-Seeding Annual Flowers

So now that we’ve discussed all the disadvantages of planting annual flowers that reseed, let’s get the simple facts and benefits of reseeding annual flowers:

  • It’s budget friendly gardening at its best when you can grow annual flowers for more than one growing season!
  • You will likely get surprises (and free) flowers every spring.
  • Annual flowers have a long bloom time.
  • Reseeding annuals are a great way to create a cut flower garden, a butterfly garden, or a pollinator garden.
  • It’s so fun to get unexpected treats.

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The Best Self Sowing Annual Flowers

Just a reminder we are only including annual flowers in this list, no biennials or perennial flowers. So let’s get to the list:

Alyssum or what many refer to as sweet alyssum is a low growing mounding plant that looks great along the front border of gardens. Sometimes it will reseed in my gardens, but it’s not as reliable for me as some of the other flowers on this list. Low growing sweet alyssum looks amazing growing in a rock garden. It’s a favorite of bees too.

Purple Sweet Alyssum Flowers

Asters are one of my favorite flowers to include in bouquets. Annual asters come in a variety of different colors, but mostly pink, white or purple flowers. The last few years, I have dedicated one of my raised beds for cutting flowers and asters reliably reseed in that bed every year.

Purple and pink asters

Bachelor’s Buttons are another awesome flower to grow in your cut flower garden. And, they are one of the few reseeding annuals that are blue.

Bachelors Buttons - Annual Flowers that Reseed

Calendula is one of the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed and one of the most reliable to reseed. It doesn’t always come up where I want it too, but it’s easy to transplant or pull. One packet of Calendula seeds will be all you will ever need to purchase. 

Calendula flowers - Annual flowers that reseed

California Poppy is such a cheery, little orange flower (and other colors), but when you have them popping up throughout your flower bed, the site is pure happiness.  They are reliable re-seeders and some gardeners will even say they are a nuisance. Still California poppies are so sweet.

California poppies

Celosia – There are a couple different varieties of celosia. My experience is with the wheat style of celosia. This is another plant that I grew from seed. I planted them in one area of a flower bed and they came back the following year in that same area. This particular variety, Flamingo Celosia, is great in floral arrangements because it is very tall.

Celosia Flowers - Annual Flowers that Reseed

Cleome (or spider plant) is another reliable re-seeder. Cleome is very easy to grow from seed and its seedlings are easily recognizable.

Cleome Flower

Cosmos – So many varieties of cosmos and another great choice for a cut flower garden. Even the foliage is a great filler in bouquets.

Cosmos Flowers

Dianthus – I hear this over and over again… I purchased a small 6 pack of annual dianthus and they reliably come back every year. Here in zone 4, they behave like hardy annuals, where they come back from the same plant. They even return in a shallow bed on our church patio, where no perennial would even survive. Try some annual dianthus in your flower garden!

Dianthus flowers

Feverfew – I’ve only been growing feverfew for a couple years and I’m hooked. It’s another great flower to include in a cut flower garden and works well in flower arrangements. Some say feverfew can get very weedy in their gardens. If you’re concerned about this, simple cut off some of the seed heads, so there aren’t as many seeds left to reseed.

Feverfew Flowers

Impatiens – The quintessential shade flower! If you have shade gardens and are looking to add pops of bright color, consider planting impatiens. I will get reseeded impatiens here and there every so often, so not reliable, but a nice surprise nonetheless. A Gingham Gardens zone 9 reader recently sent me a picture of her reseeded impatiens and it was amazing.

Impatiens Flowers

Marigolds – Many think marigolds are just ho-hum flowers, but I love them. Although a little stinky, they are so bright and cheery and they come in many, many different varieties. They will thrive in part sun to full sun. I like adding marigolds to my vegetables gardens. They are not always reliable re-seeders for a second year, but sometimes they come up in the most unexpected places. Marigold seedlings are very easy to recognize when they emerge in late spring.

Orange Marigolds

Morning Glories – Some of you will probably get upset with me for including morning glory plants on the list of the best annual flowers that reseed. In many states they are considered invasive and can definitely be a nuisance. My recommendation is to plant them only in colder gardening zones and pull the ones you don’t want. Morning glories are one of the rare plants that enjoy poor soil and if you fertilize them, they grow lots of foliage, but no flowers. I’ve planted them in different garden areas and some have reseeded themselves all over the yard and others in heavily mulched areas didn’t reseed at all. So, plant morning glories at your own risk.

Bright pink morning glory flowers

Moss Roses are another reliable come again annual, maybe to the point of being a nuisance. One packet of seeds is all you’ll ever need. The good thing about moss roses is that their seedlings are very easy to distinguish. They will fill in a bare space quickly and make a beautiful groundcover.

Moss Roses

Petunias – I stopped growing petunias in the ground, because our resident rabbits thought I planted petunias just for them. I think they would even watch me plant them and cheer. I do love finding little petunia seedlings sprouting here and there that have fallen from flower pots. They are a seedling that gets to stay where it sprouts.

Pink Petunias

Snapdragons are such fun flowers. Children especially enjoy them and they make wonderful cut flowers. Snapdragons come in very tall to dwarf sizes and are fairly reliable self-sowing annual flowers.

Snapdragons - Annual flowers that reseed

Strawflowers – Tall stately plants that come in a variety of colors. My favorites are in shades of pink. I have only ever seen the shorter variety of strawflower plants for sale in garden centers. So I decided to grow my own from seeds for my cutting garden. They are very easy to propagate from seed and perfect for bouquets or for drying. They are fairly reliable re-seeders in my gardens.

Pink Strawflowers - Annual Flowers that Reseed

Sweet Peas – A fun vining annual plant that’s easy to grow from seed and will reliably reseed. It’s a really pretty plant to grow on a trellis or arbor. Another fragrant flower to use in bouquets. 

Sweet pea flowers

Botanical Interests is my favorite place to purchase annual flower seeds.

What if you get reseeded annuals popping up where you don’t want them?

  • Because they are tiny plants growing from seeds, they are extremely easy to pull or thin.
  • You can wait until the seedlings get a couple of inches tall and then relocate them where you want them.
  • Pot up the extra new plants and give them away to neighbors, friends and family members.

A few things that can hinder your annual flowers from reseeding:

  • Heavily mulched flower beds. I mulch my flower beds and I still get plenty of reseeded flowers. What helps a bit is to pull some mulch away from the plants that reseed. 
  • Deadheading your flowers too late in the season. If you want annual flowers to reseed let the last of their blooms die and dry on the plant so they can set seed. Then just leave the seed pods alone to do their thing. You’ll get the best results from just letting nature take its course.
  • Since the seeds from your flowers fall to the soil surface, birds and other critters may eat the seeds. No way to control this one.

Although reseeding annual flowers are not always reliable, the little surprises each spring are so worth their unreliability. Haha, if that even makes sense. Really though, their unreliability and uncontrollability is what makes annuals that reseed so fun. And, the best part is free plants! What gardener doesn’t want free flowers.

Please tell us which annual flowers reseed in your flower beds and your favorites, by leaving a comment below. It helps others too if you tell us your gardening zone.

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Happy gardening,

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Alyssum and snapdragons in a garden with text overlay - self seeding annual flowers that come back every year