Find extra plants for nothing - in your own garden!

Wide range of seedlings potted up and growing on
All these were free - I just helped myself!
If you hate weeding, but like getting extra plants for nothing, look carefully around your garden this weekend and you might find you can turn a bit of weeding into something far more productive.

Many plants will freely seed themselves across your garden.  Some will spread their seeds into all the nooks and crannies in paths, pots, walls, and between other plants in the borders. Others will spread horizontally, either underground by sending out roots from which shoots pop up some distance from the parent plant, or overground via runners that crawl along the surface and then put roots down somewhere along the way.
Verbena bonariensis seedling in path: Green Fingered Blog
Verbena bonariensis popping up in this path 
To keep everything under control you may be tempted to pull up or hoe to oblivion anything growing somewhere other than where you planted it. But before you do, have a closer look. You might be destroying loads of valuable plants that you could use in your garden. Instead of spending money at the garden centre, you could save yourself a tidy sum by potting up these free seedlings, growing them on and then planting them back in the garden at a later date (only this time you get to choose where they go!).
Ash seedling Green Fingered Blog
Don't want this ash seedling - it
will be 20m high one day!
Next time you spot some seedlings popping up why not leave them for a week or two until you can tell exactly what they are. Then decide whether they belong in the compost bin or in their own pot of decent John Innes. In my garden I've spotted and captured seedlings of Stipa tenuissima, Stipa arundinacea, Primula, Acanthus, Aquilegia, Digitalis, Cotoneaster and Verbena bonariensis.


I have clipped domes and low hedges of Lonicera nitida and hebe, and these layer themselves frequently. Lower stems grow out along the ground, sit on the soil and start to take root. Once they've done that they start to grow as a separate plant and when this new baby is a few inches tall you can detach it from it's parent and pot it up on its own.

Hebe seedling Green Fingered Blog
This Hebe clipping has rooted
When I clip plants like Hebe and Lonicera nitida I inevitably leave some of the clippings on the ground. Gathering them all up is too fiddly and any left effectively become a mulch anyway. But some will take root, creating more free plants you can capture. This is a good way of having younger plants in reserve, to replace older ones when they get too leggy, go into decline, or fail to make it through the winter. It's part of the succession planning for your garden.
Aucuba japonica plantlets Green Fingered Blog
Little baby aucuba plants beneath the branches
Lift up the lower branches of shrubs like Aucuba japonica, the spotted laurel, and you'll likely see a number of baby plants underneath. They've grown up from roots that have reached out beneath the surface, away from the main plant. You can literally pull these away. Some will come away as useless broken stems, but some will have a reasonable number of roots attached. They can be potted on and nurtured to adulthood. Other spreading plants like Stachys byzantina can also be pulled away  in the same way.
So here's what to do:
Verbena bonariensis seedling Green Fingered BlogFind a seedling, layered plant or runner.

Gently pull it up, ensuring the roots come with it.

Pop it into a small pot of compost (have this on standby to keep the time out of the ground to a minimum).

Firming down seedling in pot Green Fingered Blog

Firm it in by pressing the surface down around it.

Give it a good water, and keep it from drying out until it starts to grow well.

Before you know it they'll be this big!
Hebe sutherlandii Green Fingered Blog
Hebe Sutherlandii potted on

Couldn't be simpler. Have a look round your garden and see what you find. Let me know how you get on by commenting below, and sign up to get my next update straight to your inbox by entering your email in the box at the bottom of this page. I'll be back soon with another post, but meanwhile you can follow what's going on in my garden on my Facebook page and Twitter Feed. 


  1. This is a familiar tale! The Verbena Bonariensis is the best self-seeder of all. Also, some of my best plants are "volunteers" brought in by wind or birds.

    1. Hi Mark. The good thing about verbena bonariensis is you can never have too many! The more you have the better the pink haze you can create, so just keep pulling them up and moving them nice and close together. Aquilegias and foxgloves are less co-operative - they pop up in random colours without adhering to my colour scheme!


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