How to plant bedding plants

Bedding plants are ideal for the sunny or lightly shaded areas of your garden. They tend to be short-lived and, despite lasting only one season, grow fast and provide excellent value for money.

Many bedding plants can be grown from seed or are available as young plants from garden centres. You can select bedding plants for spring, summer or early autumn colour and they can transform a dull border in a very short period of time.

Plants for summer colour usually die after the first frosts. Dig them up as soon as this happens and, if you have a compost heap, recycle them. Many plants will look good during the autumn and winter months and will provide colour on duller days; for example myosotis (forget-me-not), ornamental cabbage, pansies, polyanthus, primula, viola or wallflower.

Use bedding plants for: filling in gaps between plants and shrubs that aren’t fully grown; hanging baskets, containers, window boxes and troughs; and planting a whole bed for immediate effect.

Choosing your bedding plants

First, decide on your colour schemes and the plant combinations you want to achieve; for example, do you want to achieve instant patches of colour or a whole bed?

You will need to consider how big the plants will grow, think about the patterns and think about how you want to contrast the colours.

When buying plants you should choose those that look bushy and healthy, and avoid those that look withered, droopy or have dry compost.

Summer colour

Summer bedding plants should be planted when the danger of frost has passed; usually from the end of May.

Here are some popular varieties:

  • Ageratum (floss flower): fluffy, powder blue flowers that are ideal for edging and containers. About 30cm.
  • Antirrhinum (snapdragon): trumpet-like flowers in soft, pastel colours including shell pink, golden yellow, apricot, rose and peach. They form a long-flowering cloud of colour for bedding and containers. About 40cm.
  • Dahlia: perfect for bedding and containers and often come in mixtures of bright, starry flowers in shades of reds, rose, pink, orange, yellow and white. About 45cm.
  • Begonia: flowers all summer from June to October with red, white and pink flowers. About 15-25cm.
  • Brachycome (swan rover daisy): daisy flowers in shades of white, blue and violet, each with a striking yellow or black centre. Flowers all summer and very effective in containers and hanging baskets although are best in full sun. About 25-30cm.
  • Brompton stock: clusters of sweetly scented spring flowers in shades of white, pink and mauve. They are ideal for a sunny border. About 45cm.
  • Callistephus (aster): colours include yellows, whites, blues, pinks and purples. Best for bedding displays in borders. About 60cm.
  • Clarkia: lilac-purple flowers, best sown in groups to achieve a dramatic display. About 40cm.
  • Cosmos: always look good in a flower border with large blooms in rose-pinks, reds and pure white with attractive ferny foliage. Best as a border filler or in large pots. About 60cm.
  • Fuschia: flowers July to early October in white, pink, red and purple. Types include bush and trailing. 30-60cm.
  • Impatiens (busy Lizzie): these provide a great splash of colour in baskets and containers or can be planted en masse in a border. The white, pink and red flowers keep going until the first frost and do best in part shade. About 25cm.
  • Lobelia: flowers from June to October in blue, red, white and mauve and includes trailing and upright types. About 15cm.
  • Mesembryanthemum (Livingstone daisy): these vividly coloured flowers open with the sun and are an excellent spreading plant in borders. About 8cm.
  • Marigold: orange and yellow and flowers all summer. 15-30cm.
  • Nicotiana (tobacco plant): red, pink, white, yellow and green. Flowers in June to October. 25-60cm.
  • Pansy: summer and winter varieties and can be planted to give year-round colour in a huge range of shades. 15-25cm.
  • Pelargonium (geranium): come in many different flower colours and often have scented leaves. 45cm.
  • Petunia: fantastic colour range in every shade with striped, veined or double blooms on upright or trailing plants. They flower early in the season and are superb in the garden especially when deadheaded regularly. They look great in all types of containers and baskets. About 30cm.
  • Salvia splendens: these popular, compact, neat plants are one of the first bedding plants to bloom, creating a blaze of red for months. Effective planted in mass bedding displays. About 40cm.
  • Verbena: very attractive summer bedding plants with dark leaves and rounded clusters of flower heads in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, red and blue. Ideal for containers, beds, border edging or window boxes. 30cm.
  • Viola: small pansy-like flowers in March-October in white, yellow, orange, pink, red, mauve and blue. 15-20cm.

Planting your bedding plants

  • Well hydrated: Don’t plant them when it’s too hot and water the new plants thoroughly while still in their pots before planting.
  • Weed free: Make sure the planting area is free from weeds and fork over the area thoroughly.
  • Root care: Dig a hole bigger than the roots of the plant and water the hole. Tap the plant out its pot or tray trying not to disturb the roots. Gently push into the hole and firm the surrounding soil.
  • Well spaced: Place tall plants to the rear and compact edging plants at the front being careful not to overcrowd them.
  • Peat first: Some bedding plants come in pots made from peat which should be planted as well because the roots grow through them.
  • Fertilise: After planting, sprinkle a general fertiliser, such as Growmore, lightly round the plants and water well.
  • Plant products: Bedding plants grown in flower-pots, containers, hanging baskets and wall-mounted pots should be filled with potting compost mixed with water-retentive gels and slow-release pellets.

Looking after your plants

  • Keep blooming: Keep bedding plants blooming over a long period by picking off any dead blooms to encourage new flower buds.
  • Feed regularly: Feed your plants every one or two weeks with a liquid fertiliser.
  • Weed out weeds: Keep the area between the plants free from weeds as they will steal nutrients and water and may smother the plants.
  • When to water: Water bedding plants in the evening to allow the plants and soil to absorb it before the summer sun burns it off. Hanging baskets may require watering more than once a day especially during hot weather.
  • Greenfly away: If bedding plants become infected with greenfly, spray with an insecticide, preferably on a windless evening.
  • Creature control: Slugs and snails can be controlled with a remedy available at your local garden centre.
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