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bedding plants

Bedding plants

Bedding plants are annual or biennial plants which flower for one season, and although short lived provide a continuous profusion of colour for many months. From spring bedding plants such as forget-me-nots and wallflowers to winter bedding plants, you can keep your garden in colour for most of the year! For many of us the term 'bedding plant' conjures up images of formal beds of brightly coloured flowers but there are so many more annual plants on offer to add height, scent or texture to your garden. Growing bedding plants is easy with our comprehensive guide. For more information about winter bedding plants, read our 'Top ten winter bedding plants' article.

How to use bedding plants

A fantastic choice for the beginner gardener or new home owner, bedding is short-term planting and allows you to be creative with your garden each year. Bedding plants can be used in beds, borders, hanging baskets, patio containers and to plug gaps in perennial or shrub borders for quick and easy colour. Here are some of our top tips to get the best display from your bedding plants;

how to grow bedding plants
  • A strong colour theme and simple design will give the most effective display, for example using warm oranges, yellows and reds or cool blues, whites and purples. Alternatively a mixed meadow style can be equally pleasing.
  • Summer bedding plants are available in a wide range of heights which is great for creating more informal arrangements similar to cottage garden borders. Try using taller flowers such as sunflowers, Nicotiana and Cosmos towards the back of beds and borders, graduating to shorter bedding plants at the front such as petunias, marigolds and annual phlox.
  • Use climbing bedding plants such as sweet peas, morning glory and Ipomoea lobata to add height to bedding schemes. Trellis, obelisks or a teepee of bamboo canes are all that’s needed to support their stems.
  • Don’t underestimate foliage bedding plants – they are invaluable for breaking up swathes of flowers! Senecio cineraria 'Silver Dust', Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis) and Coleus are excellent examples. Nigella (love-in-a-mist) can provide feathery foliage with the added bonus of beautiful flowers too. You could even choose edible foliage plants such as kale or Swiss chard for a multipurpose bed.

Growing bedding plants

Bedding plants can be raised from seed although growing bedding plants from plugs offers a quick and easy solution. Buy bedding plants online for a cost effective option – you will also have far more varieties to choose from than garden centres. Click here for our best bedding plant deals!

Summer bedding plants are sown from February to April; winter and spring bedding plants are sown from May to July for planting out in autumn. Most can be started in seed trays and then pricked out and grown on but there are a few hardy annuals which need to be sown directly where they are to flower including borage, California poppy, Nigella and poppies.

Plug plants are dispatched in spring for summer bedding, and late summer for winter bedding. Summer bedding plants such as petunias, fuchsias and begonias will need potting up and growing on in frost-free conditions before planting out in late May or early June after all risk of frost has passed. Winter bedding plants such as pansies, polyanthus and wallflowers should be grown on and planted out once they’ve rooted into their pots or module trays.

How to plant

Most bedding plants prefer a position in full sun but there a few which will thrive in shade – see our 'Plants for Shade' article for suitable annual and biennial plants. Only plant out half-hardy bedding plants once all risk of frost has passed in late May or June.

how to plant bedding plants
  • In poor soils sprinkle a granular balanced fertiliser over the soil and lightly work in before planting.
  • If required, mark out the design of your bed in the soil using sand.
  • Loosen plants from their pots or trays by tapping the pot or pushing plants up from the base.
  • Using a trowel, plant each plant so that the top of the root ball is just below the soil surface and firm in.
  • Once all planting is completed water the area well to settle the soil.


Newly planted bedding plants should be watered regularly but once established only need watering in prolonged dry weather. Plants grown in the ground and winter bedding plants won’t require any extra feeding. Summer bedding plants in containers will normally have enough nutrients for 6 weeks of growth, so are best fed weekly after this with a balanced liquid fertiliser. For more information on feeding plants in containers, read our 'Plants for containers' article.

  Garden-ready pots & baskets

Sue Sanderson

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.