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Top winter bedding plants

colourful winter bedding plants

Top winter bedding plants to try this autumn
Image: Christynat/Shutterstock

Autumn is the perfect time to fill your beds, borders, containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets with winter bedding plants that provide structural foliage or a welcome splash of colour when few other plants are in bloom. Here are our top bedding plants to plant this autumn – both for winter interest and early spring displays.

1. Pansy

multicoloured pansies in a pot

Featured: Pansy 'Matrix Mixed'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

A stalwart of winter displays, pansies easily out-bloom any other winter flowering bedding plant. Although they prefer full sun, pansies also thrive in semi shade making them the ideal plant for filling winter hanging baskets and containers, as well as plugging gaps in your borders.

Look for bright colours like purple, blue, red, orange and yellow, or go for a selection like Pansy 'Matrix Mixed' which, with its compact sturdy stems, withstands winter wind and rain without too much trouble.

2. Viola

yellow and purple viola in a hanging basket

Featured: Viola 'Bunny Ears'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

A hardy bedding plant that likes sun or semi shade, violas produce an abundance of dainty flowers on neat compact growth for a subtle but colourful winter display. As versatile as pansies, try a dwarf upright variety like Viola 'Sweeties' or a viola that everyone wants to grow 'Bunny Ears' which will certainly add some bounce to your baskets.

Many violas often have a delightful sweet fragrance too, which makes them perfect for hanging outside your kitchen window, or planting in pots by the back door.

3. Primrose

yellow and purple viola in a hanging basket

Featured: The hardy Primrose 'Husky Mixed'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Available in a dazzling array of colours and sizes, modern primroses offer improved flowering, especially during the winter months. Primrose 'Husky Mixed' start producing their rosettes of flowers from mid-winter onwards providing a riot of colour to brighten winter beds, borders, window boxes and containers.

Harden off your primroses before planting out on bright frost free days, and water sparingly until the roots are established. Avoid over-watering containers because damp soil and chilly weather encourage rot.

4. Polyanthus

yellow, white, red and blue polyanthus

Featured: Polyanthus 'Most Scented Mix'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Compact and bright, polyanthus plants look very similar to primroses except that the flowers bloom in umbels – clusters – atop short, sturdy stems. Just as colourful as their cottage garden cousins and with long-lasting flowers, polyanthus make superb winter bedding plants for beds, borders, window boxes and containers.

For a fragrant display this winter, try Polyanthus 'Most Scented Mix' which flowers from January through to May. Plant in sun or semi shade, and deadhead regularly to encourage flowering.

5. Bellis

Bellis 'Bellisima Mixed'

Featured: Bellis 'Bellisima Mixed'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Neat and compact, these hardy perennial daisies produce round, quilled blooms in pink, red or white, and are just the thing to brighten up your late winter garden. Grow on plug plants until big enough to harden off for outdoor planting during the autumn.

For a really eye-catching variety try Bellis 'Bellisima Mixed'. The fancy pompom flowers offer a brilliant autumn colour injection into the garden! Short, compact plants with so many blooms you'll struggle to see the foliage.

6. Cyclamen coum

pink cyclamen

Featured: Cyclamen hederifolium
Image: Thompson & Morgan

A true winter-flowering plant, cyclamen coum fills your garden with colour even on the dullest January and February days. Low maintenance, cyclamen looks great in a woodland setting, providing excellent ground cover which self seeds to create a carpet of blooms each year.

For a subtle winter-flowering bedding plant, try cyclamen hederifolium which with its dainty nodding flowers and attractive marbled leaves, pairs well with snowdrops and evergreen grasses, as well as box and trailing ivy.

Whether you’re planting for autumn colour or a burst of interest in early spring, our top ten winter bedding plants should guarantee a successful display. Find care advice and variety suggestions for the rest of the year at our bedding plant hub.

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

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.

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