Top 10 winter bedding plants

colourful winter bedding plants
Ten winter bedding plants to try this autumn
Image: Christynat

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 ten 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 'Allspire Mixed'
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 spectacular trailing viola like 'Allspice Mixed' which is ideal for winter hanging 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

colourful primroses covered in snow
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. Wallflower

multicoloured wallflowers in a bucket
Featured: Wallflower 'Sugar Rush'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Renowned for their sweet spring fragrance, wallflowers are a rustic favourite with a more relaxed habit than other winter bedding plants. Traditionally planted in the autumn for flowers the following spring, varieties such as Wallflower 'Sugar Rush' also bloom right through to late autumn, even squeezing into early winter if the weather’s good.

Able to thrive in even the poorest of soils, wallflowers look great in beds, borders, containers and window boxes, providing long-lasting colour and a delightfully fragrant display.

6. Sweet William

pink and white sweet williams on green background
Featured: Dianthus barbatus 'Mixed'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Deliciously fragrant and borne on stiff, upright stems making them superb for cutting, plant Sweet Williams during the autumn for late spring display from May through to July and beyond. Sweet William plants love full sun and make excellent ground cover.

Ideal in beds, borders and containers, varieties like Dianthus barbatus 'Messenger' add a vibrant mix of red, pink, purple and white to your bedding schemes, and will even survive the first frosts, making them a must-have for extending the season of colour in your garden.

7. Stock

pink and purple stock
Featured: Stock 'Autumn Perfume Mixed'
Image: Thompson & Morgan

A much-loved winter bedding plant, these neat, upright biennials produce large, ruffled, strongly fragrant flower spikes from mid-spring through to mid-summer. Overwintering as a rosette of leaves, stock plants provide interesting winter foliage and burst into life as the weather warms in spring.

Try 'Autumn Perfume Mixed' garden ready for colour and scent that lasts well into the winter months. For maximum impact, plant your stocks in large drifts through beds and borders, or in containers on the patio. Available in an array of pretty pastel colours, stock flowers are fantastic for cutting and will fill your house with a delicious sweet fragrance for up to a week.

8. Forget-me-not

small coloured forget-me-nots
Featured: Myosotis sylvatica (Forget-me-not)
Image: Thompson & Morgan

This pretty winter bedding plant erupts with an abundance of dainty flowers in the spring, making it the perfect partner for spring bulbs. Traditionally blue, forget-me-nots are also available in pink and white.

Try myosotis sylvatica for masses of tiny button flowers in blue pink and white, to create a frothy effect in beds, borders and containers. Forget-me-nots like well drained, reliably moist soil in full sun or semi shade and will happily self-seed for a continuous display in the garden every year.

9. Bellis

Pink flowers with yellow centre facing sun
Featured Bellis 'Bam Bam 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 'Bam Bam Mixed'. These neat little Bellis Daisies feature large red and rose blooms on neat, bushy plants. They light up autumn borders and often produce a second flush of flowers in spring.

10. 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.

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Sue SandersonPlants 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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