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  3. Bedding Plants 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Bedding Plants for Your Garden

Bedding Plants 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Bedding Plants for Your Garden

Discover the ultimate guide to choosing the perfect bedding plants for your garden! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, we aim to help you navigate the best bedding plants for spring, summer, autumn, shade, and pots. Learn how to select plants that thrive in different seasons and complement your garden’s unique conditions.

What are Bedding Plants?

Bedding plants are fast-growing plants that add bright, bold blocks of colour to a garden. They can be planted in garden borders, containers, and hanging baskets. Bedding plants love to show off, demanding attention and capturing the eye.

They tend to be planted into stunning displays that last a year before a new display is created. It might seem like hard work, but they are well worth the effort if you are after impact and colour.

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to bedding plants. There are literally 1000’s available, but as a garden designer, these are what I consider to be the top 10 bedding plants:

  1. Begonias
  2. Geraniums
  3. Marigolds
  4. Cosmos
  5. Sweetpeas
  6. Petunia
  7. Gazania
  8. Primrose
  9. Viola
  10. Fuchsia

The best bedding plants provide long flowering seasons and beautiful scents and are low maintenance.

When is the bedding plant season?

There are two times in the year when bedding is at its best

Spring and summer bedding – Bold, bright blocks of colour are the hallmarks of summer bedding.  Popular summer bedding plants include Begonia, Buzzie Lizzies, Petunias

Autumn and winter bedding – A splash of colour late in the year is always welcome.  Some of the more popular winter bedding includes Pansies, Primroses and Violas

What Month do you put bedding plants out?

Summer bedding typically gets planted outside in May and June, but always keep an eye out and look for when the last frosts of the year have passed.  You can buy bedding plants in March and start growing them on inside if you have a greenhouse or conservatory.

Which bedding plants last the longest?

Petunias, Cosmos, Begonias and Geraniums are some of the bedding plants that last a long time in the summer.  Regularly deadhead the plants to increase the flowering display and give them a good feed.

Which bedding plants like full sun?

Sun-loving bedding plants include Marigolds, Petunias, Cosmos, Sweetpeas and Snapdragons.  Trying planting in big, bold swathes for borders and beds with real impact

Which bedding plants grow in the shade?

Bedding plants for shade include Fuchsias, Coleus, Begonia, Impatiens and Geraniums.  Try combining with Hostas and Ferns for shady borders that dazzle.  Shady borders can often prove challenging to work with, but you will produce stunning beds if you select the right plants for the right conditions.

Which bedding plants can be considered safe for dogs?

Many plants are great for your garden and safe for your pets—all of these bedding plants are completely non-toxic for both cats and dogs.

Antirrhinum, Aster, Aquilegia, Busy Lizzies, Calendula, Campanula, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Echinops, Fuchsia, Geranium (not Pelargoniums), Heuchera. Hollyhocks, Nepeta, Petunia, Rudbeckia, Scabious, Sedum, Sunflowers, Veronica.

How long do bedding plants last?

Most bedding plants only put a blaze of glory for a single flowering season before dying back and then being replaced the following year when a new look is created.  Bedding plants can follow fashions and allow gardeners to exhibit their creative side.  Should you want to, you could choose long-living plants as part of your display. The following types of plants are available for bedding schemes:

  • Half-hardy annuals – these plants complete their lifecycle in a single season; the frost will kill them off e.g. Cosmos and Marigolds
  • Hardy annuals – these plants can survive a light frost, so they are helpful for all gardeners e.g. Pot marigolds
  • Hardy biennials – these plants complete their life cycle in two seasons, e.g. Dianthus and Lobelia
  • Half-hardy perennials will live for a few years, tending to flower from the second year.  They are prone to damage by frost and so require some protection under glass, e.g. bellis and Begonias
  • Hardy perennials & shrubs are often used as the centre-piece of larger displays and can be re-used yearly e.g. Phormiums and Euphorbias are common choices.

How to use bedding plants in a garden design

Bedding plants have been popular in garden designs since the Victorian era and currently enjoy a renaissance.  There are no set rules for how to use bedding plants, but here are a few thought starters:

Formal bedding: Your larger public displays at parks tend to use more formal patterns, either in vast swathes or smaller ornamental parterre gardens edged symmetrically with boxes.  This look is easily recreated in beds closer to your house or front garden.

Informal bedding: Drifts of closely planted bedding plants are eye-catching, especially when following flowing curves.  Aim for generous-sized beds at home with bold curves.

Carpet bedding: Only those gardeners with access to large open areas and the patience of a saint should consider carpet bedding.  Plants are grouped closely together in complex designs. 

Successional planting: Not one for homeowners generally, as this involves changing the planting scheme multiple times during the year to suit the seasons.  These are high-maintenance gardens so not suited to a domestic garden.

Updated on May 13, 2024

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