There are a number of classic bedding plants that are widely seen in British gardens, such as Petunias, Marigolds, Sweet Peas and Busy Lizzies, but some of the perhaps less well known flowers such as Lobelia, Antirrhinum, Californian Poppies and Cosmos will also be an attractive addition to any garden. Begonias are incredibly versatile with their large flamboyant blooms that thrive in sun and shade; Sweet Peas look particularly picturesque in cottage gardens. Geraniums are sturdy and flower all through summer and last until the first frost; Californian Poppies offer an unrivalled vibrant flash of colour, coming in shades of yellow, pink, orange, red and apricot.
How to plant bedding plants
A nice flowerbed remains one of the most enjoyable ways to add real colour, height and scents to your garden. Popular since Victorian times, bedding plants are ideal for relative beginners because they offer the chance for results without too much difficulty. Not only that, but you’ll see the impact almost immediately without having to invest a great deal of time and effort. Summer bedding plants should be planted out in late May or early June and in September or October.
Which bedding plants to grow
Where to plant
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to grow, you need to decide where in the garden you’re going to grow them. As with many types of gardening, choosing the right location is a key part of getting results. This is dependent on the types of flower you want to grow: some will prefer constant sun, others will be happier in the shade. Needless to say, it’s a good idea to choose a range of flowers that all prefer similar growing conditions.
Bedding plants are used to decorate everything from elaborate public gardens to the smallest front garden and are an incredibly versatile way to add temporary displays to beds and borders.
- Many gardeners change their bedding displays twice a year, replanting in late spring (for summer) and early autumn (for winter/spring). This is known as successional planting and this ensures a good spread of flowers throughout the year. If you’re going to use successional planting, Begonias, Pennisetum Rubrum (an ornamental grass) and Salvia or Verbena are perfect for the summer, then opt for Cyclamen, Pansies and Viola in the winter months for colour and interesting foliage.
- Formal bedding is seen in bold displays in public gardens but it can be used in smaller ornamental gardens too. These tend to include neat, symmetrical patterns across an entire bed and plants are usually paired in blocks of colour – it’s common to see Dahlias, Geraniums and Salvias in formal bedding designs. You can use edging plants such as Lobelia to create a bit of order at the edge of your beds.
- If you’re aiming to brighten up a border or fill bare soil in your own garden, you can take a fairly informal approach to bedding and explore with colour and textures. Don’t worry about straight lines or symmetrical patterns if you’re opting for informal bedding – just have fun with the plants you’ve got and enjoy the random beauty of nature.
- Carpet bedding is a really beautiful way to display bedding plants – but it requires effort. As the name suggests, plants are so compact and tightly knitted they look like a woven carpet and often include incredibly complex and intricate designs. It’s not impossible to create a carpet bedding design at home, but it can be tricky, so draw out your design and be sure to use contrasting coloured plants to get the best visual effect.
Whatever plants you’ve picked out, it’s essential to give them a good watering before they’re actually planted. Submerge the whole pot, root ball included, in a bucket of water and leave it for a couple of minutes to thoroughly soak through. Once you’ve got everything planted, ensure you water the bed every day, especially during summer. Plants being bedded in require a lot of moisture.
Feed, feed, and feed again
Most compost used for containers and baskets comprise a fairly limited amount of food. As such, it’ll only take four to six weeks for bedding plants to have drained it of nutrients. You’ll need to add a potassium-heavy feed to help boost flower growth. Mixing it into one watering per week should be enough to get good results.
Remember to deadhead
Picking off old flower heads as soon as they start to fade is an effective way to stop your plants from wasting too much energy on seeds. There are some varieties – Fuschias and Scaevola are great examples – that look after themselves, but others will actually need you to cut away any dying heads. Petunias and Pelargoniums are good examples of plants requiring more hands-on attention. It’s not too hard, though: all you need to do is either pinch off spent flowers or snip them using a good pair of scissors.