Summer bedding plants don’t all have to be petunias and marigolds! As well as the more common bedding plants there are a huge range of annual bedding plants you can grow for height, scent and colour, from cornflowers and sweet peas to rudbeckia and zinnias. Some, such as petunias and geraniums (pelargoniums) are frost-tender perennials, which are treated as annuals and require frost protection; others are hardy annuals which can be sown directly outside. Nearly all summer bedding plants can be raised from seed although there is often a lot of work involved, from germination to pricking out tiny seedlings. If you don’t have the time or space for raising fiddly seedlings why not try our bedding plug plants to quickly get your garden started! It’s easy to order bedding plants online. We’ve listed our 10 best summer bedding plants below.
Learn more about growing bedding plants with our ‘How to grow bedding plants’ guide. For more information about autumn bedding plants for winter and spring flowering, take a look at our ‘Top 10 winter bedding plants’ guide. You can choose from our large range of bedding plants for sale here.
One of the most versatile summer bedding plants, begonias are well loved for their large flamboyant blooms in a wide range of colours, and their ability to thrive in both sun and shade. Flowering continuously throughout summer up to the first frosts, begonia bedding plants can be upright or trailing and are suitable for beds, borders, hanging baskets and window boxes. Some varieties such as begonia ‘Non-stop Mocca’ even have dark leaves to add foliage interest to bedding schemes. Tuberous begonias can be lifted and stored over winter and get bigger and better each year whereas begonia semperflorens cultivars such as begonia ‘Lotto Mixed’ are treated as annual bedding plants.
Sweet peas make fantastic cottage garden bedding plants. Let them scramble up obelisks, wigwams or netting where they will reach heights of 1.8m (6′) or alternatively try dwarf sweet peas for groundcover at the front of beds and borders. With their delightful fragrance and wide range of colours, sweet peas are excellent summer bedding plants and also provide bunches of gorgeous fragrant cut flowers throughout summer!
Incredibly valuable for shadier beds and borders, Impatiens summer bedding plants produce large flowers in a range of fruity colours, from pinks to reds through purples and white. New Guinea Impatiens have replaced the previously popular Impatiens walleriana due to busy Lizzie downy mildew, but share the same desirable characteristics – a long flowering period, bushy mounding habit and a preference for partial shade. Forming big spreading plants, busy Lizzies are superb for ground cover in beds and borders or will quickly fill patio containers with colour up to the first frosts.
A common bedding plant and for good reason! These sturdy, sun-loving plants are well suited to hot, dry conditions and flower all summer through to the first frosts. Pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums, are versatile bedding plants for summer and include trailing, climbing and upright varieties which are perfect for beds, borders, patio containers, hanging baskets and obelisks. Primarily available in vibrant shades of pink, white and red, geranium bedding plants are also available in subtle shades of lilac, apricot and rich burgundy.
Much loved for their architectural flower spikes and incredibly long flowering period, antirrhinums have fascinating mouth-like flowers which open when squeezed, making them a particular favourite with children. Available in a wide range of strong and vibrant colours, snapdragon bedding plants vary in height, from dwarf plants no taller than 25cm (10″) to large plants such as antirrhinum ‘Royal Bride’ which reach 90cm (35″). Tall snapdragons make superb cut flowers and add height to beds and borders; dwarf snapdragons can be used in beds, borders and patio containers. If you’re looking for bedding plants that attract bees, antirrhinums are a good nectar source, being most popular with bumble bees.
The dainty flowers of lobelia create wonderful dense waterfalls of colour in hanging baskets and containers, or grow the upright varieties for edging beds and borders. Easy to grow and long-flowering, they compliment any summer bedding scheme and look particularly pretty mingling with bedding plants in hanging baskets. Lobelia generally come in shades of cool blue, purple and white and are great if you’re looking for blue annual bedding plants.
Surely the summer bedding plant with the most exciting blooms! Petunias are popular for their large trumpet flowers in a fantastic array of bright colours and patterns, including stripes and picotees. These vigorous half-hardy annuals can be trailing or upright, and look spectacular spilling from hanging baskets, window boxes and containers, or massed in beds and borders. Some such as petunia ‘Purple Tower’ can even be trained to climb a frame! Petunias are particularly useful if you’re looking for purple bedding plants, offering shades of mauve, lilac-blue or rich deep purple.
Annual rudbeckias, also known as coneflowers, make robust and cheerful garden bedding plants. Particularly useful as late summer bedding plants, rudbeckias flower from July through to October and add a fiery element to annual displays with their red, orange and yellow colour palette. Compact varieties such as rudbeckia ‘Toto’ are excellent in beds and patio containers; tall varieties such as rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ work well planted in sweeping drifts in beds and borders or dotted between perennials and shrubs. Not only do they look fabulous in the garden, rudbeckias also make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers for a vase indoors.
For vibrant colour you can’t beat a Californian Poppy! This hardy annual is sown directly in beds and borders and will happily self-seed, creating effortless drifts of colour year after year. Traditionally orange, recent breeding has brought us a plethora of new colours including yellows, pinks, reds and apricot. The intensely coloured silky blooms are borne above neat clumps of feathery blue-green foliage and are attractive to bees and hoverflies. Thriving in poor, dry soils in full sun, simply scatter the seeds of these lively summer bedding plants where you want them to flower and let them take care of themselves.
If you want bedding plants that attract bees look no further than cosmos! The large saucer-shaped flowers bob prettily on slender, wiry stems and are a great source of late nectar for pollinating insects. The wispy fern-like foliage adds texture to bedding schemes and works well in an informal cottage-style bed or border. These fabulous summer bedding plants are mainly available in shades of pink, red and white, although cosmos sulphureus provides fiery yellows, oranges and reds. Cosmos bedding plants begin blooming in mid-summer and flower prolifically until mid-autumn. They also make fantastic cut flowers for a vase indoors.
Top 10 winter bedding plants
As summer draws to an end it’s an ideal time to be thinking about winter bedding plants for cheerful colour during the coldest months of the year! Winter bedding plants are biennial or perennial plants which are planted in the autumn, some flowering throughout the winter during milder spells, before putting on a burst of vigorous growth in the spring. Try planting winter bedding plants in beds, borders, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets for a welcome splash of colour when few other plants are in flower. Why not try planting spring bulbs underneath your bedding plants for something a bit different! We’ve listed our 10 best winter bedding plants below.
A stalwart of winter bedding displays, Pansy plants are so versatile and will bloom for far longer than any other winter flowering bedding plant. From autumn through to spring, pansies provide a welcome splash of colour in beds, borders, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets! Available in many colours, including white, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow, grow winter-flowering pansies in a sunny or partially shaded position and dead-head regularly for continuous flowering.
Generally slightly smaller than Pansies, Viola plants produce an abundance of dainty flowers on neat compact growth for a more subtle display. As versatile as pansies, you can buy upright varieties such as Viola ‘Sweeties’ or trailing violas such as Viola cornuta ‘Endurio Mixed’ which are ideal for winter hanging baskets. Many violas often have a delightful sweet fragrance too.
A well-loved cottage garden favourite, modern breeding has given us a plethora of new colours, sizes and improved flowering in primrose plants. No longer flowering for a brief period in spring, modern varieties such as Primrose ‘Husky Mixed’ start producing their rosettes of flowers from mid-winter onwards in a whole host of bright colours. A great bedding plant for winter, try primroses in beds, borders, window boxes and containers to add sparkle to your garden on dull winter days.
Compact and bright, polyanthus plants differ slightly to primroses in that the flowers are produced in umbels atop short, sturdy stems. As colourful as their cousins and with long-lasting flowers, Polyanthus are superb winter bedding plants for beds, borders, window boxes and containers. For a fragrant display try Polyanthus ‘Most Scented Mix’.
Renowned for their sweet spring fragrance, wallflowers are a cottage garden favourite with a more relaxed habit than other winter bedding plants. Traditionally planted in the autumn for flowers the following spring, there are now varieties such as Wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ which flower in the autumn too! Coping with even the poorest of soils, wallflower plants look great in beds, borders, containers and window boxes for a long-lasting, fragrant display.
6. Sweet William
Another cottage-garden favourite, Sweet William flowers are deliciously fragrant and borne on stiff, upright stems making them superb for cutting. Although Sweet William plants are short-lived perennials, they are mostly grown as biennials, planted in the autumn for flowers from May to July. Ideal in beds, borders and containers, varieties such as Dianthus barbatus ‘Messenger’ will add a vibrant mix of red, pink, purple and white to your late spring bedding schemes.
A well known bedding plant for winter, these neat, upright biennials produce large, ruffled, strongly fragrant flower spikes from mid-spring through to mid-summer. Over-wintering as a rosette of leaves, Stock plants burst into life as the weather warms in spring and make a real impact when planted 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.
This pretty winter bedding plant erupts with an abundance of dainty flowers in the spring and is the perfect partner for spring bulbs. Traditionally blue, Forget-me-not plants are also available in pink and white, such as Myosotis ‘Sylva’ Mix. Masses of tiny button flowers create a frothy effect in beds, borders and containers, and plants will happily self-seed for a continuous display in the garden every year.
Neat and compact, these hardy perennial daisies produce masses of round, quilled blooms in pink, red or white. For a really eye-catching variety try Bellis ‘Pomponette’ which has white flowers with pink petal tips. Ideal for massing in beds, borders, containers and window boxes, Bellis plants will keep on flowering right through the spring, representing excellent value for money.
10. Cyclamen coum
A true winter-flowering plant, Cyclamen coum will fill your garden with colour even on the dullest January and February days. A more subtle winter-flowering bedding plant, Cyclamen’s dainty nodding flowers with reflexed petals, and attractive marbled leaves, pair well with snowdrops, evergreen grasses, box and trailing ivy. Grow Cyclamen coum in beds, borders, containers or window boxes for a splash of pink in your winter garden.
Plant daffodils now for the best spring displays
Narcissus ‘Rainbow Butterflies Mixed’
A colleague heard Alan Titchmarsh talking about planting daffodils in August on his radio show at the weekend and was a bit surprised. After all, August is hardly the usual time to be thinking about planting spring bulbs, is it?
Generally speaking, you can plant daffodil bulbs up until the end of November, but in fact the earlier you plant them, the better they’ll flower. According to Alan Titchmarsh, daffodils that are in the ground now will already be putting down roots, ready for the new season’s growth.
Growing daffodils (or narcissus, as they’re also known) is very easy – they really don’t need much attention once you’ve planted them and you’ll get a stunning display for very little work. They’ll grow in most soils, in sun or part shade and are perfect in borders, containers or naturalised in grass. They’re most impressive if you plant them in groups.
Narcissus ‘Replete’ – the pink daffodil
As for colours, there’s such a wide choice – all shades of yellow, white, pink and even rainbow coloured daffs. Some grow to 45cm, while other miniature daffodils barely reach 15cm.
We’ve introduced a number of new daffodils into our range this year, all of which are available to buy online now. These are our top recommendations:
Narcissus ‘Sweet Aroma’
Narcissus ‘Sweet Aroma’
As their name suggests, these daffodils have a delightful fragrance and bloom for up to ten weeks. We thinks it’s one of the best fragrant mixes ever!
Narcissus ‘White Diamonds’ Mix
Narcissus ‘White Diamonds’ Mix
Pure white daffodils in every shape and size. Delicately fragranced, they’ll add a sophisticated touch to your borders and containers.
Narcissus ‘Tête à tête’
Narcissus ‘Tête à tête’
Probably the world’s most popular mini daffodil. Dozens of blooms grow on delicate stems, giving perennial beds and borders a much-needed splash of colour in spring.
Narcissus ‘Jonquilla’ Collection
Narcissus ‘Jonquilla’ Collection
A sweetly scented mix of five different varieties in a lovely mix of colours – ‘Martinette’, ‘Pipit’, ‘Pueblo’, ‘Sundisc’ and ‘Suzy’.
Narcissus ‘Rose of May’
Narcissus ‘Rose of May’
Compact and late-blooming, this daffodil has a truly delicious fragrance and flowers that resemble gardenias.
I love petunias but with last year’s awful weather I was reluctant to grow them this year – I did not want to have another year of soggy flowers.
As usual when the T&M plants catalogue came in spring there were so many new and unusual petunias I just could not resist giving them another chance this year. And with all the sunny weather we have had recently I am so glad I did. They have gone from being bushy green leaved plants to being completely covered in flowers.
My favorites so far are the Crazytunias – ‘Wedgwood’, ‘Strawberry Cheesecake’, ‘Banoffee Pie’ and ‘Sophistica Bicolour’. It’s just amazing how Mother Nature can come up with such amazing colour combinations!
Petunia ‘Banoffee Pie’
Petunia ‘Sophistica Bicolour’
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’ is such an amazing colour, almost black! I am already thinking of plants I can combine with it for next year. And am also hoping it is still around at Halloween this year as it will make a spooky addition to the decorations!
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’
The other reason I love petunias is their scent. They have such an spicy exotic fragrance I don’t know why more fuss isn’t made over them. I wish someone could capture this scent in a candle as I would certainly buy it.
I find the best varieties for scent are Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ and also the ‘Tumbelina’ range which have lovely double flowers as well as strong perfume. This year I have managed to find 16 different varieties of ‘Tumbelina’ and as a result had to invest in a new hanging basket stand to hang them all from. It’s still early but the stand is already looking good!
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’
Tumbelina basket stand
Mesembryanthemums love the sun and the flowers are so jewel like. The leaves of these plants are so unusual too. They look like they have ice crystals all over them.
I am a huge fan of exotic plants and this year I have grown schizanthus ‘Dwarf Bouquet Mixed’ from seed. The flowers are really unusual and look like mini orchids.
Also earlier this year I came across some caladium bulbs at a flower show. I have seen these plants in America but never in the UK. They were potted into pots and kept in the conservatory. The leaves are like stained glass windows and are so paper thin you can almost see through them. They are so fast growing which is really surprising, considering how little chlorophyll is actually in the leaf. I am searching everywhere for more varieties. If anyone out there knows where I can get some from please let me know!
Well that’s all for now. Need to get back outside and continue watering!
Who doesn’t love a jug of flowers on the kitchen table?
When students arrive I pop warm muffins and a pot of fresh Fairtrade coffee on the kitchen table next to a jug of flowers. It makes people feel welcome and there are always comments on how lovely the flowers are. But when it comes to everyday flowers sometimes things just don’t make sense. Buying imported flowers is one of the things that in the majority of instances just makes me cross. For me flying flowers thousands of miles, using who knows what amount of energy to keep the flowers cool, goodness knows what pesticides to keep them pest free and paying a pittance to a poorly treated workforce who are more often than not exploited is senseless at best and irresponsible at worst. I grow my own or when there are none in the garden I buy Fairtrade.
A welcoming sight
I appreciate that there are certain varieties of flowers that only grow in special conditions, and I understand that if you want say, roses at Christmas, then of course we don’t have the climate. That said the revolution of local, seasonal and sustainable food is upon is and I see absolutely no reason that the same can’t be applied to the British cut flower industry.
I acknowledge that sometimes flowers like bananas, chocolate and vanilla need to be imported, but if you are going to buy imported goods this is still your opportunity to make a difference by buying Fairtrade flowers.
If you want to enjoy flowers with a totally guilt free with a free conscience the best thing to do is grow them yourself in your garden or allotment. I like Thompson and Morgan for a wide selection of bulbs and seeds that make beautiful cut flowers. Lilies, Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Roses, Dianthus, Gladiolus, and Gypsophila are just a few straight forward flowers that you can grow with very little effort and if you want to take your green credentials even further then buy some of the organic seeds they sell and then the following year collect your own seeds.
Growing your own flowers can save you plenty of money especially if you give cut bouquets as gifts. It is also hugely beneficial for bees & insects providing food and habitats insects and in turn they help to pollinate your other flowers & vegetables and helping to maintain a healthier eco-system.
Growing your own cut flowers
Not everyone has the space in their garden or the time to grow their own flowers, so buying them is their only option, however there is a lot of information, much of it from the cut flower industry itself trying to convince us that cut flowers have low carbon footprints. It seems to me however that they have gone to great lengths to prove that they are a green option, and yet most of the data I have read focuses solely on the benefits of growing flowers in naturally hot countries and then flying them into the UK compared to growing them in cold countries in hothouses which of course can be very energy intensive. If we buy varieties that need little heat such as Cosmos, Nigella, Sweet Peas and Clary Sage like the ones in the photos above then this “comparison,” is utter nonsense.
If you want to think about the real impact of importing flowers one step further then consider this – in developing countries where poverty is endemic and access to clean water is problematic precious dwindling water supplies are used to produce exported luxury inedible crops grown.
Is it right that large corporations buy up land and claim the associated water rights, and that is before you start asking what impact large monocultures have on local biodiversity, which we know even from our own intensive farming is detrimental to the environment.
I know, I’m on my soap box now, but one of the biggest concerns I have about buying imported flowers with no certification is the well documented use of chemicals used on commercial cut flowers either to control pest & diseases or to prolong their life during transportation. Most imported cut flowers are grown in countries where there is little pesticide regulation which means that there is no control on the use of dangerous chemicals and a vast range of pesticides, fertilisers and fumigants are used in producing cut flowers such as DDT, dieldrin, methyl bromide and methyl parathion* have been banned in the UK and the USA for many years because they are deemed too dangerous to use in the industrialised world. (*source The Ecologist)
Perhaps one of the most worrying concerns I have is the issue of child labor in the cut flower industry. A quick Google search using the words ‘child labor in the cut flower industry’ reveals dozens of organisations fighting for changes to protect exploited children in the industry.
When I chat to people who come on courses here most people haven’t even thought about where our flowers come from, however after a few minutes explanation the penny drops and people are quick to cotton on that they are easy and cheap to grow yourself and that locally-grown flowers have similar advantages to locally produced food. The flowers are fresher, have a longer vase life and they smell much nicer.
‘Save Our Butterflies’ Week 18th – 26th May
Beautiful, scented, dwarf butterfly bushes perfect for small gardens
Last summer’s disastrous impact on our butterfly population has been widely reported in recent weeks. So what can we do about dwindling butterfly numbers in ‘Save Our Butterflies’ Week?
“Plant Buddleja ‘Buzz’™!” is the resounding response from Thompson & Morgan’s horticulturist Sue Sanderson. “Buddleja – or the ‘butterfly bush’ as it is often called – is well known as the plant that attracts the most different species of butterfly”.
Experts at the charity Butterfly Conservation warn that many species may be on the brink of extinction after the ‘washout summer’ of 2012. Even before last year’s unseasonably wet weather, butterfly numbers were on the decline. Butterfly Conservation is running a series of events across the UK from May 18th to the 26th encouraging people to keep an eye out for some of our most threatened and little-known butterflies, like the Green Hairstreak and the Wood White. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed for better weather this summer, but gardeners can help by planting butterfly-friendly plants, such as buddleja, in their gardens to provide the nectar that butterflies feed on.
Already a runaway success with T&M customers, Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ was specifically bred by Thompson & Morgan plant breeders to be a dwarf variety. Multi award-winning ‘Buzz’™ is quite unlike traditional buddleja plants which have a reputation for growing too tall and taking over the garden. Dwarf and compact, Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ still boasts all the qualities its larger cousins are famous for, such as the huge sprays of attractive flowers that are known to be a vital nectar source for butterflies. Plants are smothered in flowers all summer long and grow to just three feet (one metre) high. Thompson & Morgan is urging its customers to do their bit for butterfly conservation by planting Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ in their gardens. It is offering a 3 jumbo plug plant collection comprising 3 stunning colours from the ‘Buzz’™ range for just £12.99, saving £13.98 from the rrp. Perfectly proportioned for patio pots and smaller gardens, ‘Buzz’™ is very easy to grow, problem-free and has an impressively long flowering period.
Don’t forget to take part in the Big Butterfly Count in July – this important survey helps to keep track of butterfly numbers and is really easy to do. The website has a free butterfly chart that you can download and print out to help you log the butterflies you spot.