Do you want a spectacular display of bedding plants in your garden, pots and hanging baskets? We’ve searched the internet to find the best independent expert advice on bedding plants and annual flowers. Here’s everything you need to know to choose, grow and care for these incredibly popular and colourful plants.
Charlie – The Home Gardener
Nemesia is at the top of Charlie’s list of top ten favourite bedding plants for containers. Charlie, creator of the popular gardening blog The Home Gardener, recommends Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’ for their delicious scent and Felicia ‘Friends Azure Blue’ for their striking, tall and delicate blue daisy-like flowers. Plant in a pot, says Charlie, so that you can easily move your blooms around the garden throughout the summer.
Michael Perry – Mr Plant Geek
It’s not the end of the world if your mail order plants arrive wet, dry or a bit damaged, says Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek. Watch Michael troubleshoot his posted plug plants to pick up a few care tips. Succulent begonia plug plants can sometimes sweat in the post, he says, but that doesn’t matter – just air your plants by unpacking as soon as they arrive. Remember to pinch out any immature flowers on your plugs, says Michael. You want your plants to save their energy for producing bigger flowers later in the season!
Carol – The Sunday Gardener
It pays to choose a plant that requires less deadheading, says Carol Jackson, creator of The Sunday Gardener blog. Bedding plants like Mesembryanthemum produce 50+ flower heads in one day which, while giving you a spectacular show, can be time consuming, says Carol. Less labour intensive alternatives like nasturtiums or pelargoniums are just as attractive, she says, and don’t require as much attention to keep them at their best. Find out how to care for your bedding plants in Carol’s fantastic article.
Thompson and Morgan
“Don’t underestimate foliage bedding plants – they’re invaluable for breaking up swathes of flowers,” says Sue Sanderson, one of the horticultural experts at Thompson & Morgan. She recommends Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’, the Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis) and Coleus for fabulous leaf colours and shapes. As well as interesting foliage, Sue suggests adding height with climbing plants like sweet peas and morning glory (Ipomoea). Find out how to grow bedding plants and create unique displays over at Thompson & Morgan.
Handle your bedding plugs by their leaves, not their delicate stems, says David Domoney. “If you damage a leaf, it will grow back. But if you damage the stem, you’ll lose the plant,” he explains. Make sure you acclimatise your young bedding plants in a cool, frost free area before planting them out into their final positions, he adds. Check out the rest of David’s article and learn how to transplant your summer bedding successfully.
James Middeton – The Allotment Garden
Plant your winter bedding plants closer together than you would in summer, says James Middleton of The Allotment Garden. Bedding plants grow much slower in the colder months, he explains, so snuggling them in closer together avoids unsightly patches of bare earth. Read James’ article for an extensive list of his favourite hardy winter bedding plants and find plenty of inspiration for your own winter garden.
Marie Shallcross – Plews
Bedding plants are “ideal for ringing the changes in the garden, especially where there is a preponderance of evergreens,” says garden designer Marie Shallcross of Plews Garden Design. She includes a combination of tender and half-hardy annuals with perennial and biennial varieties on her list of top bedding plants. For something cool and contemporary, Marie suggests pairing the scented heliotrope ‘Cherry Pie’ with a flowering tobacco plant. See her article for more professional inspiration.
YouTuber Jack Shilley expertly demonstrates how to plant a mixed container of summer bedding plants with begonias, antirrhinums, and impatiens plugs. Top tip from Jack – tilt your trailing bedding plants in the right direction as you plant to gently encourage them to cascade at the best spot. He also advises lightly covering the drainage hole of your container with the polystyrene plug packet before adding your compost mix. Good drainage produces happy plants!
For John @jafthegardener, aubretia is the perfect plant to cover unsightly areas of the garden. Planted on a rocky wall, it gently tumbles down to beautiful effect. In Jaf’s Instagram post, he recommends pairing blue aubretia with white arabis to create a more formal planting scheme. See his Instagram page for great gardening pics and ideas borne from years of horticultural experience.
Lindsay – @thetweegarden
Another fan of aubretia, Lindsay of @thetweegarden recommends planting it in “alkaline, free draining soil in full sun” for best results. Planted in both her front and back gardens, Lindsay inadvertently discovered that the heavy soil in her front garden isn’t a successful growing medium for this popular bedding plant. Thanks for sharing the highs and lows Lindsay – the gorgeous images of your healthy plants are a sight to behold!
Lucy Butler – @mindful.gardener
See Instagrammer Lucy’s amazing display of violas and pansies in November, a rainbow of colours from blue, to orange and yellow. Lucy loves these little flowers, saying that “they look like they have little faces of their own that are just smiling back at you! An instant mood lifter.” Check out @mindful.gardener for gardening tips and planting fun.
Some Busy Lizzies are very susceptible to downy mildew, so it’s worth hunting for ‘Imara’ which has been specially bred to withstand a downy mildew attack, says Peter Seabrook over at The Gardening Channel. For difficult, shady areas of the garden, Peter suggests planting these hugely popular bedding plants in grow bags: “Each bag will give you at least a square meter of colour” even in heavy shade. Watch Peter’s video to find out exactly how to grow Busy Lizzies.
Becky – @the_gardening_angel
Pelargoniums are native to South Africa, says Instagrammer Becky of @the_gardening_angel, so they won’t tolerate cold weather. If you want to overwinter your pelargoniums and keep your favourite plants for next year, Becky says: “Be quite harsh & trim back a large amount of the top leafy lush growth, pot on with fresh multi purpose compost & keep in a fairly warm greenhouse.” Check out Becky’s Instagram account for more beautifully written gardening advice.
New plant varieties are rigorously trialled before release, as designer Jack Wallington found in a special tour of Thompson & Morgan’s trial ground. He found plenty of surprising new bedding plants that turned his head including “begonias, scabious, gerbera, annual salvia, rudbeckia ‘Caramel’ and fuchsia.” His favourite? Daucus carota ‘Cara’ came out on top “for its structure but also light airiness and antique colouring”. Go behind the scenes with Jack to find out how these traditional plants won him over. According to Jack, “there’s something about modern bedding that makes me want to grow more of it…”
Kersasp ‘Kersie’ Shekhdar – Horticulture Week
Begonia is a genus of plants that spans three continents and contains over 10,000 cultivars, explains Kersasp Shekhdar over at Horticulture Magazine. There are three rules that apply to nearly the whole genus, he says: they can’t tolerate frost, they don’t like direct sunlight and they like moist, not wet, soil conditions. Read the whole of Kersasp’s article for a fascinating overview of these popular bedding plants, including their fascinating history, how to care for begonias, and a special list of his particular favourites.
We hope this has provided you with plenty of inspiration for your summer and winter bedding plant displays, including lots of ideas for your pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. They might be traditional favourites, but modern bedding plants have been bred for colour, performance and longevity, making them a quick and easy way to change things up in your garden from one year to the next. Find links to our best growers guides and top bedding plant recommendations at our bedding hub page.