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Get to know your Garden intimately Part eight Bedding Plants

Updated on August 2, 2015

Bedding plants-petunias and Marigolds



This series of articles is aimed at beginners and those who are unsure of what to do and when to do it as regards their gardens. here we look at bedding plants.

The term bedding plants is usually applied nowadays to the summer annuals bought from May onwards to fill containers and borders with colour,Petunias,Begonias,Marigolds,Lobelia and the like. However, this seems to be a restrictive term as hardy plants which are used for decoration of the same beds during winter and spring have as just a claim to the title 'bedding plants' as have the summer occupants of such beds and so some are included here.

Since the 1800's the system of planting a series of beds with half hardy annuals for summer decoration has been extensively adopted and there is no doubt they can produce effective displays of blooms for long periods of time. The term bedding plants were for all intents and purposes divided into three groups in days gone by. Spring,Summer and Winter bedding plants.

As previously mentioned the articles is aimed at the beginner and those that are unsure of what to plant,where and when. I hope the following text will inspire and give confidence to the beginner to fill their garden with a plethora of colourful species.

Pansies make excellent early spring bedding plants.


Preparation is essential before planting.

Before we get on to the subject of the plants and planting we must look at the preparation of the beds in which they are to grow. The cultivation of the majority of plants that produce a long period of flowering takes much out of the soil and as a consequence the beds need to be prepared in readiness of receiving their occupants.

For the majority of summer flowering annuals the beds should be well drained,well manured and where possible deeply worked to give the roots a better chance of getting established. The manure will feed the plants by replacing nutrients taken by the plants from the soil. If the idea of manure is not appealing there is ,in these modern times, slow release fertilizer bought from garden centres and nurseries,which may be dug into the soil. These release their nutrients over a period of weeks.

The reason we need to make the soil well drained is that stagnant water that lies on the soil will keep the temperature down and the air is effectively kept out,a combination that is often fatal to plants. digging deep has many benefits for the plants ,it gives openness to the soil which allows the roots to penetrate more deeply,and in dry seasons the roots will descend to where the soil is moist. In wet seasons the surplus water also drains away more easily to the sub-soil,instead of standing around the roots which causes decay.

On the other hand if your soil is very light and sandy it can be improved by adding a good quantity of heavy loam. If your soil is in good condition and deep digging is not required the slow release fertilizer can be applied to the surface and forked or hoed well in. Some plants such as Pelergoniums will produce leaves at the expense of flowers if they are fed to much,and in this case fertilizer should be applied sparingly.

Basic tools

Public Domain
Public Domain | Source


The time for planting,of course,depends greatly upon the climate in your particular region. For example, here in the UK, the southern parts of England and Wales may be planted some weeks before those in northern England and Scotland.

It is very tempting during a mild sunny spell to rush out to the nursery to procure the plants of your choice,this is often an expensive mistake. It is certainly better to wait for a week or two than to remove plants damaged or killed by cold winds and or overnight frosts. Planting out before the danger of frost has past can result in the plants being 'checked',sufficient to affect their well being for the whole season.

When the time is right for planting pots and trays containing the plants should be watered overnight so that the root-ball is thoroughly moist by the morning. It is much harder to get the water in the root-ball once it is in the ground. If the weather continues to be dry and hot,keep your plants well watered at intervals until they become well established.

The removal of any decayed or damaged foliage/flowers should be a regular job throughout the season,so that your plants always have a neat and healthy appearance. next we must consider the colours.Harmonizing one colour with another generally produces a pleasing affect. Arranging colours,purple, red,pink,salmon,yellow and white in the order given,the eye is drawn from one colour to another and harmony prevails.

However, in small beds it is not advisable to plant too many shades of colour but rather one or two or even three colours will be sufficient for the same pleasing effect. { see header image}. The experienced gardener is always on the look out for suitable combinations. When passing or visiting other gardens one may see a combination of colours that one likes. Make a note of the colour scheme for use in future seasons. The modern day gardener has a great advantage over his forefathers as beautiful plants are at their disposal which is almost infinite,which with a little thought and consideration can transform the borders in to a veritable wonderland.

Ageratum 'cloud nine white'


A look at some summer bedding plants.

Ageratums are much used as bedding plants and they flower continuously from June until October,or until destroyed by frosts. they vary in height from four to sixteen inches. The flowers vary in colour in shades of blue and white they are lasting and retain their colour well.

They are excellent plants for edging for small beds by themselves or for mixing with tri-colour Pelargoniums, or for carpeting plants for Fuchsia or other tall growing species.

Begonias, The shrubby fibrous rooted section of these plants are suitable for our purpose,producing a profusion of flowers throughout the whole summer season,they also stand wet weather extremely well. They are readily available at nurseries or on line as 'plugs'. There are many other variety of Begonias such as the double flowered tuberous varieties.

Begonia pink hybrid


Honesty Lunaria varieties.

Honesty belongs to the genus Lunaria named from the Latin luna meaning moon and alludes to the shape and colour of the disc-like portion of the seed vessel.

Lunaria biennis grows to the height of one and a half to three feet {90 cm} with large violet purple flowers appearing from April and continuing till July. The large leaves and pyramidal habit give this plant a handsome appearance in leaf and in flower. There is also a white flowered variety 'albiflora'.

They thrive in almost any type of soil but they do especially well when the soil is well drained.

French Marigolds Tagetes patula


French Marigolds

French Marigolds are very popular garden plants of the genus Tagetes. Tagetes patula 'Naughty Marietta' are fast growing bushy annuals with aromatic,deeply cut deep green leaves,with heads of bicoloured flowers deep yellow and maroon,throughout the summer and early autumn.

They have a height and spread of 12 inches {60 cm } when mature. they love sunny,welldrained aspects.

Trough of blooms French marigolds with Pelargoniums

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to commons by Matanya {talk }
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to commons by Matanya {talk } | Source


Nemesia strumosa 'Triumph Series',are fairly fast growing ,bushy ,compact annuals with lance shaped leaves with serrated edges, of a pale green colour..They produce small,somewhat trumpet shaped flowers in a range of bright colours during the summer.

Height eight inches spread six inches. They prefer sunny,well drained soils.They will flower until the first frosts.

Another Nemesia variety 'Danish Flag '

Origianlly posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Slick-o-bot
Origianlly posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Slick-o-bot | Source


Antirrhinum popularly known as 'Snap dragons' are popular border plants. Antirrhinum majus 'Trumper serenade',is an erect perennial branching from the base,normally grown as an annual.

They have lanced shaped leaves and during spring and summer bear spikes of open trumpet shaped bicoloured flowers in a mixture of pastel shades. They have a height and spread of twelve inches {30 cm } and thrive in sunny well drained soils.

Antirrhinum majus-flower


Callistephus chinensis

Kolomenskoye Moscow.
Kolomenskoye Moscow. | Source

Clarkia amoena

Uploaded to Commons via Seglea
Uploaded to Commons via Seglea | Source

Callistephus,Calendula and Clarkia

Callistephus chinensis is a popular garden annual with a height of eighteen inches {20 cm } and a spread of twelve inches {30 cm},but there are smaller varieties of C.chinensis,so choose the variety which suits your requirements. they all have oval-toothed ,mid-green coloured leaves and flower in summer and autumn. Different varieties produce a range of colours. They are some times referred to as Chinese Asters.

They require well drained soil in a sunny aspect. Dead heading {removal of faded flower heads} is essential to prolong the flowering period.

`Calandula officinalis 'Geisha girl' {English marigold} are also favoured plants for bedding. geisha girl variety is an annual that attains the height of twenty four inches { 60 cm } with a spread of twelve to twenty four inches { 30-60 cm }. There are many varieties of Calendula.

Most require sunny aspects and well drained soils.

Clarkia amoena 'Princess'- has a height and spread of twelve inches { 30 cm } and grown in well drained soil in the sun will produce flowers throughout the summer.

Calendula officinalis


Other inspiring bedding plants

Erysinum hieracifolium 'Orange bedder' has a height and spread of twelve inches { 30 cm }

Nicotiana 'Domino series' height and spread twelve inches { 30 cm }

Echium Vulagre {dwarf } twelve inches high with a spread of eight inches.

petunia 'Resisto Series' six to twelve inches high with a spread of twelve inches { 30 cm }

Dahlia 'Coltness Hybrids' height and spread eighteen inches

All of these plants thrive in sunny aspects with well drained soils.

I hope these plants have served to inspire. There are a plethora of others available. So long as your bed is well prepared there is literally no limit to the choice available. Enjoy your garden.

Erysimum capitatum is another variety


Nicotiana alata


Petunia grandiflora {dwarf}


Dahlia coccinea



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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, there is always something new to learn and discover in the plant world {as in the bird world}. Glad you liked this one. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, what beautiful flowers, some that I didn't even know about. I have always been partial to begonias, marigolds, and my favorite, pansies. Can't go wrong with anything that you have suggested.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello my friend, your kind and inspiring words are much appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 2 years ago from Jaipur

      Hi Dave,

      I am fond of your writing and have no hesitation to admire this one too. Beautiful pictures made this awesome. Rated up and useful.