Growing bedding plants
Easy to grow and care for, annual bedding plants can be grown in hanging baskets and pots or borders. Change your displays every year, and use our guide for getting the best results.
About bedding plants
Packs of ready-grown bedding plants can be bought from garden centres. Look out for ready-made combinations, or buy trays of one colour to plant together and make a big impact.
Buying bedding plants
If you have a big bedding scheme you can buy tiny seedlings from mail-order companies. Between 100 and 400 seeds are sown in trays filled with compost and because they're so crammed in, the baby plants need to be potted into little pots or spaced out in separate seed trays to give them space to grow.
Plug plants are bigger than seedlings and are grown in trays containing lots of v-shaped cells. They're available in many sizes, including mini-plugs, which will need to be potted into bigger containers before planting outside or more expensive jumbo plugs, which can be planted directly into containers or the soil. Good quality plugs should arrive damp, have green, healthy leaves and roots that are just appearing through the bottom of each cell.
Pots and trays
The most common way of buying bedding plants from a garden centre is in individual pots, trays or in tear-apart packs. Buying in pots is expensive, while trays containing lots of plants is cheap. However, as these plants are growing together in the same compost, roots can be damaged when separating to put into individual pots. With bedding grown in packs each plant has its own growing cell, and this makes them easy to plant without damage to the roots.
Growing bedding plants from seed
If you have time, most bedding plants are easy to grow from seed. All you need to do is fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with cuttings compost, firm and follow the sowing instructions for the variety you're growing - some plants will need covering with compost, while others are left on the surface.
To germinate, put in a heated propagator or cover with a clear plastic bag held in place with an elastic band. Place on a windowsill and seedlings will quickly appear.
Some smaller seeds, such as begonia, are trickier to grow from seed and are better bought as young plants.
Most bedding plants, whether bought or homegrown, will have been started in warm conditions and like to be acclimatised before being planted outside.
To do this, put plants in a cold frame or unheated porch for a few weeks before planting out.
Dig out a hole in a container or in the soil that's large enough for the rootball to fit comfortably.
Separate out plants, gently removing individual rootballs. Place in hole, so the compost is just beneath the level of the surface of the soil and fill in the gaps around the plant with soil. Firm and water.
Water plants daily in the summer - plants in containers and hanging baskets may need watering twice a day during dry weather.
Add liquid feed in your watering can and apply once a week.
Remove dead flowers from winter and summer bedding plants as they fade to keep them tidy and encourage new blooms.