Transform your outdoor space with bright bedding plants
Make an impact and brighten up your outdoor space with colourful bedding plants. Bedding plants give your garden an instant lift, reviving even the most tired and neglected of outdoor spaces. They're mostly annuals, so only last for one year, allowing you to make quick and easy updates to your outdoor room year after year with little fuss. And as they can be planted into everything from planters to hanging baskets, they work brilliantly in even the most modest of spaces.
So, if you want to breathe new life into your garden, courtyard or balcony, or are keen to freshen up your space with some seasonal colour, let's talk about bedding plants.
Tools & materials required
What are bedding plants?
Any plants that can be set out in beds can be referred to as ‘bedding’. They're usually annuals, planted and removed within a single season. In terms of garden design, this is as close as you get to decorating surfaces, though instead of wallpapers or fabrics you use plants.
While you can grow your own, most bedding plants are bought as small, established plants grown from seed and sold in trays – this allows you to update your garden instantly.
They're simple to plant and as such make a great gardening activity for children to join in with. They're at their best when mixed in alongside perennials and shrubs and can be planted together in any arrangement imaginable. They can even be used to create a living painting - something that isn’t really possible with any other form of planting. The options are endless, so get creative.
How to choose bedding plants
First, consider which plants are most likely to thrive in the conditions of your garden so that your display doesn't let you down. There's little point buying something that looks gorgeous in the pot, only for it to fade when planted, so opt for plants that are compatible with the soil, light and drainage conditions of your garden and choose accordingly.
For more information on how to better understand your garden's conditions, head to our garden planning article.
We also recommend resisting the temptation to buy tender plants too early in the year, unless you have a greenhouse, as you may risk losing them to frost. And look for healthy plants that aren't showing too much flower and have plenty of roots so that they're firm in their pots or strips, without being too pot-bound.
Bedding for different seasons
Bedding plants can provide colour in any season.
The most popular and familiar kind of bedding, this may be a single flower bed or an entire garden given over to massed plants. Often with very strong colours, summer bedding is tender and should be planted out after all risk of frost has passed. It provides a beautiful display from early June until the first frost if properly maintained.
- African and French marigolds (pictured)
For particularly long-flowering options, choose:
- Busy lizzies
Autumn and winter bedding
Though naturally a quiet time in the garden, you can ensure there’s a little colour and plenty of greenery with a small collection of winter bulbs and other flowers. Plant with a mixture of small shrubs and grasses with bright foliage to add colour and interest.
- Early-flowering bulbs like scilla, winter aconite, crocuses and snowdrops
- Ivy-leaved cyclamens
For long-lasting colour, opt for:
- Winter-flowering pansies (pictured)
Almost as universal as summer bedding, this is set out in autumn and will slowly develop during winter to provide a dazzling climax in spring (though some can be planted in very early spring). Bulbs such as tulips are perfect for spring bedding, especially if accompanied by wallflowers.
- Bellis daisies
- Primroses (pictured)
- Spring-flowering bulbs like tulips
How to plant bedding plants
Despite the name, bedding looks great planted into pots and hanging baskets – so you can add instant colour if you have a balcony or courtyard, or are just limited on outdoor space.
For more information on planting, read our articles on planting a hanging basket and spring-flowering bulbs.
You will need:
- Bedding plants
- Hand trowel
- Watering can with rose
- Soil improver
- Multi-purpose compost
- Pots, planters and hanging baskets - optional
Prepare the site for bedding by adding soil improver and multi-purpose compost.
Water the bedding plants well while still in their original tray or container.
Carefully lift each plant from its tray and plant it out into the prepared plot or pot.
How to care for bedding plants
Water and food
If your soil is in good condition and has been enriched with soil improver and compost before planting, bedding will thrive with minimal feeding. However, plants in containers will need to be fed and watered frequently. Because of the lush, soft texture of most bedding, it's particularly susceptible to slug damage. This can be controlled in many ways – read our helpful guide for tips and suggestions.
When summer is over (usually after the first frost), bedding can be taken up and composted. It’s best to clear and dig over the ground while it's still warm and before it becomes too wet. Learn how to create your own compost with our how to guide.
If you're planning to follow up with spring bedding, strip out summer plants by late September to early October. Spring bedding should need little or no compost as there should be plenty left over from the summer.