Growing bedding plants

Bedding plants have become an indispensable item for landscape use, presenting an array of flowers and foliage that add colour and texture to the landscapes of homes, apartment complexes, shopping malls, public buildings, city streets and parks.

They are ideal for planting on their own or with most other plants in a whole range of arrangements such as hanging baskets, tubs and pots, window boxes, troughs and of course in borders in the garden. Bedding plants are temporary so your displays can be different each year.

Bedding plants are really all plants that, irrespective of their growing habits, are used to make a temporary show. For example: Busy Lizzies (Impatiens) and Fibrous Begonias enjoy shady areas as will Pansies, Canterbury Bells, Lobelia and Coleus.

The ever popular are Surfinia, Geraniums, Alyssum, Ageratum, Verbena, Marigolds and Fuchsias for tubs, hanging baskets and borders.

Bedding plants are traditionally planted in early spring when the danger of frost is past. Bedding plants include herbaceous annuals such as Petunia, Salvia, Ageratum and Perennials such as Canna, Chrysanthemum, and Lantana. They are available commercially, but many people find that germinating their own plants and caring for them until they are ready for flower beds is both satisfying and inexpensive.

Harden-off the plants by gradually getting them acclimatised to the weather conditions outside. Start with ventilate the coldframe by opening the lid slightly on warm, still days only, closing it at night. After a few days, gradually increase the amount of ventilation each day until you remove the lid completely. Summer bedding plants, such as Antirrhinums and Alyssum, can be moved out a month before the last frost date. Tender plants such as Begonias, Busy Lizzies and Pelargoniums should not be placed into the coldframe before the last expected frost date.

Bedding plant sites should be spaded or tilled several weeks before planting. Incorporation of organic matter into planting beds will increase nutrient and water holding capacities of these soils. Organic materials such as compost or peat should be thoroughly mixed into the soil.

It is important to blend colours together – try planting drifts of colour in borders. Use ‘hot’ colours – reds, yellows, oranges, or ‘cool’ colours – blues, lavender, silver and white for different effects.

Bedding plants should be watered immediately after planting and daily until they have become established. After establishment, they should be watered on an “as needed” basis. The frequency of irrigation will depend on soil type, exposure to sunlight and kind of bedding plant

Hanging baskets may require watering more than once a day, especially during hot weather. If the compost does dry out, water thoroughly and repeat. Create good drainage to prevent waterlogging in containers.

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