When to plant out bedding plants – best time to get planting and how to help them thrive

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Bedding plants are a short-term investment for your garden, offering a vibrant display of seasonal flowers during the warmer months. These fast-growing plants make for a stunning addition to any outdoor space, but it is important to time them right for a successful flush of colour. Planting bedding varieties out too early is one of the biggest mistakes made by gardeners, but when is the best time to start doing it? How can you grow bedding plants successfully?

When to plant out bedding plants

Unlike most spring bulbs, bedding plants are not hardy and shouldn’t be planted out until the risk of frost has passed.

This is usually around the time that spring fades to summer, though you may see bedding plants being sold in garden centres as early as March.

The Sunday Gardener said: “Most areas of the UK are frost free by the end of May, which means, although it is tempting to plant out earlier, it is best left until May.”

If you do want to plant them out earlier, it is recommended that you use a fleece or cloche to protect the young crop from any late frosts.

While most bedding plants can be safely planted after April in the UK, the exact planting date depends on the growing method.

Bedding varieties can be grown from seed, purchased as young seedlings known as ‘plug plants’, or bought as established containers.

When to plant out seed-grown bedding

Though most bedding plants are known to be fast-growers, seeds will take longer to grow as they need to establish before being planted out.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), you can start sowing seed under glass with or without heat from January to early April.

If the weather is relatively mild, you should be able to sow seeds directly into the soil outdoors from March onwards.
The RHS said: “Many hardy annuals can be sown in September and overwintered in mild areas.”

When to plant out young seedlings

Bedding purchased as plug plants should be potted up into cell trays or small 9cm pots to harden them off.

These can be planted in April to allow a few weeks of growth before transplanting them.

Keep the young plants somewhere warm and well lit, such as a greenhouse or windowsill, until the roots have nicely filled (but not crowded) the container.

Once the risk of frost has passed, plant them out alongside shop-bought containers.

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How to plant bedding in your garden

Before adding bedding plants to your garden, you must make sure that the soil and compost is moist.

According to the RHS, the best way get the plants dug into your borders and flower beds is to follow these simple steps:

  • Start by raking the soil level, removing large clods or stones
  • For formal bedding scheme, mark out the design on the surface using fine sand
  • Gently loosen plants from their trays by pushing up from the base, remembering to keep your hand securely over the top of the plant to avoid dropping it
  • Handle plants by the leaves or root ball
  • Begin laying out the plants on the soil where you want to position them, using a template or guide to space them evenly
  • Plant so the top of the root ball is just below the soil surface and firm the bedding in
  • Water the site well using a watering can

How to grow bedding plants successfully

Once your bedding plants are settled into your garden soil, it is important to nurture them in order to secure a vibrant display.

Water regularly

Keep shallow-rooted plants moist by watering them regularly to support strong, rapid growth.

Keep pests away

Whether you’re growing your bedding plants from seed or containers, it is crucial that you keep up with pest control as your plants grow.

According to the RHS, slugs and snails can be particularly damaging to young plants and seedlings.

Early treatment of aphids is also essential to protect vulnerable plants.

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