Bedding plants are any annual used in a garden environment. The term bedding refers to the way these plants are used in the garden, also called a flowerbed. Garden centers sell these plants as soon as they reach maturity and many contain full flowers at the time of purchase. Gardeners use bedding plants in containers as well as in the standard flower garden. These hardy annual plants only survive during a single growing season, but provide excellent color in a container garden.
Petunias offer full foliage and beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers for hanging containers. Flower color includes white, shades of pink, red, purple, blue and variegated blends. Petunias prefer full to partial sun locations. Two varieties of bedding petunias exist for use in containers. Multiflora petunias are compact with dense foliage and many flowers. Grandiflora petunias feature fewer blooms, but bloom size is larger. Flower petals can be ruffled or flat. The petunia is an excellent container plant, filling the entire pot with bright green foliage. Potted petunias require consistent moisture levels in the container to limit legginess of foliage. These plants benefit greatly from deadheading to encourage further flower production.
Containers beg for foliage plants to offset bright flower blooms. Dusty miller features gray foliage with a fuzzy texture. The plant does produce a flower in light yellow. Dusty miller has a clumping growth habit and reaches up to 15 inches in height at maturity. This bedding plant also tolerates dry soil after establishment. Dusty miller leaves turn a dark green when wet. This plant likes sunny locations and rich, organic soil. Dusty miller's leaves feature lobed indentations that create even more visual interest when paired with the soft wooly texture. Pair dusty miller with other heat resistant plants for best results in the container garden since the plant won't tolerate soggy roots.
The zinnia provides the gardener a tough bedding plant for a container garden. Pick a full sun location and the zinnia will thrive throughout the summer. The flowers are compact with tight petals formed into a disc. Colors include pinks, purple, red, orange and white. These plants tolerate dry soil and produce bloom after bloom with regular deadheading. Zinnia works well as cut flowers and reaches mature heights up to 2 feet. This plant is perfect as a background foliage and flower for a large container. Zinnia grows readily from seed and can be sown directly into the garden soil after the chance of frost passes in spring.