Bedding plants are plants that have grown to almost the blooming stage before they're transplanted to another area for display. They're mostly annuals that are grouped with other plants for the greatest effect, although they may also include perennials, herbs or vegetable transplants. The best bedding plants usually have attractive flowers and foliage, are drought and heat tolerant, free of diseases or insects and can bloom quickly after planting.
Because annuals last for only one growing season, they're ideal for bedding plants, as well as adding instant color. Flowers in full bloom are not the best choice for flower beds because they're usually root bound in containers, setting them back for weeks after transplanting them. On the other hand, flowers that are not yet blooming establish themselves quicker and are more adapted for growing in a new environment. Some of the best annual bedding plants include impatiens, petunias, salvias, marigolds, lobelias, zinnias, alyssums and portulacas.
Some of the best bedding perennials plants include those that can tolerate dry soils such as salvias, artemisias, bearded irises, sedums, coneflowers, poppies, butterfly bushes and coreposis. When planning a perennial flower bed, avoid perennials that tend to spread and take over the entire bed, such as Chinese Lanterns, goldenrods and goutweed.
The best bedding shrubs are those that provide the greatest contrast in color to annuals and other flowers planted in a flower bed. Musk Okra or Maskmallow is a popular bedding shrub producing colorful hibiscus-like flowers. Its flowers are usually yellow with a purple eye, although they also produce pink, red or orange blossoms.
The Mischief Musk Mallow has magenta (rose-colored) hibiscus flowers and hairy leaves, making it one of the best selections for a bedding shrub to contrast against green foliage. The shrub is so named because its seeds smell musky when they ripen.
Dwarf balsam fir, a compact evergreen shrub, has balsam-scented leaves and is excellent for mixed borders and foundation plantings. It does best in full sun and soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic.
According to Greenhouse Grower.com the bedding industry actually began with vegetable bedding plants. The best and easiest bedding vegetables to grow are usually those that can be tossed into a salad. Some of the most popular vegetables grown in beds include lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, eggplants, zucchini and onions.
Herbs can also be used as bedding plants. Herb beds that are planted with shrubs such as juniper shrubs as a background are more attractive than a bed consisting of only herbs. They can be grown in flowerbeds for both culinary or ornamental (non-edible) uses. Some of the best culinary herbs include basil, dill, lemon thyme, mint, parsley, oregano and thyme. Popular ornamental bedding herbs are tansy, yarrow and artemisa.