Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

Best Summer Bedding Plants For Hanging Baskets, Troughs And Containers

Summer bedding is cheap, colourful and fits in with any garden scheme

Bedding plants fall into two categories: trailing and upright. If you are planting up hanging baskets or wall troughs you need mainly trailing plants with larger upright plants at the back of the trough or in the centre of the hanging basket. When planting containers you can use just upright or a mixture of both. Trailing plants soften the edges and can disguise a cheap plastic trough. Almost all bedding plants need a constantly damp compost and are greedy feeders, so incorporate some water retention gel and slow release fertiliser into the compost. You may need to feed with a high potash liquid food, such as Tomorite, at the end of the season. This will keep the bedding going just a little longer. The majority like full sun. Most of them must be deadheaded regularly to ensure a good display going into autumn.

Trailing plants

Antirrhinums (Snapdragons)

Usually come in mixed colours. Stems are quite brittle so need careful handling. May have to grow from seed as they are not readily available in garden centres.


One of the most popular trailing plants coming in white, pink and blue. They make a full plant which goes on well into autumn.


Large showy flowers in a wide range of colours. Stems are quite brittle so need handling with care. Can also be bought as dry corms in spring. They can be kept over winter by bringing them into a cool, frost free environment.


Small yellow star-like flower. There is a new white variety, Pirates Pearl’, available from Thompson and Morgan.


Small blue/lilac stars with feathery foliage.


Good small flowered plant in mainly pink/salmon shades; can be overwintered.


Huge range of colours and flower sizes. Don’t let them dry out otherwise they lose their buds. They can be kept over winter by bringing them into a cool, frost free environment.

Geranium trailing red


A variety of colours from white to dark burgundy. A simple basket of geraniums all the same colour can give that Mediterranean feeling. They need deadheading regularly to encourage more flowers. They are more tolerant of dry compost than most of the other bedding. They can be kept over winter by bringing them into a cool, frost free environment.


Comes in silver/green, yellow/green and variegated. Doesn’t flower but makes a good strong, fairly large plant.


A hanging basket staple coming in a range of colours. A good cheap filler to bring the cost down.


Small leaved foliage plant in yellow/green shades.


Available as bedding plants but can be grown easily from seed. Don’t put into a basket with other bedding as they do not need any feed; they flower best if planted in poor soil, spent compost is ideal. If they are grown in too rich compost they grow a lot of foliage at the expense of flowers.


Small leaved variegated foliage plant in cream/pale green with long trails, up to 2m.


A new trailing variety, ‘Falling Stars’, is now available from Thompson and Morgan.

Petunia, Surfinia, Million Bells, Calibrachoa

Huge range of colours and flower size. Need regular deadheading to ensure continuous flowering. Can be prone to mildew if they get dry and there is poor air circulation. Can become a bit scraggy by the end of the season. ‘Tumbelina’ plants are scented.


Fairly strong growing, cream/green variegated foliage plant. Stands out stiffly unlike Nepeta which droops straight down.

Santvitalia, Mercadonia

Small yellow flowers with fairly dense dark green foliage. Makes a compact trailer.


Medium sized blue, fan-shaped flowers. Can be a bit late to flower but go on well into autumn.  Fairly robust plant.

Verbena trailing purple


Good range of colours; the Lanai variety have been bred to resist mildew. Fairly robust plant. Must be deadheaded to ensure a succession of flowers.

Upright plants


Small plant, 20cm (8”), with fluffy blue/lilac flowers which are attractive to butterflies.


Low growing plant with small scented flowers, coming in pinks and white.  A cheap filler for the front of a pot.

Antirrhinum (Snapdragons)

Come in a large range of colours and heights, from dwarf (30cm,1’) to giant (90cm, 3’). Can survive a mild winter.

Argyranthemum, Marguerite, Osteospermum

This makes a good plant for the centre of a basket, also looks good on its own in an attractive terracotta pot if you buy a large plant. They are more tolerant of dry compost than most of the other bedding. They can be kept over winter by bringing them into a cool, frost free environment.

Begonia semperflorens

Small low growing bedding plant in a range of red, pinks and white. Will tolerate semi-shade, unlike most of the summer bedding. In recent years has replaced Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) which has been hit by a virulent form of mildew.


Bushy plant with feathery foliage in shades of pink and white. If kept deadheaded will last into autumn. Height varies from 30cm (12”) to 90 – 120cm (3 – 4’). Larger range of colours available in seed form than bedding plants.


Come in a large range of colours and flower size; small varieties are normally used for bedding. They are prone to mildew if they get too dry and have poor air circulation, but leaves also prone to going black and rotten if too wet.


Small daisy-like blue flower. It is fairly drought and wind resistant. It needs poor well-drained compost as it doesn’t flower well in too rich soil.


See trailing plants.

Gazenia red/yellow stripe

Gazenia, Zinnia

Come mainly in shades of orange and yellow and have large showy flowers which open in the sun.


See trailing plants.

Impatiens (Busy Lizzie)

Small low growing plant in shades of red, pink and white. Good for a difficult semi-shaded position. Has been hit in recent years with a virulent strain of mildew, so if you have had plants with this virus it may be better to grow Begonia semperflorens, as the virus can lay dormant in paving etc.

Laurentia (Isotoma)

Pale blue star-like erect flowers with feathery foliage. Flower well into autumn. Keep deadheading to maintain flowering period. Can be over-wintered if brought indoors. The sap can be an irritant. Grows to a height of 30cm (12”).


See trailing plants.

Marigold (African and French), Calandula

Come in shades of yellow, orange and cream. Don’t fare too well in a wet summer, the heads tend to rot. Need regular deadheading to ensure continuous flowering.


Usually sold in a pack of mixed colours. They are more tolerant of dry compost than most of the other bedding. Form a large mat of starry flowers which open up in the sun.


Small bushy plant about 30cm (12”) tall with masses of snapdragon-like flowers in a multitude of colours.


See trailing plants.


Compact floriferous plant in various colours, growing to a height of about 20cm (8”). Some have good scent and will survive a mild winter outside if in well drained compost.


Comes in a range of colours and heights; bedding varieties usually grow to 45 – 60cm (18 -24”). The white Sylvestris is good for night scent growing to 120 – 150cm (4 – 5’). Can be prone to mildew if too dry and has poor air circulation.


Bushy plant with open daisy-like flowers in a large range of colours. Will tolerate drying out for a short period.Can be over-wintered if brought indoors. There are hardy varieties available but the colour range is not as varied.


See trailing plants.


Often seen in council bedding schemes, usually available in red occasionally in salmon and white. Grows to about 30cm (12”).


Come in a range of pinks, lilacs and white; usually sold in a pack of mixed colours. Plant in a pot near a seat as they have good scent. Fairly tall growing, 30 – 45cm (12 – 18”).


See trailing plants.