Whether you favour a patchwork of bright, vibrant colours, gentle pastel prettiness, or a sophisticated colour scheme, there are bedding plants to suit every garden.
Keep summer gardens looking colourful by removing plants that are past their best and filling these gaps with summer bedding plants. Use them boldly, use them creatively, and use them to bring a smile to the garden by grouping for maximum impact in rockeries, edging pathways and borders, and mixing with perennials and bulbs. Let them spill from containers, window boxes and hanging baskets in pleasing colour combinations.
Celosias are one of the most colourful and long-lasting summer bedding plants. There are two groups of celosias, those with ruffled, crested flowers called cockscombs, and those with silky, feathery flowers called plumes, known as Prince-of-Wales-feathers.
Celosias are usually yellow, orange and red, but there are pink varieties, such as ‘Flamingo Feather’ and ‘Castle Pink’ that suit pastel colour schemes. Grow tall varieties in mixed plantings, and dwarf kinds in bold groups, in containers, or in the front of borders. Plumes can be cut and dried for flower arrangements.
Dianthus, in their gay frilly dresses, are guaranteed to brighten any summer garden and cope well with heat and rain. These old-fashioned charmers with plain green or blue-green leaves and single or double white, pink, claret, scarlet or rose flowers, with plain or fringed edgings to the petals, are wonderful subjects for pots, along pathways and in the front of borders.
‘Valentine Series’ has vigorous growth and masses of red flowers with a white picotee border, and ‘Raspberry Parfait’ and ‘Strawberry Parfait’ have colourful flowers all summer. Grow in composted soil in a sunny position. Deep watering is better than daily sprinklings. Cut back after they have flowered to prevent their going to seed, and to produce a second crop of flowers.
Grow reliable, long lasting and heat-tolerant marigolds to create a floral carpet of yellow, gold, orange, bronze and copper-red. Dwarf marigolds are useful for edging paths, brightening rockery pockets, containers and hanging baskets, and can be grown in the vegetable garden, where they are a deterrent to nematodes in the soil. Lift a tired border with tall growing marigolds that are bold and showy. For a rich effect, combine bronze with gold shades. Grow with flowers of contrasting shape, such as day lilies, lime-green nicotiana and crocosmia.
The low, spreading growth habit of these fleshy-leafed, low maintenance plants makes them ideal as a groundcover for sunny banks, rockery pockets and between paving, where they will quickly spread a carpet of brightly coloured, single or double rose-like flowers. ‘Tequila’ has double blooms and ‘Sundial’ semi-double and double flowers. ‘Margarita Series’ comes with delectable names of apricot, banana, coconut, orange and strawberry, and ‘Cinderella Series’ has yellow and hot pink blooms with a trailing habit, making them ideal for hanging baskets and trailing over pots. Portulaca are drought tolerant once established, and need full sun in order for the flowers to open.
Pretty and perky, ruffled and plain, in a colour range of white, rose, bright pink, red, lilac, purple and lemon, as well as bi-coloured or veined, petunias spill from hanging baskets, brighten dull borders, and liven up patio plantings. Try purple petunias with deep red dianthus, lemon petunias with lime-green nicotiana, and lipstick-pink petunias with grey lavenders. Petunia flowers are easily damaged by rain, so do best in summer in the winter rainfall region, and in autumn and winter in the eastern part of South Africa. However, in summer rainfall regions, plant them in containers on patios where they can receive good sunlight but be protected from rain showers.
Salvias are excellent for summer bedding, where they make bold, colourful statements. They need composted soil, full sun, or morning sun in very hot gardens. They are splendid massed, and grown in borders and pots. Select seedlings in colours to suit your garden. Grow red and scarlet salvias wherever impact is needed, in great sweeps of colour, in containers, or combined in a rich tapestry with other red and purple flowers and dark foliage. Salvias in subtle shades of cream, salmon, pink, wine, lavender and purple are easier to place among other flowers.
The flowers, known as lion mouth or leeubekkie for the way the mouth of the flower opens and closes when squeezed, have always held a fascination for children. With their upright growth habit and colourful blooms, snapdragons make striking vertical accents in borders and excellent cut flowers. They come in mixed or single colours and in various heights – dwarf for edgings and rockery pockets, knee high for front of borders, and tall for background plantings in beds. For a uniform look, plant only one variety, such as Corona Cherry Magic, or one colour, such as Burgundy Solstice.
These are flowers for semi-shaded spots and summer’s answer to the pansy. Torenias (wishbone flower) are compact (30cm) bushes with dainty flowers of blue, purple or pink with yellow throats, suitable for edgings, beds, hanging baskets and window boxes. ‘Clown Series’ has flowers of pink, rose, burgundy, lavender and white. Plant in rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly. Torenias make good companions with other shade lovers, such as impatiens and bedding begonias. Begonias with white, red, light or dark pink flowers with bronze or green leaves make pretty ribbons of colour along paths, in massed plantings, window boxes and containers. Impatiens is the most popular summer annual for massed plantings in shades of red, scarlet, orange, purple, pink, rose, salmon, lilac and white.
Verbenas are superb plants with a low, spreading habit, or more upright growth, both being suitable for hot, dry spots. These free-flowering plants with flowers of pink, deep rose, violet, scarlet and purple, sometimes with a contrasting white eye, are useful for edging paths, growing on banks, in beds, in tubs, and in hanging baskets. The brilliant colours of verbena flowers are attractive grown with silver-grey lamb’s ears. Verbenas need sunshine and good air circulation. Avoid watering foliage.
If you want flowers that cope in the hottest weather, pretty colour in the border, in containers, and in hanging baskets, then vincas (Catharanthus roseus) are the answer. This reliable summer annual is far removed from the weedy plant that grew in old gardens. Modern hybrids such as the Pacifica Series have much to commend them – bushier growth and large flowers with rounded petals in blush, pink, lipstick, apricot, burgundy, lilac, deep orchid and white often with a contrasting centre.