Bedding plants give a burst of seasonal colour . They can be used to fill gaps in borders, between more permanent plants or as a colourful display on their own. They are excellent in containers and many varieties are invaluable in hanging baskets.
Unpack plants immediately and check the compost to ensure it has not dried out in transit, water with a fine spray if the compost is dry.
Pot up as soon as possible (preferably within 24 hours) into trays or 7.5cm (3in) pots. Handle seedlings carefully by the leaves, not stems, to avoid damage.
Grow on for a few weeks in a light, frost-free place but avoid direct sunlight. Keep them moist but do not over-water. If very cold weather is forecast, cover with a layer of fleece.
Pinch out the growing tips on leggier varieties to produce a stronger, bushier plant.
Hanging baskets and containers can be planted with younger plants to allow them to grow and develop in the container, use a multi-purpose compost or a container compost (which will contain more plant food).
When plants have grown on and formed a good root system, begin to harden off, by getting them slowly acclimatised to outdoor conditions. Place outside during warm, bright, still days, but bring back in at night.
After 10-14 days leave them out at night but ONLY if no frost is forecast. Plant when all danger of frost is passed, this is usually from late May, but will vary from year to year, if in doubt, leave for another week.
Most bedding plants need to be spaced 20-30cm, 9-12 inches apart, depending on variety. Fuchsias, geraniums and larger-growing plants need 30-60cm, 12-24 inches apart when planted in borders.
Water well during hot, dry spells, paying particular attention to hanging baskets and containers which need lots of water.
Dead-head flowering plants regularly to encourage a longer flowering season.
Feed regularly during flowering (tomato fertiliser is ideal), always use the recommended rate of application. Alternatively use slow release granules, which can be incorporated into the compost at planting time.
Follow these simple instructions and your bedding and patio plants should flourish and make a wonderful splash of colour in your garden. Take care not to let your plants dry out.