Few home gardeners in Queensland are using annuals and other bedding plants on a large scale as they did in the past. Most of us don't have the time (nor the water, often) to invest in such temporary displays anymore. Nowadays, carpets of colour today are mainly limited to the more high-profile municipal locations, special festivals and garden competitions.
Bedding plants still have a place in the modern garden, however. For a few dollars, you can dress up high impact areas like entranceways, and fill in temporary bare spots while you're waiting for your more permanent plantings to grow. Annuals, especially the advanced plants, are also good for decorating the garden for special occasions like a garden weddings.
If you don't have a suitable garden bed available, don't forget that annuals and bedding plants can be used in pots, hanging baskets and planter boxes. Container gardens are a great way to have fun and be creative with annuals and bedding plants. Your chances of success are also increased with the many specialised potting mixes, fertilisers and pots on the market, helping you overcome the local environmental conditions.
Annuals are often heavily used in Garden Competitions.
With seed you can get a lot of plants very cheaply. Seed is the most successful and practical way to grow many of the more robust annuals. For the busy or inexperienced gardener, punnets are generally much easier and faster, especially for some of the more delicate species, and not much more expensive if you only need a few plants anyway.
Many traditional annuals are only suitable for the cooler months of the year here in Qld. Look out for new types, heat and drought tolerant varieties, and perennial or semi-perennial species (even if you only grow them as annuals) for a prolonged display.
Attractive herbs and vegetables can also be incorporated into bedding schemes. Look for interesting growth forms or coloured foliage, in particular.
Large quantities of plants can be raised more cheaply from seed, but requires more time and effort and a certain amount of skill. Seed might be the only way to obtain unusual or heritage varieties (this goes for herbs and vegetable, too). Mail order suppliers are usually the best places to look for unusual varieties. However, many chain stores offer popular lines in packets which are reasonably priced and ideal for beginners. See Seeds and seed raising for more on this topic.
If you require very large quanitities for a special application (e.g. Garden weddings), whether as seedlings or at blooming stage, you may find it worthwhile ordering from a wholesale grower. Be sure to organise your order in plenty of time.
More Online Information
The following are for general information, research and ideas - some species or cultivars referred to in links may be unavailable in Australia or unsuitable for Queensland conditions
Planting and Growing
Nutrient Disorder Photos
A variety of bedding plants and disorders covered, with notes. N.C. State University, North Carolina
Planning and Design
Annual or mixed displays in containers
Some simple ideas for growing in a variety of container types. Baker County Extension, Florida (PDF)
Propagation and Production
Locally known as Vinca, although it is not the true Vinca. The common pink type found in old gardens is considered a weed by many authorities. Whether the fancier strains commercially available in garden centres are as prolific is unknown. Look for it in punnets.
) At "Grow me Instead", a website about invasive ornamentals and alternatives
Madagascar Periwinkle, Rose Periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus
. Home Gardening Flower Growing Guides, Cornell University
Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Spiderflower Cleome hassleriana
. University of Illinois Extension
Cleome Senorita series - These hybrid Cleomes that are perennial in a warm climate and without the thorns of the commmon annual species (AKA spider flower). Will not self-seed because they are sterile. Senorita Rosalita is pink, Senorita Blanca is white.
Cleome Senorita Rosalita
Photos of them growing in garden beds. Annual Flower Research at Bluegrass Lane, Cormell University
Cleome Senorita RosalitaBrisbane, July 2016
Discusses weedy properties of Impatiens walleriana
. At the "Grow Me Instead" website, Australia
Covers several species in the genus. Plantzafrica.com
Lobelia Lobelia erinus
. Cornell University
Lobelia Lobelia erinus
. University of Florida
Pansies and Violas
University of North Carolina Wilmingtom
Missouri Environment and Garden, University of Missouri
Texas A &M University
. Senecio 'Silver Dust'. Also known as "Dusty Miller". Soft grey ferny foliage would tie with the house colours while providing a colour and texture contrast with other plants. If the small yellow flowers form, will look better if they are removed. Inexpensive filler available in punnets. Could be a short-lived perennial but susceptible to poor drainage and humidity.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, South Carolina
Flossflower, Ageratum houstonianum
. Cornell University
Ornamantal Kale (Brassica oleracea
) Washington State University
California Poppy Eschscholzia
. Notes on history and naming. Parker County Master Gardener Association, Texas (PDF)
Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs & Vines (PDF)
More to come in future updates
Attracting predators with Alyssum
A Washington State University study in which sweet alyssum was grown near apple trees has shown a reduced incidence of wooly apple aphid due to the enhanced predator populations. Six different flowers including marigolds and zinnia were considered for the study, but alyssum was chosen because it attracted the most syrphids (hoverflies), the larvae of which feed on aphids. However, during the study few hoverfly larvae were found. rather, a diverse array of spiders and predactory insects appeared responsible for most of the aphid decline. Protein markers sprayed on the flowers and later identified on predators indicated they had indeed visited the flowers and so were presumably attracted by them. Source: Flower power fights orchard pests (May 2013)
From annual to immortal
By altering a gene, German researchers have been able to prevent flowering in tobacco and expand the lifespan of a plant from about 4 months to "forever". Their oldest plant is now 8 years old. Besides indefinite growth, leaf senescence is also prevented. Applied to other crops that aren't dependent on flowering (e.g. potatoes), the discovery could potentially boost production while eliminating the risk of genetic contamination of the agricultural/natural environment through pollen or seed. Source: Giant tobacco plants that stay young forever (January 2013)
Alyssum gets industrial
"Cleaning Land for Wealth" is a UK research project that aims to rehabilitate contaminated soils while producing useful metallic nanoparticles, with the help of common plants like Alyssum. Properly developed, it's possible that plant "biofactories" will be able to produce particles of the right size and shape to be used in applications like catalytic converters or cancer treatments, without further processing. Source: Flower power to purge poison and produce platinum (November 2012)
Snapdragon (Photo: Brisbane, September 2012)
Snapdragon - plant habit. (Photo: Brisbane, September 2012)
Double-flowered Snapdragon. (Photo: Brisbane, September 2012)
Portulaca in containers. Brisbane, April 2013
Some of the individual flowers from the above mix. Brisbane, April 2013