To get a great show of flowers this winter, you need to plan ahead. That means sowing early so that your plants are ready to be planted out in autumn.
It may seem counter-intuitive to be thinking of winter in mid-summer but this really is the time to sow for a great show!
What to sow
- Pansies and violas are the most reliable varieties of bedding plants to grow for a great winter display. Many varieties have been specifically bred for winter flowering so check carefully which variety you buy.
Mixed winter flowering pansies and violas
- Primroses might give you some flowers during the winter months, but most of their blooms appear in spring as day length increases.
- This is also true of polyanthus, which have multiple flowers on each stem.
- Compact varieties of wallflowers that bloom in winter are now available, but they rarely perform as well as the traditional types that flower in spring. The variety Sugar Rush Mix is well worth trying out!
How to sow
Because the seeds are small and often quite expensive, it pays to sow these winter flowering bedding plants in trays filled with seed compost. Sowing straight in the garden is risky and could lead to disappointment.
- Fill your (clean) trays with moist fresh seed compost. Firm it down to leave a gap of about 5-6 mm to the top of the pot.
- Sow the seeds thinly and evenly. Then cover them with either a thin layer of sieved seed compost, perlite, or vermiculite.
- After covering your seeds you will want to ensure that the compost is thoroughly moist. To do this without disturbing the seeds, put the whole tray into shallow water so that the compost is gradually wetted from below.
Germination and after care
- In summer, temperatures are often so high that they inhibit seed germination, so trays of seeds are best put under the bench of a greenhouse or in a shady place outside.
- You might also find that a cool shed will produce better germination, but as soon as the seedlings appear they will need to be moved to an area with natural light.
- If you need to water your seed trays, either repeat the soaking process described above or use a watering can with a very fine rose on the spout.
- At first, your seedlings will grow very slowly. Remember to provide plenty of light and avoid high temperatures.
- When the seedlings are large enough to transplant, move them carefully into 8-9 cm pots or modular trays.
- At this point, you may be able to transfer your young plants outside. Keep a sharp watch so they don't dry out.
- You might have to take precautions against attack by slugs and snails.
Planting out in borders
- You won't want to pull out your summer bedding plants if they're still flowering, but it's important to plant your winter flowers early enough so that they are well established before the first frost! Planting during September and October is perfect for most of the UK and Ireland.
- Lightly forking the soil over is all that's needed for planting out.
- I'd recommend incorporating a general fertiliser at this stage.
- Water your plants in well after planting.
- Protect your plants against slug and snail attack.
A flower bed full of polyanthus
Planting into pots and hanging baskets
- Most plants in containers and baskets are beginning to look tired by the time that your pansies, violas, primroses and polyanthus are ready to plant out.
- If your summer plants are still looking good, it may pay to have extra pots and baskets to get your plants established.
- Since your plants are only likely to grow a little as winter approaches, I would recommend really filling your containers up by planting your plants really closely together!
- You may want to pop some dwarf flowering bulbs in under your winter bloomers. Short stemmed daffodils, tulips and Muscari will make a great show when the days begin to lengthen in the New Year.
An old stone container with pansies and tulips
There's no time to waste! Get your winter flowering bedding plants sown and underway now!
You may be interested in sowing bedding plants now for spring colour -