Frost-tender half-hardy annuals (HHA) such as cosmos, nemesia, marigolds and tobacco plants, complete their life-cycle in one season. If grown from seed they are generally sown indoors and grown on.
Hardy annuals (HA) can be sown outdoors directly into the soil in spring where they are to flower. They withstand frosty conditions without protection. Alyssum, Calendula (pot marigold), Iberis (candytuft) and Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant).
Hardy biennials (or short-lived perennials grown as biennials) (B) which complete their life-cycle in two seasons include plants such as Alcea (hollyhock), Dianthus (sweet William), Erysimum (wallflower) and Myosotis (forget-me-not). Ornamental brassicas (kale and cabbage) are ideal for winter displays.
Half-hardy perennials (HHP) live for several years, usually flowering from the second season. Frost-tender, and often discarded at the end of the season, yet they can be overwintered if given frost protection. Examples include: Bellis (daisy), begonia, Pelargonium (geranium) and lobelia. Note: some perennials, such as Bellis (daisy), busy Lizzies and Viola (pansy) are grown as annuals or biennials.
Half-hardy or tender sub-tropical plants such as banana plants, cannas and palms often form a focal point or centrepiece for bedding schemes. Succulents can be useful for creating patterns (see carpet bedding below).
Hardy perennials or shrubs such as Erica (winter-flowering heather), euphorbia and heuchera can give valuable flower and foliage colour through the winter months. Saxifraga, sedum and sempervivum are excellent for green roof and vertical modular wall planting. Additionally, agave, dwarf conifers, cordylines, Phormium (New Zealand flax) and ornamental grasses can provide a central focus for beds and containers.
Bulbs can be mixed with biennial bedding plants will give combinations of colour in the early spring months. Try planting allium, Anemone blanda, crocus, hyacinth, early-flowering Iris reticulata and tulips.
For more tips on bedding plants, please visit The RHS.