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Summer bedding plants list for full sun

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Cosmos, Cleome & SalviaCosmos, Cleome & SalviaAll South Africans enjoy some colour in the garden, and especially in summer when we do a lot of entertaining, or simply lazing around outdoors with the family. However, growing plants in the full sun can be challenging, especially if rainfall is unreliable, but it’s doable, providing you select the right plants, and do a little planning beforehand.  Adding colour to the garden need not break the bank either, and you can grow a lovely flower garden simply by sowing the seeds of annual flowers, at the start of the season. If you prefer to start with trays of seedlings, by carefully selecting only high traffic areas of the garden to enhance with colour, you can save yourself a lot of cash. Avoid planting large expanses of flowers, and remember that even a few selected containers or hanging baskets, if strategically placed, will make a huge impact on the overall effect of the garden.

Whether you are planting into pots or garden beds, preparation is vital. Always ensure that you group plants together which require the same amount of sunshine, and, most importantly, the same amount of water. Potted plants will need a good potting soil which drains well, but also retains moisture, and garden beds need to be dug over, with added compost, and a light dressing of bone meal or superphosphate. The day before planting out, water the seedlings, garden beds, and pots well, and allow the soil to drain. Planting on a cool or overcast day is perfect, but if mother nature does not favour you on planting day, either plant out very early in the morning, or, even better, late in the afternoon.

Cabaret Lavender Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCabaret Lavender Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCabaret Lavender Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDo not try to pull the seedlings out of their trays by their leaves or stems, as this can damage them. Rather push out the root ball of the seedling from the bottom of the tray. To prevent stem rot, always plant seedlings at the same depth as they were growing in the tray, firming them down gently to remove any air pockets in the soil. Water thoroughly afterwards and keep an eye on your small plants, watering regularly until they are well established. Thereafter, water as required, and when you do water, water deeply, as deep watering encourages deeper roots, and is much more beneficial to the plants than frequent, light sprinklings.

For seedlings growing in garden beds it is easiest to fertilise with a good general purpose granular fertiliser for flowering plants, but for potted plants it is easiest to feed with a liquid fertiliser. To keep your plants looking neat, and flowering for much longer, it is essential to remove spent flower heads regularly.

Luckily, in South Africa we are blessed with a gorgeous selection of bedding plants to choose from, and many of these can be grown in containers as well as in garden beds, so visit your local garden centre to find out which of the varieties listed below do well in your growing region. The plant list below includes all of our most popular garden varieties, but just like everything else, in the gardening industry fashions also come and go, and some of the varieties included below may not be available at your garden centre. However, thanks to the internet, these are now available from seed companies, so I have included them here.

If you want to learn how to use colour effectively in the garden, or which flowers do best in hot summer gardens, see our Articles Section. It’s free for members, and if you have not joined yet, you can sign-up here – our prices are affordable for everyone.

Also, my e-book “Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa” is written especially for South African gardeners and covers everything you need to know about growing or your own seedlings. Read more here…



Ageratum grows quickly in sun or semi-shade, 15 to 20cm tall. It blooms nonstop all summer and into autumn, and is available in lovely pastel shades of blue, lavender, pink, and white.

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Alyssum is a compact, low-growing plant +-15cm tall and spreading 20 to 25cm. It is long flowering, and available in lovely in shades of pink, rose, purple, mauve, white, and yellow.

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Asters bloom from early summer to autumn, and are available in a wide variety of heights and flower sizes. Their chrysanthemum-like blooms are available in double, single, pom-pom shaped, or feathered forms, and in all tones of pink, red, violet, blue and white.

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Baby Snapdragon, Linaria

The seeds of baby snapdragons are sown directly into garden beds, and quickly, produce their miniature snapdragon-like flowers in a rainbow mixture of red, pink, yellow, purple, blue, and white. The varieties vary slightly in height from 20 to 45cm tall.

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Bacopa, Sutera

Bacopa flower profusely all spring and summer, and are available in delicate shades of blue, pink, lavender, and white. They are heat tolerant and thrive in semi-shade to full sun, and each plant can spread +-50 to 60cm, while only reaching a height of +-15 to 20cm.

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Bedding Dahlia

Bedding dahlias provide invaluable colour all summer and autumn, and the flowers are available in single, semi-double, and double forms, and in lovely shades of pink, violet, white, yellow, red, orange, and russet. Varieties generally mature at a height of 30 to 60cm, and can have an equal spread.

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Bells of Ireland

Bells of Ireland produce tall spikes of unusual apple-green, bell-shaped sheaths, surrounding tiny white flowers which smell like lemon and vanilla. These beautiful cut flowers grow quickly to +-60 to 75cm tall.

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This easy to grow and fast-flowering little summer annual grows about 25cm tall, with a spread of 40cm. It produces abundant clusters of sweetly scented, pure white, lavender, or pink flowers in spring and summer.

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Canterbury Bell

Canterbury bells, with their tall flower spikes and elegant, bell-shaped flowers, come in a lovely array of colours, from purple to violet, blue, lavender, pink, and white. The flowering stems can reach 70 to 80cm in height.
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Celosias feathery blooms last from spring to the first frosts, and come in fiery shades of red, gold, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta, and pink. Hybrids range in height from 20 to 75cm tall.

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Chrysanthemum paludosum

This little daisy provides charming white daisies all summer and autumn, and grows quickly to +-25cm tall and 30cm wide. Chrysanthemum multicaule is another little chrysanthemum with bright yellow flowers. It is more compact, growing +-20cm tall and 25cm wide.

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Although the common blue cornflower is extremely popular, plant breeders have developed a whole range of cornflower types and colours, which include red, pink, lilac, and white. They are easy to grow from seed, flower all summer, and varieties vary in height from 40 to 90cm tall.

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Cosmos comes in many named selections which include, single, semi-double, or double blooms, in colours ranging from lilac to deep carmine, scarlet red, and even peachy-pink and pale yellow. They flower profusely, and compact, dwarf varieties are also available which grow only 30 to 50cm tall.

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Cup Flower, Nierembergia

The cupflower grows into a neat, spreading mound of attractive fern-like foliage, +- 15 to 20cm tall and 20 to 30cm wide. It produces a profusion of paper thin, star-shaped flowers in shades of purple, blue, lavender, or white, each with a deep purple centre, from late spring, through summer, and into autumn.

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These dwarf compact carnations are grown for the classical beauty of their flowers in many shades of pink, red, violet, and white. They come in clear colours as well as bi-colours, and vary slightly in height from 20 to 35cm.

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Everlastings have showy, single or double, papery flowers, in all colours except blue. The colours include scarlet, red, pink, gold, orange, yellow, purple, maroon, and white. They flower all summer, and there are dwarf, medium and tall varieties.

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Forget-me-not is a charming little plant which produces an abundance of tiny azure-blue flowers, giving a beautiful carpeted effect. It will grow quickly to about 20cm tall and 15cm wide, and can be grown in full sun or semi-shade.

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There are a number of Gazania subspecies, cultivars, and hybrids, each with its own unique growth habit, with both trailing and clump forming varieties. Hybrids are available in colours ranging from bronze to red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white.

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Godetia are popular cool season annuals which will flower in late spring and early to mid-summer, depending on when they are sown. Their satiny cup-shaped blooms come in shades of rose to pink and peach, lavender, and white. Dwarf and tall varieties are available.

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This delicate annual has fine foliage and is covered in minute pink flowers all summer long. It will grow quickly to +-20cm tall with an equal spread, and its branching, mounding habit, makes it perfect for hanging baskets, or as a bedding plant.

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The hollyhock is cultivated for its single or double rose-like flowers in shades of pink, red, yellow, purple, cream and white. Reaching up to 2.8 m tall, its height is used at the back of the flower border.

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Larkspurs produce flower spikes in all shades of blue, purple, lilac, pink, and white. They grow in full sun or semi-shade, and vary in height from 75cm to 150cm, making them useful for the back of the flower border.

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Lobelias grow in full sun or semi-shade, producing a profusion of blue, lilac, purple, pink, carmine, and white flowers. Some varieties have bronzy foliage and others bright green leaves. Modern varieties are very compact and will grow about 15cm tall, and the trailing varieties can hang down up to 30cm.

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Love-in-a-mist earns its name because of its delicate, fennel-like foliage that forms a mist around the flowers, which are most commonly different shades of blue, but can be white, pink, or pale purple. It grows 30 to 45cm tall.

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Lupin seed can be sown directly into garden beds in spring or late summer, to bloom the following winter and spring. They grow about 60 to 80cm tall, and the beautiful flowers are produced on long-stemmed spikes, bearing pea-shaped flowers in shades of yellow, white, rose, lilac, and blue.

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Marigolds are available in all shapes and sizes, from dwarf to tall varieties, and the flowers can be single or double. All have intense flower colours, in mixtures of orange, yellow, gold, maroon, mahogany, flame red, and light creamy-yellow.

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Million Bells, Calibrachoa

Million bells bloom all summer, in many sizzling shades of cherry, red, rose, pink, violet, blue, yellow, lemon, terracotta, and white. Generally they remain below 15cm in height with a spread of +-30 to 60cm wide, and their sprawling habit is perfect in containers.
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Nasturtiums are grown for their brightly coloured flowers. Some are climbers, some semi-trailers, and some are dwarfs. Both single and double varieties are available, in bright shades of orange, golden-yellow and cherry-red, as well as pastels like soft-salmon, lemon-yellow and apricot-orange.

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New Guinea SunPatiens®

This new generation of Impatiens will thrive in full sun as well as semi-shade. Their large blooms come in a wide range of colours like, blush pink, deep pink, purple, deep orange, lavender, scarlet red, violet, and salmon. They grow 35 to 40cm in height and spread 25 to 30cm.

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Petunias will bloom all season, and there are thousands of hybrids. Some bear a profusion of small single flowers, and others produce huge frilly, double blooms. Their outstanding colour range includes fiery reds, burgundy, purple, and all shades of pink, lilac, blue, yellow, and white.

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Phlox grow in full sun to light shade, blooming in many pastel and brighter shades of; red, pink, coral, blue, lilac, purple, white, and even yellow. They grow quickly to about 25cm tall and 20cm wide, and can be sown in autumn or spring.

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Portulaca produce masses of double, brilliant jewel-toned blooms in shades of rose, pink, red, purple, lavender, yellow, orange, and white, and are often striped or spotted with contrasting colours. They have a prostrate, spreading habit, growing about 10 to 15cm tall and 30cm wide.

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Salvia splendens

Salvias will flower all summer and autumn and are available in vibrant colours, from bright red, to pink, purple, scarlet, rose, cream, and white. Tall and dwarf varieties are available, ranging in height from 15 to 90cm tall.

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Snapdragons come in dwarf, tall, and even trailing varieties, and the flowers are available in nearly every flower colour, and bi-colours, including red, bronze, yellow, orange, pink, purple, cream, and white.

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Spider Plant, Cleome

Cleomes produce spectacular flowers on stems reaching as high as 120cm, and will bloom continually throughout summer and autumn. The flowers are available in soft pastel shades of pink, rose, white, and lilac, and its large green leaves are most attractive.

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Summer Snapdragon, Angelonia

Angelonias are grown for their snapdragon-like flowers, and bloom continuously during the hot months. Hybrids are available in clear flower colours, or two-toned combinations of rose, pink, blue, lilac, violet-blue, purple, and white. They grow +-25 to 40cm tall.

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There are both dwarf and tall strains of sunflowers, and modern hybrids are available in shades of golden-yellow, lemon-yellow, orange, and red. The taller garden varieties vary in height from 1.2 to 3m tall and the dwarf varieties from 30 to 60cm tall.

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Sweet William

Sweet William is prized for its sweetly-scented, cut-flowers, in lovely shades of pink, rose, red, purple, and white, and sometimes bicoloured with fringed petals. There are both tall and dwarf varieties available which vary in height from 15 to 60cm tall.

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Trumpet-flowers can be clear, or exquisitely veined in contrasting colours. The petunia-like flowers come in unusual shades of cream, mahogany and brown, as well as a wide spectrum of yellows, oranges and reds, to cool violets and blues. They are available in short and tall varieties, growing from 30 to 40cm tall, or 60 to 90cm tall.

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There are hundreds of cultivars of verbena, some  erect and bushy, others trailing, or mat forming. They flowers  all summer and autumn, and come in white, pink, crimson, scarlet, vermilion, purple, blue, and yellow.

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Vincas produce charming phlox-like flowers all summer long, in many shades of pink, carmine, blush, coral, peach, mauve, burgundy, and white. Plant breeders have introduced dwarf, compact varieties, as well as those with a trailing growth habit. The varieties range in height from 20 to 60cm tall.

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There are many zinnia cultivars in a diversity of flower colours and types, including double, semi-double, and dahlia-like "pompon"  varieties that range from dwarfs not exceeding 15cm in height, to cut flower beauties that reach 90cm tall. Colours include white, cream, green, yellow, apricot, orange, red, bronze, crimson, purple, pink, and lilac.

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