Hundreds of different annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetable transplants can be grown and sold as bedding plants. In general, the term ‘bedding plant’ refers to any plant that is produced and sold for planting in the landscape, garden or large containers (such as patio pots).
Bedding plants are as much a marketing business as a production business. Growers must be willing to develop their own marketing strategies and to adjust production to changing consumer preferences. Potential retail markets include farmers markets and direct sales from the greenhouse or farm. Wholesale markets include local garden centers, landscape contractors, discount stores, grocery stores, farm stores, and roadside stands. Bedding plants are also popular sale items at Kentucky’s produce auctions, where prices can range from wholesale to retail levels, depending on buyers.
A heated greenhouse structure is necessary for producing most bedding plants for spring sales. Crops requiring short production periods may be produced in a cold frame, high tunnel or in an unheated greenhouse. Plants are generally propagated from seed sown from late December to March, or bought in as rooted cuttings or seedling transplants (referred to as ‘plugs’) received February to April. One major production decision facing new growers is whether to invest in the equipment necessary to grow their own plants from seed or to purchase transplants (plugs) from another producer. Growers who purchase transplants, rather than growing them in-house, are referred to as bedding plant ‘finishers.’ This is an option many small to medium growers choose. Growers who purchase plugs may still opt to produce some of the more easily grown crops from seed.