Get the best from your plug plants

Hannah Jolliffe / 21 March 2016 ( 11 May 2018 )

Buying plug plants online is a great gardening short-cut as it takes away some of the troubles of growing from seed. So how do you treat your plugs with care and ensure they thrive? Follow our guide…

Types of plugs

Also known as ‘starter plants’, these are young plants with independent root systems. There are generally two sizes of plugs:

1. Smaller plugs – these require some growing on before they can be planted out.
2. Bigger plugs – also sold as 'ready plants' or 'jumbo plugs', many garden centres and online retailers offer larger plugs that can be planted straight into hanging baskets or containers, but these often need hardening off first. They work out slightly more expensive than the smaller plugs but are easier to grow.

Give your garden a burst of seasonal colour by ordering a selection of beautiful bedding plants, including begonias, busy Lizzies and petunias. Shop now.

Potting on your starter plants

It’s important to treat your starter plants with TLC to give them the best chance of growing into large, strong plants. Ensure they have a good start by potting them on straightaway.

  • First water the plants – they should be moist, but not too wet.
  • Use good potting compost – it is specifically formulated to provide the best growing conditions needed for potting up young plants.
  • Fill a small pot and make a hole the same size as the starter plant.
  • Be careful when removing the plant - gently pinch the bottom and push it up from the bottom – use a pencil if it won’t budge.
  • Always try to avoid holding the plant by its the stem when transferring the plant - hold by its root ball and carefully tease out the roots before placing it in the hole.
  • Water well - sit the pots in a tray of water for 10 minutes and allow any excess water to drain away.

Now you need to provide the best balance of water and light that you can. Keep them in a cool, well-lit area - don’t let them dry out, but remember that overwatering can also be fatal.

Hardening off and planting out

Hardening your plug plants off simply means that you are preparing them to be planted in outside temperatures. You can do this once the risk of frost has passed and your plants are a reasonable size.

Take your pots outside to a sheltered spot every day for two weeks, bringing them inside each night, before planting out into their final destination.

Top tips on ordering plugs online

If you shop smartly, ordering plugs online can be a great way to buy your starter plants. Follow our basic advice to get the best from your online plugs:

  • Look for a quality policy – this means that if you are unhappy with the standard of your plugs you can return them with no quibbles.
  • Check for delivery dates – if the plugs arrive when you’re away and end up with a neighbour or in the local sorting office they are likely to dry out and die. “The only problems I have had is when plants arrive and I am away. Young plants need water and not to get too cold,” says Zoe.
  • If you know you will be out for the day, make sure you have a secure spot for deliveries to be left, out of direct sun.
  • “Always unpack, check and pot-on plants as soon as you can,” advises gardener Stephen Hackett from The Constant Gardener.
  • Plan what you need and don’t be tempted to buy plugs that are out of season.

Find out about the benefits of buying plants online

Saga Garden Centre

Get free delivery and a no-quibble refund or replacement policy at the Saga Garden Centre. All our plants are grown on Jersey by an expert team who've been supplying the UK with mail-order plants for over 30 years. For information about the different sizes of plug plants available from the Saga Garden Centre, read their plug plant guide.

Shop now

Try 3 issues of Saga Magazine for just £3

Subscribe today for just £3 for 3 issues...

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.