Plug plant care:
In recent years seed merchants are diversifying into the supply of pre-germinated seed and plug plants.
This method of growing caters for those people who for various reasons, are unable to germinate seeds.
The plug plants can come in various sizes e.g. mini plugs, maxi plugs and pot ready plugs.
Mini plugs are normally about 12mm (½”) square/diameter.
Maxi plugs 25mm (1”) square/diameter.
Pot ready 50mm (2”) square/diameter.
Typical Plug plant
The plants are generally posted on by Express delivery and will require immediate attention on delivery.
The following procedure should cater for most situations;
Pot up plug plants as soon as possible.
If this isn't practical, stand the plants in a cool, well lit and well ventilated place.
Plugs should be planted up into into individual pots or cells of sufficient size to suit the plug size.
Generally a pot/cell 3-4 times larger than the plug suits most situations.
Plants may have become dehydrated during transportation so water well, and allow them to drain before potting them up.
* Potting up home grown plugs:
Fill the pot with proprietary potting compost then place the plant into the centre of the pot.
Ensure that you leave 12mm (½") below the pot rim [6mm (¼") for cells] to allow for watering.
Form hole in compost
Remove plug from tray
Place plug in pre-formed hole
Water in plug on completion
An alternatively method to water in plants is to stand them in a tray or bowl of water and leave them there until the compost changes to a darker colour.
This may take up to 10 minutes depending on the depth of water.
Be careful not to over water, generally plants are better grown on the dry side rather than being too wet.
* Basically it is the same procedure with purchased plugs
Subject to the type of plant, place the potted plants into a frost-free cold frame, greenhouse or conservatory, or on a cool well lit windowsill.
If growing on a windowsill, turn your pot plants by 90° at least two or three times a week to ensure that the plant/s get the best light available, this should stop them from becoming lopsided.
Turn cell tray 180° if space is limited.
If following this procedure a useful tip is to place a label or marker into the side of the pot, then daily, turn the pots a quarter turn
That is, place the label/marker @ say 12 o'clock, then turn the pot/s to 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock over the following three days, then repeat the process!
This will ensure your plants are all being treated / moved an equal amount each day.
Plants need to be grown in as cool conditions as possible and must not be forced.
If the plan is to eventually grow the plants outdoors, your plants should be hardened off or acclimatised to the lower outdoor temperatures, by placing them outdoors 7-10 days prior to planting out during mild weather.
If cold, frosty nights are forecast, either fetch the plants indoors overnight, or cover them with horticultural fleece or a cloche.
Place them outside again the following day and repeat the process as necessary.
When the plants are well rooted into the compost, and all risk of frost has passed, they should be ready for planting out into their final position.
This is usually about 4-8 weeks after delivery, depending on genus/variety.
Do’s & Don’ts
The following list should help to alleviate potential problems;
- Pots / cells must not be allowed to dry out.
Drying out is generally worst around the edges of cell trays.
- They must not be allowed to run short of fertiliser or become cell / pot bound.
Feed mini and maxi plugs with a balanced liquid fertiliser every fortnight, pot ready plugs might need feeding weekly depending upon how rapidly they are growing.
Periodically remove a plug from a cell to check if it is root bound.
If this is the case pot on into next sized cell/pot.
- Signs of stress might be seen as dull foliage, normally associated with lack of moisture, pale leaves could suggest insufficient feeding.
If plants become elongated (leggy), this could be due to lack of light or too much heat or both.
On seeing any of these symptoms do not delay in remedying them.
- Pinching out the top of the plant can sometimes help to alleviate this elongation and also encourage more side-shoots to develop thus creating a bushier plant.
- Failure to address these situations can make the plugs more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Be ready to treat any pest problems as soon as they become apparent, using approved natural or approved pesticides and herbicides.