This article will cover buying your plants and what to do with the once you receive them. It can seem daunting but it is actually really easy to take care of your young plants and grow fantastic blooms in your garden very inexpensively.
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Where to buy them
This is a really tricky question as obviously there are lots of different options in different countries. I would recommend that you look at what is available in your country as many plants can not be transferred overseas due to import regulations. Here in the UK I mainly use Plug Plants from Thompson & Morgan – Special offers, quality plug plants, large range, great value as I have had great plants from them and when I had a problem they replaced the plants immediately.
The best way to decide where to buy anything is ask your fellow gardeners. The gardening community is notoriously supportive so ask your friends or ask online.
What to buy
This entirely depends on what you are looking for and what time of year it is. In spring time I am focused on summer bedding plants so that is what I am ordering. However you can order many different plants online. There are often ‘bare-rooted’ varieties of shrubs and other plants available which are usually much cheaper than their potted alternatives. These can be a great option if you are looking to plant a hedge and need many plants.
How big will plants be?
This depends on what you purchase but make sure you look at the details on your chosen site as it will tell you. Often plants that are sent by post are small so check so that you are not disappointed when they arrive. You can purchase garden ready plants that as the name suggest are ready to plant out in your garden. Personally I recommend hardening them off for a few days first by putting them outside in the day and bringing them indoors or undercover at night.
I buy my summer bedding as plug plants These are about 2″ (5cm) tall. You can buy larger plugs that you do not need too grow on for as long but, of course, they cost more. This year, for example I have bought 36 Bizzie Lizzie plug plants for £9.99. That works out at 28p per plant. Now, I consider that good value. I do grow some plants from seed which is even cheaper but not all seeds are very successful for me so plug plants are the next best solution.
How to grow on plug plants.
Opening the packaging
I will talk in some depth about what to do once your plug plants arrive. They are really easy to handle and pot on so do not worry.
This is how my begonia plants arrived last week.
They are carefully packaged so that they can survive the rigours of the postal service.
Once I open up the cardboard this is how they look inside.
They are all planted in individual plugs that are attached together. Yes, they are in black plastic which is environmentally a problem but it is tiny. If I bought large plants later in the season the environmental impact would be greater.
There were also some advertising leaflets and this helpful leaflet. All plug plants I have ever purchased have had some guidance notes with them.
Read any supporting paperwork carefully. There may be some particular instructions for the exact plants you have purchased or the part of the world that you live in.
Make sure you water your plants whether you can plant them on immediately or not. They will probably be thirsty after their journey. They will also need light so make sure you place them near a window. If possible, move onto potting them on immediately. If necessary keep them moist while they wait to be planted.
Potting them on
As soon as possible prepare some pots or trays for your plants to go into. I have used a seed tray with a plastic insert so that the roots will not be very disturbed when I plant them out in their eventual home. I no longer buy seed trays and inserts as black plastic cannot be recycled but I am using them until they break. You can use individual pots made from newspaper. There is a tutorial all about how to make these on the blog here.
Prepare your trays / pots before you touch the plug plants so that the plants are disturbed as little as possible.
Make a hole in your first pot ready to place the plant into.
Remove a plant from the original packaging carefully holding the plant by a leaf. If a leaf breaks off the young plant will survive but if the stem breaks it probably will not. If you have difficulty removing the plant then poke it from below using a small stick or pencil.
Place the plant into the hole that you made and firm it in.
Repeat this process for all your plants. Then water them thoroughly.
Label up your plants so that you are sure what they are later.
These small plants will need to stay indoors for several weeks and can only be planted out once all frosts have passed.
I definitely recommend purchasing plants by post. However always do your homework first, find a reputable nursery to buy from preferably recommended by a fellow gardener. Remember that if you buy small plants by post they will be cheaper but you will probably need to keep them indoors (in the house or a greenhouse) for some time and look after them. If that is too much work buy garden ready plants.
If you like gardening and want to learn more take a look at these on the blog:
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