Gardening advice: Here's why plug plants can save you time, effort and money

Some plants, such as begonias, are tricky or take a long time to grow from seed

PLUG plants can work out half the price of regular bedding plants. These babies, which start off at around half the size of the regular 9cm pot plants you buy later in the season, will more than plug a gap in your hanging baskets and containers.

1. Easier than growing from seed: While packets of seeds may be cheaper to buy, some plants are tricky or take a long time to grow from seed, including begonias, petunias, geraniums and dianthus.

2. What should you look for when buying plug plants? The most important thing to look out for is a healthy root system. Tim Evans of Wyevale Garden Centres adds: "Avoid plug plants which are stretched and straggly. You want something which is compact, a good shape and hasn't gone yellow."

3. Do you need a greenhouse? "A lot of people pot plug plants into 9cm or 10cm pot and carry on growing them on the windowsill," notes Evans. Once the plant has filled the larger pot in a few weeks' time, it should be ready to be planted into its final place outside, but don't do this until the end of May or beginning of June, when all risk of frost has passed.

4. What do you do when you get them home? Remove from packaging and water them. Ease out the plants and the soil in which they growing all in one go by pushing up from underneath the container using your thumb or, if the plugs are very small, a pencil, so you avoid damaging the fragile stems or leaves. Plant them on in larger pots as soon as you receive them and place them in in bright, frost free conditions under cover but out of direct sunlight. Before planting in their final spot outdoors, harden them off in a sheltered spot outside for seven to 10 days to acclimatise the plants.

5. What types of plants are available as plugs?

They are usually annuals, ranging from geraniums and bacopa to busy Lizzies, ageratums and fuchsias. You can buy perennial plugs from some online retailers as well as vegetables, including tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers and strawberries.

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