Buying plug plants is a great way of getting ahead with your gardening plans, as well as a crafty way to save a bit of cash… The range of varieties available is also broader than what you can get in the garden centre, and your plugs and plants should reach you in optimum condition, thanks to advanced technologies. However, occasionally, the mail handler may not be as gentle with your plants as we’d like them to be… but it doesn’t have to be fatal for your plants. Their appearance can be easily fixed, and most plants will bounce back within a short space of time.
Here, I’ve put together a handy guide covering the most common issues with mail order plug plants, and how to fix them!
1. Why do my plug plants have yellow leaves!?
It’s very normal, after up to a week in the postal system, for plants to have some yellow leaves when they arrive. This won’t harm the plant at all, simply remove them so that the plant puts all its energy into new growth instead. Yellowing leaves is a symptom of the plant being in a dark box, without access to light which is usually needed for green foliage!
2. Why are there broken stems on my plug plants?
Very occasionally, your plant might suffer a few broken stems whilst it’s in the box in transit, or as you lift it out of the box. This will of course affect the aesthetic of the plant, but it actually won’t harm it at all. In fact, in place of that broken stem, you’ll often find that two new stems will grow in its place, thus giving you a much more branching plant in the future.
3. My plug plants are wet!
Some plants, such as Begonias, have quite a succulent leaves. After being in the mail order packaging for a few days, things can become a little bit sweaty. When the plants arrive with you, you may see some foliage is a little bit wet, and may have broken away from the stem. Open up the box as soon as possible, stand the plant upright, and allow them to dry out before doing anything else.
4. My plug plants are so dry!
Your plants may also be too dry. On the day they are dispatched from the nursery, your young plants are watered, but of course this may not last the whole journey in the postal system. If your plants do look dry upon arrival, stand them up in the trays they have been dispatched in, and give them a drink of water as soon as possible. Supply water to them until the plugs are moist again.
5. What happens next?
If you’ve ordered plug plants, they will often need to be potted on into pots of at least 7cm in diameter. It’s advised that they are then grown on on the windowsill, or in a greenhouse, until they are well rounded plants. This will take around 4 weeks. You can use plastic pots, old yoghurt pots, or module trays, just make sure there is drainage in whatever container you choose. If the roots on your plants look a little bit restricted, spread them out a little bit with your fingers before you plant the plug. And another thing, if they have tiny little flowers on them, snap those off. It might sound crazy, but by removing those, you will let the plant put all of its energy into growing a framework, rather than flowering when it’s so young.
Need some more info?
Watch the quick video below for a visual guide on caring for mail order plug plants after you receive them.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.