Many of us enjoy a summer display of bedding plants in hanging baskets and patio containers.
It can be satisfying to grow your own floral displays from seed, but not everyone has the indoor space of greenhouse or windowsills needed to do this.
Purchasing plug plants and growing these on takes up less space and is still an economical and satisfying method for creating a floral bedding spectacular at little cost.
Plug plants are readily available from garden centres and on line during April and May, but can be purchased from March – June, depending on the plant variety. Although we’re looking at ornamental flowering plants for seasonal display, vegetable plug plants are also available.
When buying plug plants later in the season do check for a good root system; that way you know you’re getting a healthy plant that will quickly grow on and flower this summer.
Smaller plug plants and those bought earlier in the season may need to be pricked out initially into a seed tray rather than pots. This enables you to give them root and foliage room whilst not taking up too much space in the greenhouse.
When they have grown sufficiently, they will need to be transplanted into pots and slowly hardened off before planting into hanging baskets and pots outside. ‘Hardening off’ can be seen as a nuisance as it does involve putting your plants outside in the morning and bringing them back in overnight. But it is worthwhile ‘hardening off’ as it acclimatises the plant, reducing the shock of a sudden change and therefore resulting in less interference in the plant’s growth as it has become used to being outside and so grows enthusiastically rather than being ‘checked’.
One method of hardening off is to plant up your container or hanging basket with the plug plants and move that in and out rather than many smaller pots in a drip tray. Both ways work well, it is matter of personal choice, and when it suits you to plant up your container!
Which brings us onto the question of how many plug plants you’ll need for a patio pot. As it is a seasonal floral display expected to last for 4 months or so, you would put in more plug plants per hanging basket or container than you would do for a permanent planting scheme.
The advantage of packing them in tightly is that the plants will give you lots and lots of flowers. A rough guide is one plant per inch of hanging basket diameter. This would mean you would need 12 plants to a 12” or 30 cm hanging basket. However, stronger growing plants such as pelargoniums and fuchsias do need more room, so half the amount; roughly 6 to a 12” / 30 cm hanging basket.
A 12” pot or patio container will look well filled with 8 rather than 12 plants. But again, if you’re using pelargoniums or fuchsias, then fewer plants will be needed, I would say 5 should be plenty.
Growing all these flowers yourself from plug plants can be very satisfying as well as economical. It certainly allows you to be extravagant and have billowing floral delights all around you.
For some ideas for hanging basket containers and different plants to grow in them, why not have a read of our Plants for Hanging Baskets blog?
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