Caring for plug plants
Plug plants need a little TLC before they can be planted out in their final destination. Ideally, they should be potted on into larger pots or trays straight away. If this is not possible, keep them in a cool, bright and well ventilated spot until you can pot them on.
Water the plugs so they are just moist. Too wet and the roots could pull apart, too dry and the plant could break due to brittleness. Fill a small pot or seed tray with good potting compost and make a hole roughly the same size as the plug casing for each plant. Gently pinch the bottom of the plug and push up from the bottom with a dibber or pencil to remove it. Holding the leaves (not the stem), transfer the plant to its new home, ensuring the stem is at the same level in the compost as it was before.
Water well by sitting the newly potted plants in a tray of water for 10 minutes and then allowing any excess water to drain away. Do not allow them to dry out subsequently but beware overwatering, which can be just as fatal! Keep in a cool, well-lit area out of direct sunlight (a greenhouse or cool conservatory is ideal) a too warm a temperature will encourage weak, leggy growth. Apply liquid fertiliser after 2 weeks.
Frost protection and hardening off
Most spring and summer bedding varieties need protection until the colder weather has passed, and once the risk of frost is over, should be hardened off prior to planting out. To do this, keep them outside in a sheltered spot during the day and bring them in at night for 2 weeks. A good rule of thumb is not to leave plants outside in temperatures lower than 5°c/41°f.
Autumn and winter bedding varieties are generally hardy, and will not need any extra protection. However, if temperatures are unusually low, they may benefit from overnight cover of horticultural fleece.
Water your plants well 1-2 hours before planting out and again when in position. Once in the ground, water regularly, especially in dry sunny spells. NB If there is a risk of frost, protect spring and summer bedding varieties with an overnight cover of horticultural fleece.
For the best results, jumbo plugs should be potted on (as above) into 9cm pots as soon as possible before being transferred to their final destination.