Plug Plants or Seeds?

There are a number of factors which determine whether you should grow from seed or buy plug plants...

The cost


Growing from seed is often seen as the cheapest option, especially as the DIY approach means that you are managing the whole process from germination to finished plant without the need to pay a nursery or garden centre to do it for you.

However, many commercial nurseries grow huge amounts of the same variety which means that they will benefit from economies of scale and will be able to buy the same seed much cheaper than you can.

For example, a packet of Busy Lizzie seeds could typically cost £2.99 for 35 seeds. According to a recent Gardening Which? report up to 30% of those seeds may not germinate so to have enough to produce 120 plants you would have to buy 6 packets at a total cost of £18. That doesn’t include the cost of potting compost, seed trays, fertiliser, pesticides and greenhouse heating – it all adds up.

Whereas a tray of 170 small Impatiens plug plants from Gardening Direct could cost just than £16.99 delivered to your door!

Of course, some seed varieties are very cheap or germinate very successfully. Vegetables such as carrots or lettuce will happily grow from seed sown outside and could cost less than £2 for 750 seeds.

plug plantsThe Time


If you have the time then growing from seed can be very rewarding. However, some varieties take a lot of looking after and are very time-consuming. Begonias could take over 3 months to grow from the seed into a viable seedling and they’ll need constant attention to make sure that they remain pest and disease free.

It also means that your greenhouse could be occupied by one or two slow growing varieties when you could have grown several crops of other plants in the meantime.

Fast growing varieties such as beans can be grown from seed quickly and easily and require very little care.

Skill Level Needed


For experienced gardeners, growing from seed can be relatively straight-forward. Flowers such as Busy Lizzies are very difficult to grow from seed and need high levels of skill and knowledge, Begonias take a long time and Geraniums can be very fiddly to germinate.

Plug plants are ideal for inexperienced gardeners or those with very little time. It’s a simple equation, the smaller the plants are the more skill is needed growing them on and the longer it takes. Gardening Direct large plug plants are perfect for novice gardeners as they can be planted straight into the garden and require very little skill.

So, to buy plug plants or to grow from seed – there is no definitive answer! It depends on how much time you have, whether you are gardening on a budget, what varieties you want to grow and how much experience you have.

10 plants to grow from seed:

  1. Lobelia – very cheap seed
  2. Sweet peas – easy to germinate and grow quickly
  3. Lettuce – sow outside, very cheap seed
  4. Carrots – cheap seed, easy to grow but does need care and protection
  5. Beans – fast growing and robust, ideal for beginners
  6. Sunflowers – very fast growing and great fun for children
  7. Antirrhinum – easy to grow and very cheap
  8. Wild flowers – self-seeding, perfect for mass planting
  9. Aquilegia – grow in most soils and will self-seed
  10. Foxgloves – fast growing, self-seeding and like poor soil

10 plants to buy as plug plants:

  1. Busy Lizzies – difficult to grow from seed, susceptible to pest and disease
  2. Begonias – takes months to grow into a viable seedling
  3. Geraniums – difficult to germinate, better to buy as cuttings or plugs
  4. Primrose – seed needs to be chilled prior to germination
  5. Purple Sprouting Broccoli – Takes a while to germinate, slow growing
  6. Tomatoes – easy to grow but susceptible to disease
  7. Celery – need lots of work and attention
  8. Parsley – difficult to germinate
  9. Verbena – can have low germination rate
  10. Polyanthus – seed needs to be chilled prior to germination

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