How to Grow Geranium Plug Plants

geranium black velvet

Grow stunning displays from geranium plug plants
Image: Geranium Black Velvet / Thompson & Morgan

Order geranium plug plants, and you’ll receive healthy young plants that’ll give you beautiful blooms. To help you get the best from your geranium plugs, we have put together some handy growing instructions for growing your plug plants. If you prefer to print them off we have also included a pdf version of our growing instructions – you can download these to your computer and then print off a copy to take with you to your ‘potting shed’!

There are two sets of growing instructions available – one for our geraniums (pelargoniums) and one for all our other plants – including hardy geraniums and fuchsias supplied as plugs and plants supplied as bare roots. The growing instructions for plug plants below apply to both geraniums and other plug plants.

> Download your Geranium, Fuchsia and Hardy Geranium Growing Instructions here

> Download your Growing Instructions for all other plants here

What to do when you receive your plug plants

Some people seem to find plug plants scary – they seem to think the care and nurturing of them must be difficult so they don’t grow them. But you and I know that plants are one of life’s greatest pleasures – to watch a plant you have grown yourself burst into flower is wonderful. And to sit in a garden on a warm summer day surrounded by beautiful colour is to be treasured and enjoyed – and we know that it’s not difficult, don’t we!

  1. On receipt of your plug plants stand them upright and keep a note of their name from the packaging – a plastic label is ideal for this.
  2. Pot up the plug plants into 3.5″ (9cm) pots. Use a general purpose compost, which is easily available, but do NOT use bark based composts. These hold too much moisture and will drown the roots and the plants will die. I often add about 20% perlite to the compost as this helps get air around the roots – but if it’s a loose general purpose compost you won’t need to do this to have success – it’s helpful but not essential!
  3. Make sure the plug plants are moist at all times but not waterlogged. When they are small they have a little root system so it is only as they grow bigger that they will need more water.
  4. Place the plug plants in a sunny place – the warmer and drier the better. You will get the best results if you can give your plants ‘summer’ – so a dry, light, bright place will make them happier (goodness, they’re like me – they don’t like it cold and dark!) If you don’t have a greenhouse or conservatory then a sunny windowsill will be absolutely fine.
  5. Now for the most difficult bit. Ready? I suggest you remove the first lot of flower buds while the plants are small. As difficult as it is to do, it does mean the plant will put its effort into growing its root system and foliage, rather than putting its effort into flowering – but, of course, it’s not at all easy to remove the flower buds as we’re all impatient to see them flowering in all their glory!

Once you’ve followed the above steps then your geranium plugs will begin to grow and flourish – isn’t nature a wonderful thing! And so what to do with them next?

Most garden plants pretty much like the same conditions so aim for the following with all of your garden display plants, but for more information take a look at our Geranium Care Centre where there are lots of growing guides to help you.

We’ll always tell you how to care for your plug plants as we think the more success you have, the more of our plants you will want to grow – we certainly don’t want anyone to lose their plants! The logical approach is that plants like spring and summer conditions so the nearest to these conditions you can give them then the happier they will be.

Trouble Shooting your Geranium growing problems


As we have all been basking in this glorious sunshine our geraniums have been enjoying it too – the hot and dry conditions are perfect for them. While tempting at times to exclaim “it’s too hot”, I very much appreciate the burst of warmth because this year we have certainly waited a very, very long time for it. The geraniums have all perked up no end following the long, rainy April, and are all bursting into bloom. At last we can get everything planted up outside – and our plants, as well as us, are hopeful of a long, warm summer.

I popped round to a neighbour at the weekend to help them with their garden – although I hasten to add they wanted some help with their geraniums, and I certainly wasn’t out digging or weeding their garden for them … not in that heat! As we chatted away, a few interesting questions came up as we looked through their collection of geraniums – some were doing very well and looked very happy and sadly some looked like they were struggling somewhat.

My geraniums aren’t looking very well – why?

The first thing to look at is whether it is just a few leaves going yellow or whether the whole plant is looking a bit sick. If it’s just a few leaves and the rest of the plant is looking robust enough then I’d suggest it could be a sudden change in temperature or some other harmless occurrence. At this time of the year when we move plants from greenhouses to outdoors they can have a bit ‘shock’ at the change in temperature and losing a few leaves is nothing to worry about. If the whole plant is looking poorly then the first thing I always do is to get it out of the pot and have a good look at the roots and they tell the whole story as to what is going on with the top of the plant.

  • If the roots are pretty much nonexistent then I’m afraid that would suggest something has got into the soil and eaten the roots. This is most probably vine weevil. Have a look for the grubs – although they are not always obvious to the eye.  Nowadays it’s not the panic it used to be as there are treatments available, so it’s off to the hardware store to buy a remedy. If there are any healthy bits still on the plant you could nip a cutting and root this, but if the whole plant has collapsed then there is little that can be done.
  • If the roots are there in abundance but are brown then the root system has died. The most common cause of this is overwatering. Before you yell “I don’t overwater my geraniums!” please see the question on compost below and see if something in there might be the cause. As before there is little that can be done and again, if there is a suitable part to nip a cutting from that looks healthy enough then that’s what I’d do.
  • If the roots all look lovely and white and there are plenty of them then … hooray … we have a chance! If the plant is looking sick but the roots are white then there is something the plant is not happy about, causing it to look not quite right. In this situation I’d follow basic steps and follow my usual line of attack in which I think ‘these plants originate from South Africa so let’s give them the nearest we can to those conditions’ which will give them the best chance of recovery. So I always take as much of the old compost off as I can without disturbing the roots too much – repot and replace the compost with fresh compost, put the plant somewhere very warm and very light, give it a drink so it is moist and not waterlogged and then leave it for a day or two. After that I give it a feed and usually the plant bounces back to life and all is well.

Even when you do manage to get a plant to recover you should always take the opportunity to review your general growing conditions and watering as there might be something in the general care that is slightly amiss. However, don’t get blame yourself when you lose a plant … these things do happen and there is no such thing as 100% success rate – we can only do our best!

Is the compost very important?

Well the straight answer is yes … but that wouldn’t make much of a newsletter so I’ll expand (and as you might have gathered if you read my newsletters regularly … I can rabbit on about geraniums at great length!). Two aspects of compost are important – choosing the right one to start with and changing the compost.

Firstly, I’ll talk about changing the compost as that ties in with the question above about sickly plants. It is always a good idea to replace the compost every year. I know what it’s like – we grow a geranium in a big pot and we bring it out in summer and keep it in the greenhouse or conservatory in winter and we can go on doing this for years on end. Geraniums will grow for years if we keep them out of the frosts. So over time the compost becomes compacted and crushed down and also through the constant watering which is needed to keep the plant alive, the compost tightens down. The root system of the plant needs oxygen flowing freely around it as, like us, they need oxygen and if they are growing in tight, hard compost they will really struggle to get any oxygen at all. So a fresh lot of compost will not only have plenty of nutrition in it, which the plants need, it will also be nice and light and the plants will be able to spread their roots happily.

The choice of compost is very important and you should always go for a general purpose compost – if you have a favourite with a good success rate then I’d always say stick with it. I prefer a peat based compost and that is personal choice but you must avoid bark based compost and coir compost for geraniums as they hold too much moisture. Some years ago at the nursery a compost salesman (I’m sure that wasn’t his job title!) came along and told us of a new compost that had been designed especially for geraniums and that it was cheaper than the one we were using … “yippee” we all exclaimed and set about potting up a test batch of plants into the new compost and then stood back and watched the results. We watched … and watched … and watched … as about half of them keeled over and dropped down dead. Back to the old compost for us! So the lesson for all is that, if you do change your compost then test it on a few plants first! A good test to see if a compost is light enough is to squash a ball of damp compost into your hand in a tight fist – when you open your hand it should fall away freely and not stay in a tight hard ball. Most modern composts don’t need any additional drainage material added as they are designed for general use.

My geraniums are very leggy and getting unsightly – what can I do?

Modern geraniums are bred to be short jointed (that is, the stems don’t grow very long between the nodes) and this means most modern geraniums are short, bushy plants which don’t need much attention. An exhibitor growing for showing will spend a lot of time pinching out the growing tips of his (or her!) plants to make them grow in a compact manner. However older varieties or more mature geraniums, left to their own devices, can just keep on growing upwards and upwards and upwards leaving tall stick like plants with little bushy green bits on the top. And these need sorting! If you aren’t too worried about a show of flowers from the particular plant this summer then you can give it a good chop now – if you are then leave it until later in the summer when the main display is over. Grab a sharp knife and cut it back as much as you like – always cut just above a leaf joint in a straight line and the plant will heal over at this point. By cutting the plant back you are forcing it send out more growing shoots and it will do this from lower down and make a bushier plant – it’s a battle of survival for the geranium and you won’t do it any great harm by cutting it back. I’ve seen plants cut back to only 5 inch sticks and a few weeks later they have started sprouting a whole lot of new, fresh growth and the resulting plant has been superb. But please do this with caution as I’d hate to be the cause of you ruining your display! Try it on one plant and if it works then you can do it on your others late summer.

How can I get more flowers from my geraniums?

If the geraniums are happy in their conditions then they’ll flower away without much attention from you – their best conditions are a warm, light place with good compost and being kept moist and not waterlogged. Pots must have drainage holes in them so that they are not sitting in puddles of water – as before, they need oxygen around their roots and this is why overwatering can kill the plant – the poor thing can’t breathe! (Which is a horrible thought!)? Without any doubt, giving your plant a regular feed of fertiliser will significantly increase the number of flowers you get. My neighbour thought this should be done monthly – “no!” I said “give them a feed every week and watch the results”. The fertiliser contains high potash and this encourages flowers to be produced so pop some feed in once a week and your plants will flower even more. It doesn’t take long to do and the results are well worth the little effort involved. Having gone to all the trouble of planting out a display then it makes sense to get the best show possible from it. The same goes for all your flowering plants and our fertiliser can be used for all your garden plants to get more flowers – all your hardy plants, fuchsias, patio plants, border plants … they’ll all flower more with a weekly feed.

Where is the best position to put geraniums in the garden?

As I’ve said before, geraniums love warm, sunny positions but they are a very tolerant and resistant family of plants and yet will still do very well in more shady parts of the garden – we can’t knock down the garden fence to make sure the light is at maximum levels all day long! Some parts of our gardens are shadier than others so the geraniums can be spread around and will be happy out in the garden with some sun, some shade or in full sun all day long. Some plants flag in the heat but not your geraniums … they love it!

As we head towards the long weekend of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations it’s a great time to get the garden looking its best and to have a review of all our plants to make sure they are happy too! To add last minute plants to your displays and to boost up the show then do visit our website today and have a look at all the special offers we have available for delivery to you soon … there is always room for a few extra plants in the garden and the more plants we have, the more flowers we will have to enjoy all summer long so grab some bargains and pop them in all around the garden. I wish you a very happy celebration weekend!

Hydrangeas – Michael Perry picks his favourites!

Shrubs are the stalwarts of the border- they last for years and years, fill gaps and offer decorative foliage AND flowering! And, what better place to start than Hydrangeas– one of the most versatile shrubs you can find, and I’m going to show how comprehensive the range is too!

  1. Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’

This Hydrangea gives a colour explosion in the garden right from the word go! The foliage is long, elegant and the same colour as your favourite chocolate bar! This foliage changes with every few weeks that passes; from chocolate-brown to deep green, and then it surprises you by transforming to the most delectable amber and golden shades! ‘Hot Chocolate’ is a robust hydrangea which really fills the borders, and even performs in poor soils!

 

Hydrangea 'Hot Chocolate' and Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Bloomstruck'

Hydrangea ‘Hot Chocolate’ and Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Bloomstruck’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

If you really want maximum flower power from your Hydrangea shrubs, then ‘Endless Summer’ is a real breakthrough! Usually, a Hydrangea macrophylla will only flower on old wood, which means they set their flower buds for flowering in the previous summer. ‘Endless Summer’ not only does this, but it ALSO flowers on new wood, so you get a double whammy! Remember this type of Hydrangea (macrophylla) also gives different coloured blooms on different soils; expect blue on acid and pink on alkaline!

  1. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’

This type of Hydrangea is a bit more woody than most, but with that comes extra hardiness, resilience and an easier pruning method! Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is short, compact and makes a rounded, neat specimen for the border or pretty patio pots. The snowball flowerheads almost cover the plants throughout the summer, and gently turn to bubblegum pink as the season progresses!

 

Hydrangea 'Bobo' and Hydrangea 'Miss Saori'

Hydrangea ‘Bobo’ and Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

  1. Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’

Undoubtedly the star of the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, ‘Miss Saori’ was the winner of Plant of the Year, thanks to its crystallized-effect, two-tone flowers, which look like mini tiaras! A strong-growing plant, where the flower colour is less affected by different soil types too, you know you’ll be enjoying the colour you were expecting!

  1. Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

This Hydrangea macrophylla has a distinctive appearance; with mophead blooms where each floret is curled like a piece of popcorn! An easy to grow shrub for sun or shade, great for small gardens or large patio containers! Enjoy pink blooms on alkaline, blue blooms on acid!

 

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer - Blushing Bride' and Hydrangea 'Ayesha'

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer – Blushing Bride’ and Hydrangea ‘Ayesha’

 

Take a tour of our petunias with Michael Perry

“We’ve really pushed out the boat with our new Petunia introductions this year, and it now means there’s a Petunia for almost any part of the garden! So, let’s take a bit of a tour…

Right outside your backdoor, there’s room for a few terracotta pots filled with some of the newest and most colourful petunias! Mix and match with varieties such as ‘Green with Envy’, new ‘Cloud Nine’ and super scented ‘Anna’! Or, for something really indulgent and show-off, try ‘Black Night’, with jet-black, velveteen blooms! Also, for little pots, try Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’, with its sprawling habit, with blooms a lot smaller than a standard petunia, but boy there’s a lot more of them!

 

Petunias 'Green With Envy', 'Cloud nine' and 'Anna'

Petunias ‘Green With Envy’, ‘Cloud nine’ and ‘Anna’

 

Then, look up, where Petunia ‘Surfinia’ is trying to escape the hanging baskets like Rapunzel letting down her hair! ‘Surfinia’ offer some of the longest trailing stems in the business, and is actually one of the best known petunias IN THE WORLD! For something a bit more ‘designer’, try out ‘Peach Sundae’. The flowers change colour from yellow to peach, with a myriad of shades in-between!

 

Petunias 'Black Night', Calibrachoa 'Crackerjack' and Petunia 'Surfinia'

Petunias ‘Black Night’, Calibrachoa ‘Crackerjack’ and Petunia ‘Surfinia’

 

So, imagine you’re starting to walk down your garden, and you’ve got some borders by the path to fill. Why not plant a ground-covering variety that would make a low, billowing hedge! Step forward ‘Tidal Wave’! Although we often promote this as a climbing variety, the vigorous habit means it can also be used for carpeting. Don’t underestimate the sugary fragrance of each bloom either!

 

Petunias 'Peach Sundae', 'Tidal Wave' and 'Art Deco'

Petunias ‘Peach Sundae’, ‘Tidal Wave’ and ‘Art Deco’

 

Then, if you really want to show off petunias in your borders, why not plant up some of the very new and very shiny, ‘Art Deco’! Each bloom is a work of art, and the plants are well-behaved in the border too, rounded and compact, with so many blooms you can’t see the foliage…!”

10 Hidden Gems

With so many new plants to choose from in our 2016 range, we think you might need a bit of help! So, I’ve decided to pick out 10 hidden gems for you- whatever the size or style of your garden.

Power DaisyPower Daisy – It’s not often that an entirely new type of plant comes along, but let me introduce the ‘Power Daisy’. Arching, hanging plants, bejewelled with golden button blooms from May to October. You’ll finally understand the meaning of the phrase ‘flower power’. This is a unique new species of Calendula, and the shape of basket plants of the future.

 

 

Lily Exotic SunLily ‘Exotic Sun’ – I just love how the exotic buds of this lily open. The best part is that they take their time doing it, unfolding over a few days, meaning you get to enjoy a really theatrical show. They’re such a lovely refreshing lemon yellow too, and this ain’t no shy border lily either, as plants sit at just under a metre tall.

 

 

Geranium-Bug-OffGeranium ‘Bug Off’ – Avoid outdoor mosquito attacks by planting these lemony-scented pelargonium. They’re so neat that they’ll suit table-top pots, and can be on guard for the pesky gnats, and it might well repel wasps too. The summer blooms are like little angels, and really compliment the dinky foliage. I think this plant deserves to be called ‘CUTE’!

 

 

Bidens-BeeDance-Painted-Red Bidens ‘BeeDance Painted Red’ – Pow! There’s no mistaking this bright spark. Over the years, I’ve found that gardeners always love a bicoloured flower. Bred to absolute perfection in Japan, the ‘BeeDance’ Bidens series can easily cope with short periods of drought, or a position in bright, all day sun. You’ll be surprised by the honey scent from each small bloom too.

 




Curcuma-CollectionCurcuma- Siam Tulip – Gardening is often about showing, we know that, let’s all admit it! These Curcuma offer you the perfect opportunity to evoke comment with your friends. Often referred to as the Siam Tulip, these Thai beauties are imported especially. The waxy blooms are very tropical, and last a long time too!

 

 

Ptilotus-JoeyPtilotus ‘Joey’ – How can something that looks so delicate be so easy to grow? One of the most unique discoveries in recent years ptilotus comes from the Australian outback, so has an inbuilt resilience to… well, everything! The fluffy presence of ‘Joey’ will revolutionise your pots.

 

 

Cosmos-EclipseCosmos ‘Eclipse’ – An extra special selection of cosmos atrosanguineus, chosen for its rich, chocolatey fragrance. Yes, you heard that right… chocolate! Aside from the indulgent fragrance, the flowers are near black, and the plants branching, yet compact. In fact, there isn’t anything not to like about this plant.

 

 

Tomato-Tutti-FruttiTomato Tutti Frutti Collection – Now these tomatoes will form part of a fun summer game, as you ask your visitors to guess the flavour. Breeders have selected these fruits, not just for their sweetness, but for their resemblance to a range of unique flavours. You’ll have fun matching up the mandarin and melon flavours. As easy to grow as any tomato, and with thin skins, ensuring a melt in the mouth flavour.

 

 

Kalmia-RubraKalmia ‘Rubra’ – To plug a gap in the border not just this year, but for many years to come, shrubs are very useful. Kalmia is something a little bit different, it needs an acidic soil, but could easily be grown in a big tub of ericaceous compost. The flowers have to be seen to be believed, when I first saw one in real life I was literally stopped in my tracks.

 

 

Begonia-DaffadowndillyBegonia ‘Daffadowndilly’ – It’s a case of confused identity with this new Begonia tongue-twister! Each elegant bloom faces upright and has the shape of a daffodil, albeit in a deep salmon-pink. With a befitting fancy name of ‘Daffadowndilly’, you know this classy new plant will be flying off the shelves, so reserve your tubers now.

Pin It on Pinterest