Should you use seeds or plugs?

Should you use seeds or plugs?

Where to begin as a flower farmer?

Flowers have to come from somewhere! It can be difficult to decide which plants to start from seed and which plants to buy as plugs. A plug is a young plant grown in large quantities that’s started either from seed or a cutting. In this article, I’m going to highlight pros and cons for both. I will also talk about how your unique situation factors into this decision.


SEEDS

I use a soil block maker to start my seeds. I can start 160 seeds in a 9x13 foil baking pan with a plastic dome lid. This helps with my limited seed starting space.

I use a soil block maker to start my seeds. I can start 160 seeds in a 9x13 foil baking pan with a plastic dome lid. This helps with my limited seed starting space.

By far seeds are the cheapest way to start flowers. However, there are some things to consider when starting flowers from seeds. The biggest issue that you will run into is space and lighting. That is unless you have a greenhouse for propagation. For me, this is still something on my wish list. Even if you do have a greenhouse, shelves are quickly filled with tiny seedlings and begin to overflow onto the floor. Starting flowers from seed indoors takes significantly more time, space, and knowledge of each flower than buying plugs. Don’t let that discourage you! There is a thrill of watching a tiny plant poke through the soil that is not found anywhere but starting your flowers from seed. There are also many flowers that can be directly seeded into the ground when the weather is right. There is more control and uniformity starting seeds indoors but, if you are limited on seeding space, seeding outside is a great option. It’s a good idea to plant more seeds close together than recommended and then thin the plants to their proper spacing as they grow. This process ensures a lush garden even if some of the seeds don’t germinate. Make sure you keep up with the weeds, or they will outgrow your tiny flowers quickly!

I use a soil block maker to start my seeds. I can start 160 seeds in a 9x13 foil baking pan with a plastic dome lid. This method helps with my limited seed starting space.


PLUGS

Snapdragon and rudbeckia plugs ready to go into the field.

Snapdragon and rudbeckia plugs ready to go into the field.

Buying plugs is more expensive than starting from seeds. However, they require a significantly smaller time investment before they are in the ground. You don’t have to coddle them for weeks indoors like you do seeds. When your plugs arrive, they are lush, healthy plants that have a great jump-start on life. They will need to be hardened off when they arrive to ensure that they aren’t shocked by the difference in climate. Hardening off plants is done by gradually letting the plants adjust to outdoor conditions. This must also be done with seeds that you have started. After they are hardened off, they are ready to go in the field. If you don’t have a greenhouse or the indoor space to start flower seeds, plugs may be a great option. There are some flowers like Lisianthus that are difficult to start from seeds and are easier to grow from plugs. Another thing to consider when buying plugs is that many companies have high minimum orders. This may not be a problem, but for many startup flower farmers, it isn’t ideal.

Often flower growers start most of their flowers from seeds and buy plugs for plants that are difficult to start or have unique germination requirements. Starting flowers from seeds and buying plugs are both rewarding ways to begin your flower farm each spring. Make a list of all of the flowers you are planning on growing and divide it into groups of which plants you will start from seed and which you will buy as plugs. Good luck!



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