Seed or Plugs? Part Two

February 7th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Petunia Tumbelina Joanna - you'll never grow anything as good as this from seed.

Many summer flowers can be started off as seed or as plugs – but which should you choose? Last week I looked at plants where seed needs starting so early that it’s wise to offload the responsibility for germination and the early stages of growth on to the grower. This week it’s a different issue: the varieties available as plugs and young plants are sometimes simply better than those available as seed. Top of the list here must be chrysanthemums and dahlias.

Growing perennial chrysanths from seed is such a waste of time that Mr F doesn’t even sell the seed any more. Only plants. So that’s that. Hardy annual chrysanths, I should say, are a very different story and bring you some of the zingiest colours in the garden.

Dahlias from seed? Well, firstly, they’re almost always sold as mixtures so you’ve no control of the colours you end up with. The flower forms can be unpredictable too but if you’re on a tight budget give the dark-leaved ‘Bishop’s Children’ mix a try. Otherwise buy tubers in exactly the colour and shape you want.

And then there’s petunias. First, you should always buy double flowered petunias as plants raised from cuttings. The Tumbelina Series are prolific, fragrant and weather-resistant, seed-raised ‘Red Pirouette’ is prolific and colourful but doesn’t have the rain resistance – and only comes in the one colour.

Secondly, to be honest, single-flowered petunias grown from cuttings and sold as plugs are also almost always better than those raised from seed and seed-raised petunias don’t have the most exciting colours. So unless you need a lot, I’d buy single-flowered petunias as plants too. And it’s the same with fuchsias: seed raised varieties are just to up to standard.

And that’s the thing. Seed is usually cheaper, but you don’t get the quality. Take your choice.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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