Plant Plugs: What They Are and What You Need to Know
Our growers use a variety of methods to propagate our houseplants. A few are grown from seed, many are grown from cuttings, a few from tissue culture, and other ways of making more plants. For some, particularly tissue culture, we use biodegradable plant plugs to get baby plants off to the best possible start so they’re strong and healthy when you get them. You might be alarmed to see what looks like mesh around your plant’s roots, so here’s what you need to know.
Why do we use plant plugs?
These plugs give us an opportunity to create a safe environment for baby plants to get their start. By using a small plug, we can ensure we’re delivering exactly the right amount of water and nutrients to these plants when they’re young and at their most vulnerable. This ensures we’re growing high-quality plants from the start.
Are all Costa Farms plants started in plugs?
No—only certain varieties. Our growers test a variety of propagation types with each plant to make sure they’re producing the healthiest plants possible. These plugs are primarily used for plants we start from baby plants, rather than cuttings. This means you may see plugs on plants like Alocasias, but not on plants like Pothos or Geogenanthus.
What is the mesh is made of?
The plugs we use are made from an environmentally friendly paper-like product that naturally biodegrades into the potting mix.
Why don’t we remove the mesh?
The mesh-like paper biodegrades over time—often a year or less after we first planted in it. Exact time depends on growing conditions (including temperature and moisture levels). Our growers have found that trying to remove the plug at planting time decreases overall plant quality and leads to high plant loss. Simply put, keeping it on means you get a happier, healthier plant.
Should you remove the mesh?
You don’t need to for a couple of reasons. The first is that the plug breaks down all on its own. The second is that because it has a mesh-like pattern, there are plenty of holes for small roots to grow through, so you don’t need to worry about your plants becoming rootbound. It’s also a risk to the health of your plant. Removing the plug, particularly if you see a lot of roots outside of it, can damage the plant’s root system. Damaging the roots creates wounds for soil-born diseases to enter. If the roots are hurt badly enough, your plant may become stunted or even die.
Why does it seem like my plant is rootbound in the plug?
From time to time, the machine we use to fill the plugs will pack the potting mix in a little too densely. Our growers watch for this and clean the machines several times a day to reduce this from happening. But when the potting mix is packed too tight in the plug, young plant roots can have a tough time growing through the mix. In this case, it’s an issue with the potting mix used with the baby plants, not the plug itself.
What should I do if my plant seems unhappy after I removed the plug?
If you removed the plug while transplanting your plant, the most common reason for it to react badly is root damage. To help your plant recover from this, give it the environment it wants—enough light (not necessarily direct sun), warm temperatures, and the right amount of soil moisture