Our plants and how to grow them

our plants and how to grow them

Everything you need to know about our plant types, and what to do with them once they arrive.

All plants are chosen by Sarah and her team, and are carefully grown at Rookery Farm, our nursery in Lincolnshire, or by specialist nurseries. Every item will arrive in the best possible condition but read on to discover Sarah’s top tips for potting on and planting out.  

Water your plants

First things first, don't forget to water your plants when they arrive. To do so follow the simple steps below:

  • Carefully remove the packaging
  • If compost feels dry to the touch, water gently, or put the plants in a bucket or wheelbarrow of water for 20 minutes
  • let the water drain, and follow the relevant instructions below as soon as you can

While your plants are drinking up the water, have a quick read of guidance below to set you up for success and ensure you produce beautiful blooms and a bountiful harvest throughout the year.


key definitions of different plant types

If you are new to gardening, understanding the different types of plants will help you get to grips with how to care for them. Here are some useful definitions to get you started:


Annuals complete their life cycle all within the space of a year and are defined as hardy or half-hardy…

Hardy annuals can withstand frosts and are often planted in the autumn or early spring.  

Half-hardy annuals annuals will struggle to withstand winter wet and cold and will be zapped by frosts in autumn. Protect these plants under cover and only plant outside when risk of frost is well and truly over. 

biennials and short-lived perennials

Biennials are plants whose lifecycle spans two years. In the first year, they will produce roots and leaves, and in the second year they flower, set seed, and then die. If they like the conditions of your garden, they might reappear from the seed of the original plant

Short lived perennials have a lifespan of around 3-5 years. They may not last as long as long-lived perennials, but they generally bloom profusely early on


Perennials live for much longer than 2 years, and if they are hardy, they will remain in the garden from one year to the next. These plants are a worthy investment for any outside space. Some perennials are evergreen, whereas many are herbaceous, which means their foliage dies back completely to the ground in winter.

Top tip - labelling will help you identify what’s in your beds, pots and borders and will prevent you digging up dormant plants when weeding.

Tender perennials will start to suffer in low temperatures and won’t survive frost unprotected. You can protect these plants by covering them with a ‘duvet’ of compost or manure or lift them and store them undercover until early spring, either on a windowsill in a cool room, or in a greenhouse or polytunnel if you have one. You can treat a tender perennial as you would an annual. 

All of the above come in different shapes and sizes. Find out more below, along with instructions on how to get the most of from your plants.


how we send our plants to you, and how to grow them

Seedlings and rooted cuttings

For the best results, we recommend potting these on into 9cm pots (or similar), before planting in their final position outside. Visit our instructions for potting on and planting out instructions below.

Sweet pea seedlings

Trialled and tested and grown in a special way so they have long and strong roots and can be planted straight into the garden as soon as they arrive. Full instructions found below.

Jumbo seedlings and young plants

We’ve done a bit more of the legwork here for you, so if conditions are right, you can plant these straight into your containers or the garden by following the instructions below. If weather conditions aren’t right (i.e., they are too cold or too wet) then you can pot them on into a 1 or 2 litre pot before planting. See potting on instructions below.

Plants ranging from 9cm – 3 L pots

Some plants, often perennials and biennials and shrubs, are sent out in 9cm, 1.5L, 2L and 3L pots. These are garden ready. 

As ever, tender varieties are best planted out in late spring when the frosts are over, but hardy varieties can be planted out anytime, if soil is not frozen or waterlogged. Before choosing where to plant, check the growing conditions for what you have ordered. You can find this information underneath the description on the item’s web page. 

Next, follow the planting in the ground or container planting instructions laid out below. This will be exactly the same, but, bigger the plant, bigger the hole you will need to dig. You might prefer to use a spade instead of a trowel to get the job done quickly and easily. 

Bare root plants 

These will arrive as dormant plants (often showing little or no signs of life) and will arrive in bags as a mass of roots and a small amount of loose soil to protect the root.

If you aren’t ready to plant when these arrive, or if soil is frozen and waterlogged, remove all packaging and sit the roots in a container, gently covering with loose, damp compost. They can be left like this for a few days in a garage or garden shed, but it is important to plant them as soon as possible to prevent them from drying out. Roses are sent out as bare roots, as well as many other perennial plants. 

If your soil is either frozen or very waterlogged when your plant arrives and you won’t be able to plant it within a few days, we recommend potting on bare roots into large, deep containers following our potting on bare root perennial instructions below.

Step-by-step guides

1.     Choose a good quality, multi-purpose, peat- free compost and mix with a small amount of horticultural grit to ensure good drainage.

2.     Fill a clean 9cm pot with the mix and in the middle of the pot make a hole slightly deeper and wider than the seedling.

3.     Position the seedling in the hole, ensuring the roots are fully covered and that the seedling is firmly placed, tapping to settle the soil. Top tip – always handle seedlings by the leaf, not the stem so you don’t damage the lifeline of the plant.   

4.     Water well, and leave somewhere bright but sheltered during the day

5.     Cover with horticultural fleece overnight or bring inside if you have a greenhouse, cold frame, or conservatory.

6.     Allow your seedlings to grow on for a few weeks. Frost-hardy plants (i.e., hardy annuals, biennials, and perennials) will be ready to go into the garden once the roots have filled the pot (check by looking at the bottom).  Frost-tender plants (i.e., half-hardy annuals and tender perennials), should be planted outside after the last frosts, usually around mid to late May.

1.     Give the plants a soak in a bucket of water for around 20 minutes while preparing the potting mixture. Use a good quality, peat-free, multipurpose compost, which you can mix with a little grit to ensure good drainage.

2.     Choose a pot slightly larger than the root mass and partially fill it with the potting mix

3.     Position the plant in the centre of the pot, holding the base of the crown (where the roots meet the top growth) just below the top of the pot and carefully fill around the roots. You may need to tap the pot now and then to settle the soil. For peonies the ‘eyes’ or resting buds, should be no more than 3-5cm (1-2in) below the surface.

4.     Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside or a cold frame if you have one, to grow on.

1.     Prepare the planting area by forking over the soil and incorporating plenty of organic matter (well-rotted manure, home-made compost or multi-purpose peat-free compost). Pick out any large stones and visible weeds as you go.

2.     Rake to level the soil, breaking up any large clumps. Try to create a fine, crumbly soil texture. The young plants roots will like this.

3.     Mark out planting positions with plant labels or empty pots, making sure you allow enough space between each one. Learn more about spacings for specific plants on the specific plant page.
4.     Dig planting holes deep and wide enough to cover the roots. Adding rootgrow into the bottom of the planting hole will help plants establish roots

5.     Position the plant in the hole, leaving the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the top growth) just level with the soil surface. Fill the space around the plant with the displaced soil, and gently firm the soil with your hands. You should be able to tug gently on the leaves without the planting lifting out of the ground.

6.     Water well, and once it looks like all the water has been absorbed, water again with a really good amount of water (not a sprinkle). Do this every 5-7 days (if there has been no rain) to encourage roots to be drawn down deep into the ground, resulting in stronger plants.  

7.     Keep well-watered during dry spells, until established. For more top tips on watering visit our guide here.

  1. Plant out your sweet pea seedlings as soon as they arrive if you can, during a mild spell.  
  2. Before planting, choose or create a climbing frame for these to grow up. You can find some of our very best supports here
  3. Sweet peas are hungry plants and require a lot of food, so if possible, dig in plenty of organic material (compost or manure will work well) around the base. Alternatively, chicken manure pellets are a great option as they contain slow-release nutrients.
  4. Plant 2 x seedlings 5-7 cm away from the base of each support, whether you are using a teepee, arch, or tunnel). See instructions for planting in the ground below.
  5. Keep an eye on young plants as they grow and tie them into the supporting frame if needed. If tied in regularly they will grow more quickly, and this will encourage the plants to strengthen over time.
  6. If you garden on poor soil, feed plants with a specially formulated sweet pea fertiliser.. Keep feeding once flowering to prolong the flowering period. 
  7. Pick pick pick away once they are flowering. If you see seedpods, cut these off too, as they are just as beautiful in an arrangement.  

You can also see our full sweet pea growing guide here

1.     Select an appropriate size pot for the type of plant or plants you have chosen, and the look you want to achieve. For seasonal summer displays you can pack in your plants to create more impact, we suggest about 9-10 plants per 40cm diameter pot. For permanent displays, consider the growth rate and eventual size of the plant

2.     Make sure you have plenty of drainage holes in the containers and broken pottery at the bottom to prevent the drainage holes from blocking.

3.     Fill your chosen container with fresh, peat-free multi-purpose compost for seasonal displays. A loam-based compost is usually better for longer term displays

4.     Dig planting holes deep and wide enough to cover roots and position the plant in the hole. Fill the space around the plant with soil, pressing firmly so the plant can’t be easily lifted

5.     Water well and add more compost if the surface has sunk more than an inch below the rim of the pot

6.     Keep well-watered and feed regularly during the growing season for the best results

These top tips should give you everything you need to get your plants in the ground and off to a great start. If you want to find more information or looking for advice on the plants you have ordered, you can explore our variety specific growing guides on our advice pages

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