Heated Propogator

Hi, I am a gardening novice, but I would like to sow seeds and hopefully plant in our garden. I just bought a 52cm Stewart Heated Propogator - not the type you can vary the temperature - perhaps I made a mistake ?. 

I sowed some lettuce, nastrurshium, peas(for pods), corn flowers in the propogator and I have it switched on with lid in our summer house (has heating supply, but currently switched off). I live in Aberdeen.

I would be grateful for some ideas of what I can have a go at germinating in this propogator. Some pretty flowers ( possibly attract bees would be a bonus)or vegetables. I like the look of the Zinnias on the Februrary magazine.
Hope to hear from you.


  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 12,113

    I have 3 x 35cm heated propagators, no thermostat. The thing is not to get seeds to germinate, but to look after them afterwards. I put a thermometer in one of mine out of curiosity, it was 26° in the propagator on the kitchen windowsill, another thermometer on the sill said 17°, so it was plenty warm enough to make the seeds germinate, which they have. But they will grow and then they'll need potting on and all that before it's frost free outside. Have you plenty of window sills, or, better still a greenhouse that's frost free? The baby plants would prefer it over 8 - 10° at night.

    I have a greenhouse, but only a rather small feeble heater, too expensive to keep properly warm. I am transferring the babies to window sills, but there is a risk they'll get leggy reaching for light. Then they'll go in the greenhouse.

    Zinnias like warmth, I'd wait a bit, then sow them in the propagator. Nasturtiums grow quite quickly and you can sow straight into the ground from late March to May. Cornflowers the same, they are hardy annuals. Lettuces too, they don't like it too warm. Peas shouldn't need a propagator either, they can go straight in the ground in March/April. As you've sown some they'll need getting out as soon as they've germinated, none of those plants needs to be very warm, but it's too soon for outside, who knows what the weather will bring!

    A propagator is really good for half hardy annuals and tomatoes. I have sown lobelia, petunias, gazanias, verbena and rudbeckia Tiger Eye so far. They are the sort of plants that can't survive cold nights yet.

    March is really a less risky time of year to sow.

  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,892

    What about chillis? My two little propagators are both filled with chilli seeds at the moment as our resident expert Stacey told me that they have a long growing time and so benefit from getting the head start.

  • Thank you for your replies. Lizzie, we have plenty of window sills , but my wife will only let me have 2metres worth, i might get another 2meters if my plants are looking promising. These window sills are SSW facing and get sun up until about 1pm after which, they are hidden by an outside wall. I am thinking of buying a 1m wide cold frame or making my own using bricks and a polyglass sheet. My wife may consider buying a potting shed, however the only likely spot would be so that it would be facing North and so not get any direct sunlight virtually all day.

    Thank you for tips on what to grow in propogator. I like plants that attract bees. In February edition of the magazine Scabiosa (Butterfly Magnets), Sedum Abbeydore and Sunflower Maximiliani are mentioned as good for attracting insects. Do you know if it would be possible to propogate these from seed or other insect plants ?

    I wish I hadn't sown the peas, lettuce now as I could have planted them into the garden - i might discard them (sorry).


  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 12,113

    Sunflowers are quite easy to grow from seed, but you sow them in spring, April/May into the ground. Good for bees and then you can feed the seeds to the birds at the end of the year. Scabiosa don't like my garden, don't know why. That sedum is a hardy perennial, I would buy it as a proper plant from a garden centre. Bees and butterflies love them. I have never grown a sedum from seed.

  • Thank you Lizzie. I don't like the really tall Sunflowers that much - they are just too tall with thick bare stems. Why do you recommend buying the sedum (hardy perennial) as a proper plant instead of seed ?



  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 12,113

    It's quicker! Also perennials are harder to get going from seeds. But I'm not an expert at growing hardy perennials from seed. I usually buy them, divide them or take cuttings. I grow a lot of annuals from seed and veg.

    I mentioned sunflowers because you did, but I've looked up the Maximilian sunflower and it's a bit different, it's a perennial that you can grow from seed for the back of the border.

  • Thank you very much Lizzie. You don't grow hardy perennials from seed so I guess  that it is not easy. Perhaps I should ask elsewhere on the forum about propogating these types of plants.


  • TerryB2TerryB2 Posts: 1

    Can anyone recommend a cheap but effective heated propagator? How essential is a thermostat?


  • Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005

    I have a very old propagator that my parents bought me about 20 years ago maybe, so sorry, I can't advise on up to date brands.  However, I would guess that a thermostat is the sort of thing you would have if you were a real specialist rather than a beginner, and were trying to make things absolutely optimum for a difficult to grow plant.  Or maybe if you were going to use one in a greenhouse.  Most things will germinate in a propagator on a bright windowsill in my experience.  My top tips would be to keep compost moist with regular water sprays (I cleaned out a bottle of window cleaner with a spray on, and use that, but I was careful to make sure it was well rinsed) and I tend to spray 2 - 3 times a day - little and often, and still some of the things I went on to prick out had quite dry seed compost at the bottom.  I fill and leave the sprayer on the windowsill to avoid a temperature shock and use tap water.  Then once things have germinated into seedlings I get them out pretty quickly, and they seem to do fine from then on in just the daylight. They have a few days in the nursery tray and are then pricked out into individual pots.   Getting them out avoids damping off.  A vent in the transparent lid is useful to avoid too much condensation, and it is always worth wiping condensation out of the inside of the lid, and just spraying more water at the base of the plants, so that the dampness is in the compost rather than the air trapped above the seedlings.  So far I have germinated chillies, tomatoes and brassicas, and now am attempting cucumber, and have some flower seeds to plant soon.  A thermostat may be useful in a greenhouse because in spring they can get very warm in the daytime, and then the temperature drops at night, but in a house the background temperature is more regulated. 

  • AlastairSAlastairS Posts: 28

    Thank you Busy Bee2!

    I enjoyed reading your message and I have learned a couple of useful tips too.

    I think I agree that I don't need a thermostatic propogator as I only germinate the house - we don't have a greenhouse.

    chillies, tomatoes are free with the magazine and I should maybe try them.



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