Choosing the best propagator for your money (heated, non-heated and self-watering)
If you grow your own plants and want to raise your plants from seed then you will more than likely need to propagate them in a propagator. There are many types of propagators and they can be as simple as a seed tray or plastic pot with a piece of plastic placed on top to the more advanced heaters that are thermostatically controlled with an extendable height.
Like most other pieces of gardening equipment, there are many designs and models available so we are going to discuss the different types and uses.
Why use a propagator?
Propagators can be used to help cuttings strike and take root, but they are most commonly used to aid the germination of seeds. By using a propagator you can control the environment and get a better success rate, often a heated one will result in a more even and often quicker germination of seeds.
Types of seed propagators
There are three main types which are sold in garden centres and nurseries, the first are simple propagators which consist of a seed tray and a transparent clear lid. They are simple to use and help to retain moisture which will help to stop seeds and seedlings from drying out. They also keep the air inside slightly warmer than the outside environment.
The second type of propagator is a heated type. These provide a consistent temperature which is set by the manufacturer, the heat is usually constantly on and cannot be turned off. These are ideal for lots of seeds but are may not suitable if you are growing different types of seeds that will germinate at alternate temperatures.
Lastly, (and often regarded the holy grail of propagators) are the heated propagators that come with a thermostat. These can be set to your required temperature, usually between 5°C and 30°C so they are perfect for many types of seeds. These work by regulating the temperature to within 1°C.
Most heated propagators are powdered by electric, so ensure you have access to a power socket near to where you plan to put your propagator.
Below we will look at just some of the most popular propagators available. They include non-heated, heated, thermostatic as well as models that are designed to fit on the windowsill which are ideal for many gardeners that commonly grow seeds on the windowsill.
Best heated propagators (not thermostatic)
GARLAND SUPER7 HEATED PROPAGATOR
Great for growing your own plants from seed and getting cuttings taken from your own plants to root. This Super7 heated propagator by Garland is designed to fit on most windowsills which is the position a lot of gardeners choose as the ideal location to propagate seeds. At 76cm long and 18.5cm wide this heated propagator has a 13 watt carbon fibre element which warms the compost evenly. It has 7 individual seed trays and clear lids making it ideal for sowing a selection of plants at the same time.
What we think – Firstly this propagator is designed for use indoors and is not suitable for use in a cold greenhouse, it does not have a thermostat to control a specific temperature and is designed to increase the ambient compost temperature by around 8°C which is ideal for propagating most seeds. It also has vents to help with air ventilation.
This is the best selling seed propagator on Amazon.co.uk and it is easy to see why, ideal for most gardeners and well designed.
Garland also do a smaller 3 tray version – View Here
STEWART ESSENTIALS ELECTRIC PROPAGATOR
Another quality heated propagator, this model is from the Stewart Essentials range which is well known for quality and reliability. At 38cm long it is ideal for growing seeds and young plants during the early stages of growth and is large enough for most gardeners wanting to grow their own seeds and cuttings. The 8 watt heating element ensures the propagator is kept warm whilst the ventilation panels control humidity and air temperature.
What we think – Designed for use indoors this propagator is heated but does not have a thermostat so the temperature cannot be set to a specific temperature so it is not regulated, it simply warms the soil to improve germination. At under £20.00 it is ideal for anyone just starting out who wants to grow their own plants from seeds or cuttings.
There is a larger model available which is 52cm and it has a more powerful 22 watt heater – You can view it here for more information.
Best Heated Thermostatic Propagators
STEWART PREMIUM ELECTRIC PROPAGATOR WITH THERMOSTAT
This 52cm electric propagator will hold 2 full size seed trays giving you a decent amount of space. It does have a thermostat to control the temperature and will keep it at 18-23 degrees Celsius (10-15 degrees above ambient) inside the propagator which is perfect for most seeds including tomatoes and peppers to name a few.
One important point we would like to make is that you cannot set it to a certain temperature. By thermostatic it means that it will keep it between a certain temperature as above, whereas an electric propagator is constantly on.
Powered by a 52 watt heater which is contained within the base, it has a crystal styrene clear cover for maximum light transmission and two air vents which help control air temperature and moisture.
What we think – Well made and ideal for someone wanting something a little more than the standard electric propagator without a thermostat.
STEWART 52CM PROPAGATOR WITH ADJUSTABLE THERMOSTAT
This is the third propagator by ‘Stewart’ we have looked at and this model has the same quality, durable construction and crystal styrene clear cover as the other models. The clear cover provides optimal clarity and maximum light transmission for a better germination rate as well as air vents to control humidity and air temperature.
This is the best model available as it has an adjustable thermostat so you are able to set the temperature to any temperature between 12 and 28 degree Celsius using the hand-held dial. This is ideal for plants that require a specific temperature to germinate.
What we think – If you are a gardening enthusiast and experienced gardener then this model is highly recommended. Ideal for use anywhere, from in the home, conservatory to the greenhouse. If you sow a variety of plants then this does have the advantage of being able to set the temperature as desired which is essential for some seeds. The only downside is the price, at around £60.00 it is more expensive than the non-adjustable thermostat propagator and more than double the price of a standard heated propagator. That being said, it is a quality product and does have a lot more features and advantages.
Best Non-heated propagators which have a self-watering feature
SUPER 7 SELF-WATERING PROPAGATOR
Not to be mistaken for the super7 heated propagator we reviewed previously, this model uses a very similar design and fits onto the windowsill and although not heated, it has a build in self-watering feature to keep the soil moist. It works by having an outer water reservoir tray that stores water, the 7 mini seed trays then sit on top of capillary matting which retains water and then the plants can take water using capillary action as and when needed.
Built from strong injection moulded plastic, the green base trays and clear covers are rigid and shatter resistant.
What we think – If you are looking for a propagator but do not have the need for a heated model, then this could be what you need. The slim design means it fits onto a windowsill easily making it very appealing as well as the self-watering feature. The 7 mini trays are ideal if you grow a variety of plants as they can be sown separately which can make life a little easier.
GARLAND 24 CELL SELF-WATERING PROPAGATOR
This 24 cell self-watering propagator offers the best value for money and at under £10.00 it is ideal for anyone just starting out who wants to try sowing a few seeds. How it works is simple, it has a internal water reservoir, on top of this there is a lining of capillary matting which holds water. The seed tray then sits on top of this and the plants can then draw water from the capillary matting when needed.
It is designed to be re-used and manufactured from a recycled plastic which some gardeners will appreciate.
What we think – At under £10.00 is slightly more expensive than a standard cheap propagator but a lot cheaper than other models available. The plastic is not the strongest but however should offer years of use and for the price you would expect this. A good choice for anyone just starting out or who does not need a heated propagator.