The ProPlugger XL 5-in-1 long-handled bulb planter was originally designed to remove plugs of sod (from creeping grasses) that could be used to replant bare patches or plug a new lawn. However, it also works very well as a long-handled bulb planter – as well as a weed remover, annual planter, and soil sampler.You’ll find lots of useful information about how to plant and care for bulbs on our Resources pages.Basically, the ProPlugger is a 34-inch long, metal tube with foot pegs welded onto the sides about 6 inches from the bottom, and padded handles sticking out about an inch below the top. The bottom edge is slightly sharpened; you can sharpen it further with a mill file. Weighing in at just under 5 lbs (for the XL model), it’s about a pound heavier than other long-handled bulb planters.
It’s used in much the same way as other bulb planters, other than the fact that the soil plugs are stored inside the tube (which means that it gets a little heavier with each plug) until you turn it upside-down to dump out the plugs.
Unlike traditional long-handled bulb planters, you’re able to dig multiple holes one after the other (10 or more, depending on depth) without having to remove soil from the planter.
The company has a nice video showing how to use the ProPlugger for bulb planting (see video to the right) so I won’t go into detail here. However, there are some things you should know before using it.
Works Best With Loose, Moist Soil
Don’t try using the ProPlugger on extremely hard-packed, dry, or clay soil. Then again, you shouldn’t be planting bulbs in clay soil anyway, and other bulb planters are no better at creating bulb planting holes in hard, dry soil.
For Planting Small and Mid-Sized Bulbs Only
The inside diameter of the ProPlugger tube is 1 5/8 inches (for the Standard Edition) or 2 1/8 inches (for the XL), which is less than most traditional bulb planters. It works well for smaller bulbs like crocus, ipheon, and muscari, and even for mid-sized bulbs, such as tulips and smaller allium. But the hole generally won’t be large enough for bigger bulbs, such as daffodils or large allium.
We recommend this planter for areas where you need to plant bulbs between established perennials or shrubs, or other areas where you can’t dig a larger hole in which to place multiple bulbs. It’s usually easier, particularly with small bulbs, to simply remove a few inches of soil, drop in a handful of bulbs, and then replace the soil. Where that’s not possible, the ProPlugger can come in handy.
Push With Your Feet Only
There are foot pegs on both sides of the tube about 6” above the bottom. Use these to drive the ProPlugger into the ground. You can practically stand on the pegs without breaking them.
Don’t try pushing it into the ground with the handles; not only will you not get enough leverage to drive the ProPlugger through the soil, but you risk hurting yourself!
Plant Bulbs at Three Depths
The depth to which the ProPlugger enters the soil can be adjusted to 2, 4, or 6 inches simply by sliding the appropriate adapter plate over the bottom of the tube.
This is a handy feature, but it can be difficult to remove the adapter plates. Be patient and wiggle them slowly loose or use a small rubber mallet. Stomping on the plate or bashing it with a rock (both of which we tried) doesn’t work – and it can damage the plate. Also, keep the adapter plates stored somewhere safe so you don’t lose them!
Soil plugs will come out of the tube fairly easily when you turn it upside-down. But if you dent the tube, you’ll have difficulty emptying it. It’s a pretty heavy-duty tool so it doesn’t dent easily (we smashed it against the edge of the deck and on stone steps, all without any apparent damage to the tube) – but still, we don’t recommend knocking it against hard objects.
There have been some reviews online about the foot pegs breaking off. As it turns out, that was an issue with the earlier version of the ProPlugger. The manufacturer has totally redesigned the foot pegs using both thicker and taller (deeper) material and it has passed stress testing in excess of 380 lbs (on each peg) with no signs of stress. So jump on it all you want – the foot pegs won’t break off.
Don’t use a branch or stick to push soil out of the tube; you’re likely to scratch the inside surface (which will make it even harder to get the soil out) or jam the soil into the tube. Instead, use a strong jet of water to loosen the dirt and clean out the inside of the tube.
- Soil sampling
- Planting annuals
- Plugging creeping grass lawns
- Weeding, especially for hard-to-remove weeds with taproots or bulbs
We give the ProPlugger a 4-shovel rating. It works well as a bulb planter but is a little heavy and it can be unwieldy to constantly turn it up-side-down to remove the soil plugs (especially when you’re planting in tight quarters, such as between shrubs). We do like that it’s made in America – too few tools are made here these days.
Where to Buy It
The ProPlugger bulb planter, as well as adapter plates and accessories, can be purchased directly from the company or for the same price from Amazon.
- Long-Handled Bulb Planter from Joseph Bentley
- How to Plant and Grow Bulbs
Disclaimer: We received a free ProPlugger XL to test and review for the Gardening Products Review. There was no expectation that it would be a positive review, and we received no compensation for writing the review.
Please note that the Amazon link above is an Amazon affiliate link. Should you choose to purchase ProPlugger products through this link, GPR will make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps to support this website and our gardening product reviews. Thank you!