Planting bare root plants

How to Plant Bare Root Trees

Step by Step

1. Unpack your trees, remove all packing materials, carefully untangle the roots and soak the roots in water 3 to 6 hours. Do not allow the roots to dry out.

2. Dig a hole, wider than seems necessary, so the roots can grow outward without crowding. Remove any grass within a 3-foot circular area. To aid root growth, turn soil in an area up to 3 feet in diameter.

3. Plant the tree at the same depth it stood in the nursery, with plenty of room for the roots. Partially fill the hole, firming the soil around the lower roots. Do not add soil amendments such as peat or bark. Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your new trees.

4. Shovel in the remaining soil. It should be firmly but not tightly packed. Construct a water-holding basin around the tree. Give the tree plenty of water.

5. After the water has soaked in, spread protective mulch two inches deep in a 3-foot diameter area around the base of the tree, but not touching the trunk.

6. The soil and mulch around your trees should be kept moist but not soggy. During dry weather, generously water the tree every 7 to 10 days during the first year. Water slowly at the dripline.

Members: Important Notes For Planting Your 10 Free Trees.

Planting Location: To give your trees the best start, we recommend planting in a protected area with worked-up soil such as a garden. After 1 to 2 years, simply transplant to the permanent location when the trees are dormant.

Signs of Dormancy: Plant or transplant your trees when they are dormant. In fall: after the leaves have dropped or, on evergreen trees, when light-brown clusters form on the top. In early spring: before leaves or new growth appear.

Carefully Separate Your Trees: There will be more than one tree in your package. Remove the plastic bag around the roots and the twist tie holding your trees together. Separate your trees, carefully untangling the roots. Please note that the roots have been covered with a hydrating gel which keeps them moist during shipment.

Depth and Distance of Holes: Measure the roots of each tree. Dig one hole for each tree 1 foot wide and 1 inch deeper than the roots. Holes should be 2-1/2 feet apart.

Fertilizer? Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your baby trees. Such products will kill your young trees.

Watering: Keeping your baby trees watered is important during their first year. Keep the soil and mulch moist but not soggy. In dry weather, you should water generously every 7 to 10 days. The water should soak into the soil and mulch. Avoid watering so much that you see standing water.

Protection: We recommend putting a fence (such as chicken wire) around your trees if your site is a feeding ground for rabbits, deer, or other wildlife.

Phillip holding freshly dug bareroot Snow Fountains® Flowering Cherry

We are somewhat biased about planting bareroot trees. Correction, we are passionately biased about you planting bareroot trees. Since 1944 we have been growing bareroot trees and helping nurseries, landscapers, farmers, municipalities and of course homeowners to have great success planting those bareroot trees and shrubs.

Today, planting bareroot trees is unfamiliar to many homeowners. It was not always so. In the old days, before plastic buckets existed, trees were planted bareroot. Everyone planted either bareroot trees or trees dug out with dirt on the roots held in place by burlap (ball and burlap). So Bareroot goes back eons – that was how you transplanted trees and why most trees were only available during the winter dormant season to buy and plant. (Historical side note: Before plastic arrived on the scene, some trees were initially canned in “Tin Cans” when we scavenged old 5 gallon lard cans from restaurants – hence where term “canned” was derived and “gallons” became the measurement for canning trees).

So if your grandparents and great grandparents could be successful planting bareroot in the “dark ages”, you can be successful too in the internet age.

Speaking of internet – it is full of great helpful articles and videos on how to plant bareroot so I see not need to create another one.

Here are a few:

The Beauty of Planting Bareroot Trees (

I like how this author not only shows and tells how to plant a bareroot tree, but also give the advantages and disadvantages of bareroot. (Spoiler: the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages)

How To Buy The Best Bare-Root Trees, Shrubs and Roses (

And another from the Weekend Gardener site: How to Plant Bareroot Trees and Shrubs.

Each step is expailned and has photos to go with it. Only correction I would make is step 12. After you water it in, it does NOT need any more watering until there are leaves on it. See bottom of this page on the topic of watering.

Gardening 101: How To Plant Bare Roots (

I like her intro sentence: “Planting bare roots is one of the many gardening techniques that seem scary and very difficult when you first begin, but then become so easy you have no idea why you hadn’t done it before! Seriously, it is actually easier than planting a potted plant”. She happens to use berries as her example and then says why trees are just like it.

Cornel University: Creating the Urban Forest – the Bareroot Method

This is a little more geared toward the Municipality staff that do larger projects. Planting a tree or two in the yard is much easier than this.

Two Common Errors to Avoid

There are a lot of very good articles on the internet how to plant bareroot. But many of them repeat one or two errors that should not be done.

1) Soaking trees before planting. NO! – do not do any more than dipping. Too many sites say to leave it in the water for hours on end (some say overnight or even days). Roots need oxygen. How does your skin look if left soaking in a tub for hours on end? Since the roots have stored up starches and sugars, think of them as a sugar cube that will start dissolving if left in too long.

Yes – dipping the roots of a tree into a bucket of water is fine (even better, some say, with a root stimulant – but that is debated). I usually just spray the roots gently before planting so the soil sticks to the roots.

2) Watering after initial planting. NO! We have a simple rule: Once the tree was planted and soaked in well so the soil settles around the roots – not not water again until there are leaves on the tree. All the roots need is some dampness during dormancy which is already in the hole. The tree uses no water until there are leaves to pull the water up for transpiration. Even though the soil may feel dry after a few weeks (or even months) down 2-3 inches, the soil at the root level will still be moist. The exception might be if the surrounding soil was so bone dry to start with that it took the moisture away. If the soil had some moisture when you dug the hole, it will still be moist for many weeks after planting and soaking in the tree.

Think of it this way: Those dormant trees in the forests are only watered by mother nature and do not need any extra human hose or sprinkler watering. It is the same with your newly planted tree. I dare you to try to kill the tree by not watering it . It will thrive if you leave it alone until it feafs out.

Hope this helps you with the fascination and enjoyment of planting your personal world.

Bare Root Planting – How To Plant A Bare Root Plant

At the end of a harsh winter, most gardeners start to feel the itch to dig their hands in loose soil and grow something beautiful. To ease this desire for warm, sunny days and lush green plants, many of us start planning our gardens and perusing online nurseries or plant catalogs. With spring deals and low online prices, it’s easy to fill up your shopping cart. Those who are new to gardening or online shopping may not think to check the product details to see if the plants are shipped in pots or bare root. What are bare root plants? Continue reading for that answer, as well as information on bare root plant care.

About Bare Root Planting

When shopping online, what you see is not always what you get. Online nurseries and plant catalogs display pictures of full, established plants, but in the product or shipping details it will usually state if these plants are shipped bare root or in containers with soil. Low shipping costs usually indicate that the plants are bare root because these are much less expensive to ship.

Bare root plants are dormant perennials, shrubs or trees. These plants are grown in normal nurseries, but then dug up while dormant. They are then prepared and packaged to be shipped directly to the

customer or garden centers, or stored in refrigerator units until it is time to ship them.

They are usually wrapped with sphagnum moss or sawdust around the roots to retain moisture. Bare root plants from reputable nurseries are usually only shipped, depending on the type of plant, in fall, late winter or early spring when they are expected to be planted upon delivery.

How to Plant a Bare Root Plant

Bare root plants should be planted in cool weather from fall through spring, depending on your hardiness zone and the type of plant. If you receive bare root plants at a time when you cannot plant them in the garden, be sure to keep the roots moist until you can plant them.

You can do this by moistening the packaging material or by wrapping the roots in wet paper towel or cloth. Storing the bare root plants in the fridge can also help preserve them until it is time to plant them. Some gardeners may also choose to temporarily plant them in containers until they can safely be planted in the garden.

When planting bare roots, it is important to dig the hole before unwrapping the bare roots from whatever moisture retaining material they are in. They should not be exposed to air or allowed to dry out.

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate all the roots without bending or breaking any, then mound up soil in the center of the hole in a cone shape. The center of the roots and plant crown will sit on this cone and the roots will hang down the sides.

Next, fill an appropriate sized container with water, then gently unwrap the roots and place in the water to soak for an hour or two.

Before placing the bare root plant in the hole, trim off any dead roots, but do not trim off any living roots. Then place the plant in the hole so that the plant crown will be just above the soil level. You may have to mound up more soil to achieve this. Spread the roots around and down the cone shaped mound of soil.

While holding the plant in place, back fill the hole, lightly tamping down the soil every inch or two to keep the roots and plants in place. Note: Bare root trees may need to be staked for the first year to hold them in place.

Water the plant well after planting. Bare root plants should leaf out the first season that they are planted.

Plants to plant bare-root

November to March is the ideal time to plant bare-root plants. These are plants that have been been grown in open ground, then dug up for despatch and planting during the dormant season. They are called ‘bare-root’ plants as they are supplied with no soil around their roots. They are usually bought online, or by mail order.


Bare-root plants are generally cheaper than plants grown in containers, and you’ll often find a wider selection of varieties this way. Planting them in the dormant season means that they should establish well – while the top growth may be brown and twiggy, the roots are busy establishing beneath.

All kinds of plants can be supplied bare-root, from trees to perennials. Find out more below.

Bare-root plants are generally cheaper than plants grown in containers,
and you’ll often find a wider selection of varieties this way.


Winter is the ideal time to plant a bare-root tree – you’ll find a wide selection at tree nurseries or online. Be sure to mulch and stake afterwards. Watch Monty’s video guide to planting a bare-root tree.

A crab apple tree covered in bright red fruit


Planting a hedge is much more economical if you buy bare-root plants and while not ‘instant’, they will knit together quickly. It’s a great way to plant beech, hornbeam or an ‘edible hedge’ made up of a mix of edible plants such as blackthorn, cherry plum and Rosa rugosa. Read our guide to planting a bare-root hedge.

A neatly trimmed beech hedge


You can buy container-grown roses all year round, but for the best selection, it pays to plant them bare-root. They will establish quickly and you should enjoy flowers the following summer. Find out how to plant a bare-root rose.

Pink-cream rose blooms


Many perennials can be planted bare-root. Peonies in particular are best planted this way, although you can also plant agapanthus, hardy geraniums and a host of other plants. Discover 10 perennials to plant bare-root.

Peach bloom of Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’

Fruit bushes and canes

The dormant season is also the ideal time to plant fruit – especially if you are planting lots of plants – it’s much more economical and you’ll get the widest pick of varieties. Follow our advice on planting bare-root raspberries and bare-root blackcurrants.

Ripening and ripe raspberries on a cane

Fruit trees

You’ll find the widest selection of fruit trees – if you buy them bare-root – apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricots can all be bought this way. You can also buy bare-root stepovers, espaliers and cordons. Discover how to plant a bare-root fruit tree.

Advertisement Blossom on an apple tree


Shrubs can also be planted bare-root. Willow, yew, Rosa rugosa and viburnum are just some of the shrubs that can be planted this way. Watch our video guide to planting a bare-root shrub.

Orange, round hips of Rosa rugosa

Caring for a bare-root plant

It is essential that the roots of a bare-root plant don’t dry out. Be sure to soak the roots in winter as soon as you receive your plants. If you can’t plant immediately – if the soil is frozen, for example – heel them in until the weather improves.

Planting Bare Rooted Plants

How to Plant Bare root plants

Although this note is aimed mainly at planting hedging, all bare rooted plants whether they are seedlings, shrubs, soft fruit, fruit trees or large ornamental trees need the same basic treatment before, during and after planting. Follow these simple instructions and they will establish well.

By the way, this guide is for those who like words. If you prefer pictures, please watch one of our planting videos.

1. Water/Moisture

Bare root plants cannot stand their roots drying out. Once dry, they will at best struggle and at worst die. A little bit like finding a man who has died of thirst in the Sahara; all the cool spring water in the world will not bring him back to life. So it is with plant roots; they store nourishment which is used to regenerate themselves when transplanted, fuel growth in spring, survive droughts and fight disease. As the roots dry out, that nourishment is lost and cannot be replaced. Dry roots mean dead trees. At the same time they need to breathe and with very few exceptions, putting them in a bucket of water and leaving them there will kill them about as quickly as their drying out. So:

On receipt open the packaging carefully and put your hand down inside the bag(s). If the roots feel damp you need to do nothing for the time being. Keep them in the bag and check them daily – take the plants out and dunk the roots in a bucket of water for 10-15 seconds if they feel as if they are drying out and then put them back in the bag.

Until planting, store the plants in their bags in a cool place out of the sun and out of the wind.

On planting day have a bucket of water by you as you plant. Keep the plants in the bag and take them out one bundle at a time (or several bundles if you are planting a mixed hedge). Put the bundle(s) into the bucket so the roots are in the water. Cut the string/cable ties holding the bundles together. Then take one plant at a time from the bucket and plant it. Its roots should go into the ground sopping wet.

2. Planting depth in the soil

The single biggest cause of planting failure with bare root stock is that the plants are inserted TOO DEEP into the ground. While tree bark is wonderfully good at resisting animal and insect attack, it can rot quickly when in contact with the soil. When this happens, the flow of sap to the upper parts of the plant is cut off and the tree dies. Quickly. Therefore when planting:

Look for the root collar on each plant. Technically this is identified by a bulge in the trunk just above the roots. Practically the easiest way of seeing it is to look for the “high water mark” left by the ground where the plant was growing before it was lifted. When the planting is finished the surrounding soil should be no higher than the root collar. A good mistake is to plant too shallow. A serious one is to plant too deep.

3. Firming the plant in the ground

Be firm. Roots need to be in contact with the surrounding soil to grow, and plants need support from the surrounding soil to prevent them being rocked by the wind. Take a look at our planting films to see how firmly a professional sets his plants.

4. Aftercare

This one is simple. Keep the weeds away and make sure the roots have enough water. Watering heavily every few days in a dry spring is much better than watering a little every day. Once the ground is soaked, it stays moist for weeks at a time.

Tags: planting hedging bareroot bare root planting bareroot plants

How to plant, grow and care for bare root hedging, shrubs and trees

Many deciduous shrubs, trees and hedging plants, along with some evergreens, are available as bare root plants whilst they’re dormant between November and March. Despite the dormancy, the roots will quietly establish and grow away below ground, ready to fuel a fabulous display of flowers and foliage once the soil warms up in the spring. There are several benefits of buying bare root plants compared to their containerised counter-parts:

Advantages of Bare Root Plants

  • Environmentally friendly – shipped without plastic pots
  • Better value for money than containerised plants
  • Quicker to establish as roots are in direct contact with soil

Drawbacks of Bare Root Plants

  • Planting time limited to November – March

When to plant bare root plants

Bare root plants can be planted any time during the November to March dormancy period providing you’ve not got icy or snowy conditions, the ground is not waterlogged and it’s not excessively windy. Ideally, if the conditions permit, bare root shrubs and trees should be planted as soon as possible after taking delivery. If this is not feasible, you’ll need to care for your bare root plants for a number of days before they’re ready to go into the ground.

Don’t plant bare root when:

  • Ice or snow on the ground. Why? Ice stays frozen for months once buried which will slow the establishment of the root system and at worst kill your plant.
  • Ground is waterlogged. Why? Wet ground can lead to compaction, inhibiting root growth.
  • Very windy days. Why? The wind can dry out bare root plants very quickly before you get them into the ground.

Caring for bare root shrubs before you’re ready to plant

Before shipping your bare root plants we’ll give the roots a dunk in water for an hour to ensure the plants are well hydrated before they leave us. We’ll then secure a plastic bag around the roots to prevent evaporation before tying together the stems and foliage to avoid damage in the post.

When you take delivery of your plants:

  1. Store them in a cool, dry, frost-free place that’s protected from the wind until you’re ready to plant – a shed, garage or outbuilding is ideal (but not a greenhouse).
  2. If you’re not planting immediately remove the plants from the packaging and dunk the roots in a bucket of tepid water for an hour. Don’t keep the roots in water for too long – any more than 2 hours and they’ll drown.
  3. If the delay in planting will be more than a couple of days, temporarily pot them up using a good quality compost or ‘heal in’ your plants by digging an angled trench, covering the roots with loose soil and keeping moist. Plants that have been ‘heeled in’ can be kept like that for a couple of weeks and sometimes longer, depending on the weather.

Digging the planting hole

  • Before you start digging, remove all weeds from in and around your planting area. Weeds will compete for moisture and nutrients that would otherwise be available for your new plants.
  • Dig an area no deeper than the roots but ideally 2-3 times the diameter for the root system in the shape of a square or rectangle. If in doubt, 2 foot by 2 foot (60cm by 60cm) for shrubs and 3 foot by 3 foot (1 metre by 1 metre) for trees and to a spade’s depth in both cases is a good size. A square rather than circular hole encourages roots to break out of the artificial boundary of the planting hole, preventing them from circling in on themselves particularly if you have a clay soil made slick by your spade.
  • Leave a cone of undisturbed soil in the centre of the hole. Adjust the height of the cone so that the “high tide mark” left from the soil at the nursery (where the trunk meets the roots) will sit at soil level with the roots spreading downwards. Loosen the remaining soil at the base and sides of the hole to help the roots develop.
  • If you’re planting a full border, cultivate the whole area, rather than digging individual holes.
  • For more invasive varieties in smaller gardens, consider restricting the growth of the root system using a copper-lined root-control bag. This will significantly reduce the eventual height and spread of your plants without impairing their ability to draw moisture and nutrients from the immediately surrounding soil.

Planting your bare root plants

  • If you’re plants have been healed in or temporarily potted in compost for more than a couple of days, dunk the root system in a bucket of water again before planting, ideally letting it soak for 20-30 minutes. Once complete, put the roots back into their plastic bag and take out to the planting location.
  • Keep your plants in the bag and take them out one at a time as you’re ready to plant. Remove any dead or damaged roots from each plant using a pair of sharp secateurs.
  • If you have it, sprinkle a light dusting of Rootgrow (mycorrhizal planting powder) onto the roots whilst they’re wet. The mycorrhizal fungi forms associations with plant roots, significantly improving nutrient uptake, accelerating the establishment of your plants and making them more resilient to stressful environments.
  • Lift your bare root plant by the crown (where the roots meet the stem) and spread the roots over the soil cone. You’ll want to plant at the same level as the “high tide” mark left from the soil at the nursery. This can be identified by a bulge in the trunk just above the roots.
  • If unsure, it’s better to plant a little too shallow than too deep. Planting too deep risks the crown of your plant rotting and becoming diseased, preventing sap from reaching the stems and leading to failure. Planting too deep is the second most common cause of bare root plant failure after lack of water. Planting a little too shallow is not normally terminal, although planting excessively shallow will leave the roots exposed and vulnerable to drying out.
  • Never bend the roots to fit the planting pit. If it’s not large enough to fit the whole root mass without any roots being bent, broken or emerging from the surface, take out your plant and dig the hole deeper or wider.


  • The latest guidance is not to alter the backfill for most soils – i.e. do not build in compost or organic matter. This is because if the backfill soil is materially better/richer than the surrounding area, an establishing root system is less likely to venture out of the improved ground, restricting your plant’s growth.
  • It’s still worth removing stones, weed roots and other unwanted rubbish. If you have a particularly poor, shallow or thick clay soil we’d still recommend some soil improvement to help your plant cope with the harsh conditions.

  • For sticky clay soils where the planting area lies wet, build in about 25% by volume of 50/50 compost and sharp sand or lime free coarse grit into the backfill mixture and plant in raised domes to improve drainage. Avoid adding too much organic matter at the base of the planting hole as this will decompose and may cause the plant to sink.
  • As you backfill, press soil around and between the roots to eliminate air pockets where frost could form. Giving your plant a little shake will help the soil filter around the roots.
  • For larger bare root shrubs or trees, back-fill half way then give your plant a good water to allow the soil to settle and help fill in any air pockets, before back-filling with the remaining half of the soil.
  • Firm down the soil around your plant with your boot, again to eliminate air pockets. Don’t stamp but use your full weight to secure the ground. Plants need the support of the surrounding soil to prevent being ‘swayed’ by the wind and roots need to be in contact with the surrounding soil to grow.

Feeding and Mulching

  • Add bonemeal to your soil to provide essential minerals that promote sturdy root systems and stimulate plant growth. Weigh out the bone meal as per the instructions on the box – it is strong and can “burn” your plants if excessive quantities come into direct contact with the roots, so do not overdose. Sprinkle over the planting hole and then gently mix into the first inch (2.5cm) of soil around the roots.
  • It’s now time to give your plant a good thorough watering. For large shrubs and trees, you may wish to construct a 3-4 inch (10cm) high ridge of soil around the edge of your planting hole to create a watering basin. This will hold irrigation water and concentrate it over the roots. Water the basin and allow the water to sink into the ground, repeating several times to ensure even the lower parts of the root system are fully watered. Obviously, the bigger the plant, the more water you will need.
  • Apply a 2 inch (5cm) layer of mulch such as bark or straw around the base of your plant, leaving a gap to prevent the mulch from making contact with and rotting the stems. This will aid water retention by preventing evaporation from the soil surface, as well as acting as a barrier to weeds and protecting the roots from ice and snow.

Staking taller trees

  • Stake top-heavy and larger specimens, particularly if they’ll be exposed to the prevailing wind. If in doubt we recommend airing on the side of caution and using a stake. Our stake and tie planting kit is a good choice.
  • Install a stake on the side of the prevailing wind before you’ve back-filled the hole. Use a mallet to knock it in securely, off-centre in the planting hole. This will mean the tree is blown away from, rather than onto the stake, to prevent it from rubbing and causing damage to the trunk.
  • Tighten the tree tie with the buckle on the opposite side of the stake to the tree, leaving a little growing space but sufficiently tight that you’re tree does not jiggle around excessively. Always use the rubber spacer to prevent the tree from rubbing against the stake and causing damage.
  • When you’re happy with the position of the tree tie, secure it to the stake with a nail or screw to stop it slipping.
  • If necessary in your area, protect bare root trees from rabbit and deer damage using a tree guard or chicken wire.


  • The most common cause of failure for bare root plants is inadequate watering during the first year. Plant roots store nourishment which is used to regenerate themselves when relocated, survive droughts, fight disease and fuel growth in spring. As the roots dry out, that nourishment is lost and cannot be replaced.
  • If there is no rainfall for more than a couple of days during hot summers or even dry, windy spring days, you’ll need to give your bare root plants a thorough dousing of water. The required amount depends on the soil type but you can use 30-50 litres (4-6 watering cans) per square metre per week during dry summer weather as a guide.
  • A thorough watering every 2-3 days is preferable to a lighter splash every day as it will encourage your plants to develop a deeper, more extensive root system, helping them become self-sufficient more quickly.
  • If you’re unsure and want to check the level of soil moisture, dig a narrow 4 inch (10cm) hole just outside the rooting area of your plant and see if the soil is dry at the bottom.
  • Always water in the evening so it’s not evaporated by the sun. You can also spray the foliage of new evergreen plants during very hot weather.


  • Remember that bare root plants will stay in their dormant phase until April and you won’t see any signs of growth above ground until this time.
  • It’s important new plants don’t have to compete for water and nutrients, so keep the planting area clear of weeds, particularly during the first 2-3 years of establishment by hoeing, using a mulching mat or systemic weed killers.
  • Watch out for slugs and snails in the spring, particularly during wet weather. Use crushed egg shells or wildlife friendly slug repellent if necessary to protect your plants.
  • In windy locations, trees and top-heavy shrubs may be “rocked” by the wind, opening air pockets close to the roots which are vulnerable to frost and drying winds. Check your plants after windy weather and firm back in if required. Ideally shelter evergreens from drying winds during their first season using windbreak netting.
  • An annual mulch or feed of slow release fertiliser can be helpful to maintain vigour and encourage flowering plants to shine come blooming time, particularly for closely planted bare root hedging that’s competing for nutrients. However, avoid applying a fertiliser containing phosphorus during the first growing season if you’ve applied Rootgrow/mycorrhizal planting powder to the roots at planting time as the phosphorus can suppress the fungus.
  • Check tree ties in May and September and loosen if required to prevent the stem from becoming constricted. Stakes can be removed after 2 growing seasons as the roots will have established sufficiently to anchor the tree after this time.

Choosing your bare root plants

Some of the most popular hedging choices are Common Beech, Common Yew and Hawthorn. Choose holly plants in 9cm pots if you’re looking for a spiky, impenetrable intruder-proof screen; Sorbus Aucuparia for white flowers and red berries (deciduous); or box hedging if you want something that’s slow growing, long lived and looks smart when kept well-clipped. We’ve given a brief selection of some of our favourites below but you may prefer to buy bare root plants from our full range.

Bare Root Hedging

Box Hedging Plants

Holly Hedging Plants

Laurel Hedging Plants

Bare Root Trees

Beech Trees

Scots Pine Trees

Common Yew Trees

Bare Root Shrubs

Cornus Flaviramea

Rosa Rugosa

Sambucus Nigra

Video Guide to planting bare root hedging, shrubs and trees:

The Advantages of Planting Bare Root Plants

Have you ever been shocked to find that the tree or shrub you ordered showed up to your door completely naked? Don’t be! This is what we call a bare root plant, and they come with a number of advantages over their potted and balled-and-burlapped (B&B) counterparts.

The most obvious advantage? Bare root plants cost less! They are cost saving to the merchants, who pass these savings on to you. Because their packaging is lightweight and stackable, shipping them is a breeze. Potted and B&B plants must be handled carefully, because their heavy, soil-laden roots can make messes or even cause damage. Bare root plants don’t have this problem. Furthermore, the lighter packaging means less fuel is needed to transport bare root plants. That’s not only cost-saving, but eco-friendly, too!

Speaking of eco-friendliness, bare root plants have other environmental advantages. Their root bundles tend to be larger and more robust than those shipped in soil. This helps them get established quicker and grow faster.

When planting your new tree or shrub, bare roots make it easy. Potted or B&B plants are heavier than bare root plants. With bare roots, you don’t have to worry about handling a heavy container of soil. You simply spread the roots and plant them in the earth. Nearly any tree or shrub can be produced as a bare root specimen, including bare root fruit trees.

It’s Dormant, Not Dead

The leafless, naked look results from uprooting the plant during its natural dormant season. This is why they are most widely available from autumn to mid-spring. Uprooting the plants while they are dormant takes advantage of the natural hardiness they employ to combat winter weather.

When your bare root plant arrives, you should try to plant it as soon as possible. Make sure to keep the roots shaded and moist until they are in the ground; it’s important that they don’t dry out. Prior to planting, soak the roots for 1-24 hours (in the shade!) to ensure that they are supple and give the plant a head start.

After soaking, spread the roots out and prune off any damage. Next, dig a hole with rough edges. It should be big enough to accommodate the expanded root bundle without overcrowding it. If it’s a bare root shrub, backfill it, water copiously, fortify with mulch, and you’re done. If it’s a bare root tree, follow the steps for alignment like you would with any other tree. Keep it vertical while backfilling, water copiously, and then you may want to steady it until it gets established. Two or three stakes around the tree securing it with soft rope should do the trick.

Planting bare root plants is not so different from planting potted or B&B plants, but the results can be remarkably advantageous. They settle in fast and grow quickly. And the cost cutting and environmental impact are worth it on their own. Plant bare root material with confidence. Give them time to wake up from the dormancy, and water them well the first season to get them established in your landscape. Enjoy!

You could start with a pip, I guess, but it’s a long fruition, thus if you want to plant a tree, perhaps the simplest and by far the cheapest way is to buy one with bare roots. Bare-root perennials, shrubs and trees can be up to half the price of their potted counterparts. They are particularly economical for hedging, orchards and other mass plantings. For fruit trees, there’s always more variety on offer than potted trees.

They are sold from late autumn to early spring, when the plants are dormant and don’t mind being uprooted for a little while. We’re coming up to the last moment to order. They are sold naked, no pot, no soil, just the twigs above and the roots below. This means they are easier to post. Less packaging, less plastic, less freight weight makes them a more environmental choice, too. You tend to get slightly bigger plants, particularly in perennials, and despite what appears to be a brutal method, sending them out unclothed, they are known to establish easily. From their perspective they weren’t out of sorts for long. They went from soil to soil in a dream-like state.

If your plants arrive in the post, unpack them immediately and ideally get them into the ground that day or the next. However, you might not be able to do this. Bare-root plants are tough, but they cannot be planted in the ground if it’s very wet or frozen. Thus you might need plan B and even plan C, if you have to wait more than a few days to plant. Plan B is to soak the plants in warm water for 30 minutes after unpacking. Drain them and leave somewhere cool but frost-free, a shed, say. If you have hessian sacking you could loosely wrap this around the roots, likewise if the plant came packed in straw, keep this and pack it back loosely around the roots. If your plants came in a bundle, take them apart, inspect them and then bundle them up again. The trick here to make sure the plants don’t dry out: anything that will keep them damp helps, but they cannot sit in a bucket of water.

Plan C, if the weather sets in, is to temporarily pot them up. Use a tub trug, keep them in a bundle and cover them loosely with compost. The compost should remain moist; they can be stored this way for several weeks, if the weather allows. If it warms up and it’s late in the season, they will break dormancy and will not like being stored in this way for more than a few days.

Before planting, soak them in water for half an hour. The soil should be well prepared. Add homemade compost (it doesn’t need to be dug in first) grit and mulch with more compost or bark to keep weeds down and moisture locked into the soil. Bare root plants will not thrive if they dry out in their first few months, particularly if we have another dry, hot April this year.

What is Bare Root?

Let’s get down to the root of the issue – pun intended ;). Bare root means that the plant has not been potted; instead, plants are harvested from their growing beds in the fall and the soil is removed from their roots. They are then bundled and kept dormant in cool warehouses until they are ready to be shipped to us beginning in late January.

When they arrive at the nursery, we cover the roots in sawdust to keep them moist and prevent them from drying out. Bare-root plants are ready to be planted immediately into the garden or into a permanent container while they are still dormant.

Why Bare Root?

They may look kind of funny now, but there are many advantages to choosing bare root.

Optimal Growth. Bare-root plants can more quickly acclimate to new soil conditions when planted and get a vigorous head start on growing. The roots are placed directly in contact with native soil upon planting and the plant can start building a strong root system right away, before they have to deal with producing leaves and flowers.

Great Value. Many of the trees and shrubs available in bare root are already good-sized plants. Because they can be efficiently harvested, stored, and shipped, we are able to offer them at great savings. Buying bare root is extremely advantageous whether you need a large quantity of plants for a big landscaping project or just a few plants for your garden.

Amazing Selection. Our selection – especially of fruit – is at its very best for the entire year. Do you dream of planting an Asian pear tree? Grapes? Currants? Blueberries? All of the above? We now have plants and varieties that may not be available at other times.

This is also the time to find espaliered fruit trees, those lovely tiered trees that look so charming growing along a fence or garden wall.

Planting Bare-Root Shrubs and Trees

Bare-root plants are sold in late winter and early spring by retail nurseries and mail-order companies. Many deciduous plants are available this way, including fruit and shade trees, flowering shrubs, roses, grapes, and cane fruits.

Though venturing out in the cold and wet of winter to set out bare-root plants takes a certain amount of determination and effort, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Bare-root plants typically cost only 40 to 70% as much as the same plants purchased in containers later in the year; beyond that, they usually establish more quickly and grow better initially than containerized plants. This faster growth is in part due to the fact that, when you set out a bare-root plant, you refill the planting hole with soil dug from that hole–and the plant’s roots thus grow in just one kind of soil. When you plant a containerized or balled-and-burlapped plant, on the other hand, you put two soils, usually with different textures, in contact with each other. The presence of two differing soil types side by side can make it difficult for water to penetrate uniformly into the rooting area.

If you’re buying from a local nursery, select bare-root shrubs or trees with strong stems and fresh-looking, well-formed root systems. Avoid those with slimy roots or dry, withered ones; also reject any that have already leafed out.

It’s best to plant bare-root plants as soon as possible after purchase. If bad weather prevents immediate planting, heel in the plants by laying them in a temporary trench dug in a shady spot in the garden and covering the roots with moist soil. Before planting, soak the roots overnight in a bucket of water. Just before planting, cut off any damaged roots.

The planting hole

To plant trees and shrubs, dig a planting hole with sides that taper outward into the soil. Make the hole at least twice as wide as the roots of the plant. Roughen the sides with a spading fork; if the sides are smooth, it can be difficult for roots to penetrate the soil.

To keep the plant from settling too much after planting and watering, make the hole a bit shallower than the root ball or root system, then dig deeper around the edges of the hole’s bottom. This leaves a firm plateau of undug soil to support the plant at the proper depth.

In areas with heavy clay soil or hardpan, a wider hole will give the roots more growing space. Once the hole is dug, you’re ready to set in the plants.

Planting steps

1. Make a firm cone of soil in the planting hole. Spread the roots over the cone, positioning the plant at the same depth as (or slightly higher than) it was in the growing field. Use a shovel handle or yardstick to check the depth.

2. Hold the plant upright as you firm soil around its roots. When backfilling is almost complete, add water. This settles the soil around the roots, eliminating any air pockets. If the plant settles below the level of the surrounding soil, pump it up and down while the soil is saturated to raise it to the proper level.

3. Finish filling the hole with soil; then water again. Take care not to overwater while the plant is still dormant, since soggy soil may inhibit the formation of new roots. When the growing season begins, make a ridge of soil around the hole to form a watering basin; water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry.

Bare-Root Trees & Shrubs

Trees and shrubs bought by mail order are often shipped with bare roots and arrive in late winter while still dormant. Deciduous plants have bare branches, their leaves having dropped the previous autumn. Evergreens have their foliage, but they’re also in their rest period. All the soil is washed off their roots, typically wrapped in moist, shredded paper, moss, or sawdust for shipment. This way, they’re easy and relatively inexpensive to ship. Bare-root plants tend to be very young and therefore smaller than those sold in containers or balled and burlapped. They’re less expensive, and many more varieties are available through specialty mail-order sources.

Keep plant roots moist if you’ll be delaying planting. Keep them wrapped and stored in a cool, dark place. Several hours before planting, unwrap the roots and set the plant in a container of tepid water so that its roots are immersed. Be careful not to damage the roots. The tiny root hairs are important because they will spearhead the growth in the soil. Once planted and watered, bare-root plants need less water than others until they leaf out. Delay fertilizing until they produce stems and foliage growth.

Learn more about planting trees and shrubs.

Planting Depth

Planting depth is critically important when you plant trees and shrubs. Regardless of whether they’re bare-root, containerized, or balled-and-burlapped, don’t plant them too deeply. Check often while positioning them in the hole to assure that the root flare — where the roots begin at the base of the stems or trunk — is visible at or above ground level.

Heeling In

Image zoom Heeling in nursery stock.

Sometimes it’s impossible to plant bare-root nursery stock promptly. Heeling it in — a sort of temporary planting — assures that the roots stay moist and protected during the delay. Dig a trench or slot in the soil or in a pile of leaves, mulch, or compost. Then set the tree or shrub so its roots lay in it. Cover the roots with soil or compost in a loose heap and wet it down thoroughly. You can keep plants heeled in for up to three months.

What You Need:

  • Garden gloves
  • Shovel or spade
  • Bare-root plant
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Mulch


Image zoom Step 1.

1. Dig a hole that accommodates the roots when you spread them out. Make it deep enough so the soil mark — it’s probably still visible on the stem — ends up level with the soil surface.

Image zoom Step 2.

2. Unwrap the roots carefully and gently rinse off any sawdust, moss, or debris so they’re bare. Cleanly clip off any dead rootlets, and cut broken ones back to healthy tissue.

Image zoom Step 3.

3. Soak the roots in a bucket of tepid water for several hours so they can take up water. The more hydrated the plant’s tissues are, the better it can handle the planting process.

Image zoom Step 4.

4. Press loose soil at the bottom of the hole into a cone to support the root system. Make it high enough so the roots drape freely and the plant crown is level with the soil surface.

Image zoom Step 5.

5. Cut away any broken or dead stems. Unless the shipping and planting instructions specifically tell you to cut away a portion of healthy top growth, don’t prune anything more.

Image zoom Step 6.

6. Set the plant crown — where the roots join the stem — over the soil cone and drape the roots evenly over its sides. Make sure the soil mark on the stem or trunk is at or above ground level.

Image zoom Step 7.

7. Fill the hole with the soil removed from digging. Pour water into the half-filled hole to help reduce air bubbles, settle the roots in position, and indicate if you need to adjust the depth.

Image zoom Step 8.

8. Add the remainder of the fill soil up to ground level. Firm it gently over the root zone to support the plant. Press soil into a ridge to create a shallow reservoir to hold water.

Image zoom Step 9.

9. Water again to settle the soil. Mulch with a 2- to 3-inch layer of chopped leaves or aged wood chips over the root zone. This will discourage weeds and keep the soil moist. Don’t fertilize now.

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