January 21, 2023
Here is a quick informative article on what bare root plants are, and how to be sure your bare root tree has the best opportunity to grow into a beautiful specimen!
So, what ARE ‘bare root’ plants?
Bare root plants are not actively growing-they are dormant. These are plants that are dug up while dormant and stored with little to no soil around the roots. They may be kept refrigerated until it is time to ship them. This ensures they stay dormant until they are ready to plant.
This system works very well for most trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennials. Bare root plants are also great for the consumer, as bare root plants weigh less and are easier (and cheaper!) to ship, saving you money on your purchase!
Once you get the plant into the ground or pot and add water, the plant will come out of dormancy and begin to grow again. This can take time, so be patient! Some may take a few weeks, and others may need a few months, depending on the type of bare root plant or tree.
How can I tell if my bare root plant is alive?
This is a great question, as you will literally receive a brown stem with some brown roots, sometimes placed in a bag with a small amount of soil. Dormant bare root plants might not look like they are alive if you haven’t dealt with these types of plants before. So here are a few good tips:
Ok, I have my bare root plant, now how do I get it to grow?
If you have received your plant before the last frost (in more northern zones) and you should keep them inside. Place them in a pot with non-fertilized potting soil and leave them in a cool location with some light. They will need to be protected from extreme cold.
You never want to let the roots dry out and soaking them for a good while (about 30 minutes for bushes/shrubs, up to 24 hours for trees) prior to planting will help give them a great start.
It is best to put your bare root plants into the ground or pot (if this is where you will grow them) before you start to see new growth.
Do NOT cut healthy roots when planting. Work around them, and make sure your hole is wide enough for them to have room to spread out.
When planting, you will see a darker demarcation line where the nursery had the plant in soil. Plant only to this level. Do not plant deeper than this line.
Be sure to spread the roots out…do not swirl them into any circular form as your plant needs to branch out the roots to adequately grow and support itself.
When planting, use a non-fertilized soil if planting in a pot. If planting in the ground, use the same soil you dug out to make the hole. When planting, be sure and work any air pockets out of the soil by giving the plant a thorough soaking. At this point, any air bubbles that may have occurred from the soil settling will come up-this is a good thing. You can now add extra soil if needed to ensure the plant is covered up to the crown, or that line of demarcation.
Wait to fertilize!! Fertilizing too soon can cause the plant to come out of dormancy before it should; if you have a cold spell after fertilizing it can damage your plant and it could die. When you begin to see new growth, lightly fertilize in a circle about a foot away from the plant, or at the edge of the canopy depending on the size of the tree.
If you mulch, be sure your plant can handle the type of bark you mulch with because some plants can’t take acid or the specific mineral(s) that some mulch releases into the ground (example: pine needles and pine bark are acidic). Never let your plants dry out while they are trying to establish themselves, but also do not over water because the roots need to breath.
And there you have it! The “Bare Facts” on “Bare Root” plants!
Let us know what you think, what your experiences are, or any questions you might have, in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing from you!
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