November to March is the ideal time to plant ‘bare-root’ plants allowing them to establish well overwinter ready to spring into action once the weather starts to warm up next season. Bare root plants are grown in open ground, then dug up and despatched with supplied with no soil around their roots ready for planting while they are dormant making them ideal for buying by mail order from specialist nurseries.
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).
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.
If the delay in planting will be more than a couple of days, temporarily pot them up using a good quality compost or 'heel 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 happily kept like that for a couple of weeks.
Many people are surprised at the variety of plants that can be supplied bare-root, from trees to perennials - here are some ideas on plants that do particularly well planted while dormant:
Bare Root Trees
All kinds of trees can be planted successfully as bare root saplings including stepovers, espaliers and cordons. Fruit trees such as Apple, Pear and Plum trees will establish well in time to produce a bumper crop in the summer and ornamentals such as Crab Apple, Flowering Cherry and Acer will put on a fantastic display .
Bare Root Hedging Plants
Planting a hedge, particularly a large one, is much more cost effective if you buy bare-root plants or ‘whips’ and while it may seem a little sparse at first they will knit together quickly. It's a great way to plant beech, hornbeam or a traditional made up of a mix plants such as Blackthorn, Spindle and Rosa rugosa.
Bare Root Roses
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 will establish well to cover an arch or pergola in just a few seasons.
Bare Root Perennials
Many perennials can be planted bare-root - these are a few of our favourites:
- Agapanthus are sun-lovers, with globes of blue or white flowers, and they grow really well in ornamental planters as they love to have their roots constricted. Buying an established plant can be expensive, so buying bare-root rhizomes is an economical way of growing and enjoying them for many years
- Astilbe are easy to grow and bear feathery plumes of white, pink or red flowers in summer. They love damp soil and shade.
- Eryngiums, or sea hollies, have spiky, steely blue-grey flowerheads that last well into autumn. They look good in herbaceous borders or gravel gardens and make excellent cut or dried flowers.
- Hardy geranium or cranesbills, are fantastic low ground cover plants that thrive in sun or shade, and flower for several months from early summer onwards.
- Dramatic daisy-like Heleniums flower profusely in summer with a great display of ‘hot’ colour towards the end of the season. They combine well with other late flowering perennials such as echinaceas, as well as ornamental grasses.
- Bearded Iris thrive in a hot, sunny spot where their tubers can be ‘baked’ near the surface and will produce spectacular flowers from mid-spring. They are ideal for borders or gravel gardens and come in a range of velvety colours.
- Heucheras have coloured leaves in a range of colours from dark purple to buttery yellow with upright stems of frothy flowers in the summer - They do well in shade and most prefer a moist soil.
- Verbascums produce bold spikes of flowers in summer in a range of colours, including yellow, white, orange and red. They thrive in full sun and are incredibly drought-tolerant once established.
- A full blown Peony is hard to beat and they are best planted bare-root in a rich fertile soil. A Fluted Peony Support will keep even the most flamboyant varieties upright.
Bare Root Fruit Bushes & Shrubs
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 choice of varieties making Early winter the perfect time to plan an plant a Fruit Cage. Raspberries, Gooseberries, Currants and Strawberries will all thrive when planted with bare roots.
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.
4 Key Benefits Of Planting Bare Roots
One of the most significant advantages of bare root planting is its cost-effectiveness. Bare root plants are typically less expensive than their container-grown counterparts. This makes it an attractive option for gardeners and landscapers on a budget.
2- Healthier Root Systems
Bare root plants tend to develop healthier and more robust root systems compared to those grown in containers. The lack of soil and container constraints allows roots to grow freely and establish quickly once planted. This results in a plant that is better equipped to gather nutrients and water, ultimately leading to better overall growth.
3- Reduced Transplant Shock
Bare root plants experience less transplant shock than container-grown ones. This is because they go through a process of acclimatization when planted, gradually awakening from dormancy as the growing season begins. As a result, they adapt more seamlessly to their new environment.
Bare root planting increases the likelihood of successful establishment. With proper care and planting techniques, the plants are more likely to thrive in their new home, leading to healthier and more attractive landscapes.
Steps For A Successful Bare Root Planting
Before planting, you should inspect the bare root plant carefully. Trim any damaged or broken roots, making clean cuts to remove dead or injured sections. Soak the roots in water for an hour before planting to rehydrate them and promote healthier growth.
The soil should be well-draining to prevent waterlogging.
Dig a hole in the soil that is deep enough to accommodate the roots without bending or crowding them. Gently spread the roots out and position the plant at the appropriate depth, ensuring that the crown (where the roots meet the stem) is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the roots as you go to eliminate air pockets.
Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature - regular watering is also crucial, especially during the first year of growth.
While it's essential to trim damaged roots before planting, avoid over-pruning. Pruning the branches of the plant should typically be done after it has broken dormancy and started growing.
5- Stake & Support
Depending on the size of the plant and its growth habit, you may need to stake and provide support to prevent it from leaning or falling over during windy or stormy weather.
Bare root planting is an age-old horticultural practice that continues to offer numerous benefits to gardeners and landscapers alike. Whether you're starting a new orchard, installing a fruit cage, creating a rose arch or embarking on a new garden project bare root planting can help you create a beautiful thriving landscape without breaking the bank!