80124thumbWhile dormant for winter, some types of plants get dug from the soil and sent to nurseries as ‘bare root’ stock. Some get packaged with their otherwise bare roots contained in bags of damp sawdust. Most just get heeled into damp sand in the retail nurseries where they get sold. These simply get pulled from the sand when sold.

At their new home gardens, bare root plants simply get planted where they will sleep through the rest of winter. In spring, they wake up and start to grow as if nothing ever happened. How sneaky! They do not need big holes for their bare roots. Their graft unions (the ‘kinks’ at the bases of the trunks of grafted plants) must stand above grade. Roots only need to be spread out laterally.

Soil amendment should be minimal. Too much soil amendment promotes root growth around the trunk, which can inhibit root dispersion elsewhere. Too much excavation and amendment below the roots may eventually settle, so that graft unions sag below grade, and get buried. A light dose of fertilizer a bit later promotes early root growth, even while the branches are still bare.

Bare root plants are much more portable than canned (potted) plants. Several can be wrapped and sent home in a small car, or even through the mail; which is why so many bare root plants can be purchased online. (Climate zones should be considered when purchasing online.) Because they occupy less space than canned plants, many more varieties are available in nurseries.

Because they are so easy to handle and process, bare root plants cost about a third of what canned plants cost. Mail order plants from growers often cost even less than those that must be sent to retail nurseries first. Bare root plants are at least as reliable as canned stock, disperse roots more efficiently, and are less likely to be infected with disease when they arrive.

The most popular bare root plants are roses, cane berries, grapevines and fruit trees, like apricot, peach, nectarine, cherry, plum, prune, almond, apple, pear and persimmon. Flowering crabapple, flowering cherry, poplar, lilac, forsythia, wisteria, rhubarb, strawberry and asparagus are also available.

8 thoughts on “Winter Is Bare Root Season

    1. I just recently wrote about recycling deodar cedars seedlings. They grew in a spot where they could not stay, but there was another spot where more would be nice. We pulled the seedlings and plugged them into the new spot just before the rain. I was hoping that a few might survive; and then I could thin out the best of them. However, they ALL seem to be doing very well! I will wait until next winter to pull up the unwanted. Hopefully I will find others who can give them a good home before then. I am impressed because they are cedars, with evergreen foliage!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope so as well. I would not have mined just pulling them up and discarding them, but now that I went through the effort of finding them a home, even if just temporarily, we are now ‘acquainted’.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Planting them too deeply should not be a problem right away. It might take more than the first year for problems from deep planting to develop. However, if the planting site does not drain well, it is more likely to be a problem for plants that were installed too deeply. If planted shallowly, they are more likely to survive and adapt to poor drainage.


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