How to Plant Bare-Root Plants

Written by karen ellis
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How to Plant Bare-Root Plants
Bare-root oak seedlings. (esagor at Flickr)

A bare-root perennial plant is in its dormant stage, in which the roots are bare, when it's sold out of soil. Not all plants are able to handle this kind of environment, but there are more than you might think. Roses are probably the most well-known bare-root plant. However, there are also certain berry plants (raspberries, chokeberries), fruit trees (peach, apples, cherries, nuts), shade trees (ash, maple, birch) and perennial fruits and vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, strawberries) that are sold as bare-root plants. They aren't difficult to plant, when you know the proper steps.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Garden tools
  • Compost

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  1. 1

    Purchase your bare-root plants in a nursery or garden centre from January (in some locations) through the early spring months. Their dormant stage can last up to two months--shorter if the climate turns warm early.

  2. 2

    Soak your bare-root plant in a bucket of water for several hours as soon as you get it home. Trim off any damaged or broken limbs and roots.

  3. 3

    Dig up the soil area and add compost to the top 8 inches. Work it in well.

  4. 4

    Dig a hole deep enough so that the top of the root system is just below the surface of the ground. Open the roots of the plant with your hands. Notice the width of the roots, and dig the hole 1 ½ times that width.

  5. 5

    Form a cone of soil at the bottom, centre of the hole. It should be high enough so that the roots will sit around it and the tree will be at the proper height (top of roots just below the surface).

  6. 6

    Spread the bare-root plant's roots so that they encompass the cone of soil. Hold the tree straight while you surround the roots with soil. Use your hand or shovel to anchor the tree and it's roots, firming the dirt as you go. Leave the hole area slightly lower than the ground level to create a reservoir.

  7. 7

    Water the tree as soon as you are finished planting, giving it a good, deep drink.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure the location you have chosen for the bare-root plant gives it enough room. Consider the plant at it's tallest. It should not be too close to other plants, buildings, fences or power lines when it reaches maturity.

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