What are bare roots?
Bare roots are the root system of dormant plants. These are plants that are grown in fields, dug up, and stored in cold storage before being shipped to their new home.
Many perennials are sold in their bare root form, including trees, shrubs, roses, peonies and a wide range of herbaceous plants.
Advantages of bare roots
1. Better value
Bare roots are usually sold at a fraction of the cost of a potted plant. They require little maintenance in storage and are much lighter and cheaper to ship. Wholesale plant growers will often purchase their stock as bare roots and sell the plants at a higher markup to garden centres once the plants are more grown.
2. Safer to ship
Since bare roots don’t have any foliage or tender stems/branches attached, they’re much sturdier to ship. They're much less likely to suffer from damage while in transit.
3. More mature plants
Bare roots are often sold as much more mature plants. Some plants, like strawberries and asparagus, must be grown for a few years before you can harvest from them. Instead of waiting years for your plant to grow large enough to start harvesting from it, you can buy bare roots that are a few years old and harvest in your first year. It’s can be very rewarding to have a fully mature plant growing in your garden from the get go.
How to plant bare roots
1. Unpack the bare roots
Your roots will often come in a package with soil, wood chips, or newspaper to keep them moist. Carefully remove the bare roots from the packaging and check for any damage. It's normal for a small amount of green mold to exist on the roots, but anything slimy and black should not be on your roots and should be removed.
2. Soak the roots
Soak the roots in clean water. The planting instructions should specific the exact duration, but this usually between 1-3 hours. If soaking multiple plants in the same water container, be sure to keep them labeled.
3. Dig a hole
If planting in a garden, dig a hole that is large enough to allow the roots to spread out. Try not to cut the roots or fold them to fit inside a smaller hole. The plant will establish itself much better if its roots are given the space to grow.
If planting in a pot, find a pot that’s large enough to accommodate your plants with potting soil. Most bare roots require a pot that's at least 1 gallon large.
4. Place roots
Check the planting instructions to identify the correct planting depth of the crown (the part where the roots meet the main stem). For most plants, their crowns should be 1" below soil level.
Spread the roots outwards as much as possible. Creating a small mound of soil in the middle of the hole helps prop up the centre of the roots.
5. Fill the hole with soil
Ensure that all roots are buried and level out the soil.
Water your bare roots upon planting and keep the soil moist but not wet. Since the plants are dormat, they won't start to take in much water until they break their dormancy.
7. Wait and enjoy :)
When the warmer weather arrives, your bare root will break dormancy and begin growing in all its glory!
When to plant bare roots
It's best to plant bare roots as soon as you receive in the spring (April - May for most climates in Canada).
If you get a hold of them earlier, you could store them in a cool and moist location, or pot them up indoors before moving them outside in the garden.
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