Bare Root Plants: How To Grow Them Better!

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:28 pm

Bare-root plants are becoming increasingly popular. After all, they are often cheaper than comparable balled or containerized plants. Here we show you how bare-root plants grow better.

Bare-root plants are offered in the winter half-year from October without leaves and without any soil. Especially native deciduous trees, roses or hedge plants can be sold and transported well bare-root. They are offered exclusively by nurseries, because a long storage time in the garden center reduces the chance that bare-root plants will grow well. Therefore, they should also be planted immediately after they arrive at your place.

Bare Root Plants: How To Grow Them Better!

How to properly plant a tree, you can learn here.

Tip: You can delay planting bare-root plants for a few days by wrapping the roots in a damp cloth and placing the plants upright in a container.
Even though bare-root plants are often slower to grow, sprout and can also only be purchased and planted during the growing season between October and March, they bring many advantages.

In addition to being inexpensive, bare-root plants are easier to transport, take less effort to plant, and are often more frugal than garden center plants – they handle heat and drought stress better once they’re established. So good reasons to get started right away! Now in March, it is not too late to plant bare-root plants, as the growth phase has not yet fully started.

Caution: The planting of bare-root plants should be completed in early April. At a later date, sprouting is usually so far advanced that growing difficulties are the result.

Plant bare-root plants: Prepare the soil

If you have purchased bare-root plants for your garden, the soil at the chosen location should be prepared accordingly before planting:

If a heavy clay soil is present, it is more difficult for the roots to penetrate the soil. Therefore, you should loosen this soil and possibly mix it with gravel and sand to make the substrate more permeable.
If you have a light sandy soil in your garden, the low storage capacity of the soil is more of a problem here. Here, the storage capacity of the soil can be improved by adding compost or peat.
You do not know your soil condition? Do a soil test!

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Dig a sufficiently large planting hole that is about a hand’s width larger in height, depth and width than the circumference of the root ball. As a rule of thumb, a diameter of 60 cm can be chosen here. For a hedge, a trench is suitable instead of many small planting holes. For bare-root roses, the grafting point should be about 2-3 cm below the surface of the soil.

Planting bare root plants: step by step.

The ideal time to plant bare-root plants is on a frost-free day with cloudy skies. While preparing the soil for planting, place bare-root plants in a water bath for at least one hour.

Check the optimum size of the planting hole by placing the bare-root plant in it briefly, using a stick placed across the planting hole as a guide. If the planting hole is the right size, the next step is to loosen the bottom of the hole and place the plant in it.

Tip: Especially for bare-root trees, it is advisable to drive a sturdy support stake next to the center of the planting hole. This should later be about 15 cm from the trunk.

The planting hole is now filled with soil. Meanwhile, keep shaking the plant so that the cavities between the roots fill with soil. The soil is then lightly pressed down to give the roots good soil contact.

The next step is to water the bare-root plants heavily. A small mound of soil around the trunk prevents the slurry water from draining outward.

Even in the days after planting, the soil must be watered regularly and kept moist, otherwise the deeper roots will have too little water and dry out.

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Bare-root roses show a peculiarity when planting: they should also be mounded when planting in the spring, so that only the tips of the shoots are visible. The mounded soil should remain on the rose plants for up to 6 weeks to protect them from the sun and winds.

After the initial heavy watering, no special rules need to be followed for the cultivation of bare-root plants. The care instructions prescribed for the respective plant species apply.

Planting bare-root plants: 3 tips to make it work better!

To make it easier for bare-root plants to grow in and, in the case of roses, to achieve lush blooms in the same garden year, we have three tips for you.

To help plants grow well, cut the roots back a few inches until they appear white and fresh to encourage them to form lateral roots. Remove kinked or rotten roots altogether.
Important: Under no circumstances should the fine fibrous roots be cut! Since you will mostly receive plants ready for planting, the above-ground shoots also do not need to be cut back.

When planting bare-root roses and woody plants, never add mineral fertilizer or manure to the planting hole or water. Adding fertilizer prevents the rapid development of fibrous roots and thus makes growing more difficult! Well-rotted compost, horn shavings or rock flour can be added as natural mild long-term fertilizers.

  • Ideal is a coating of the roots with clay mush. The mush prevents the fine roots of bare-root plants from drying out quickly and not being able to anchor themselves in the soil. You can mix the clay mash yourself from soil, loam, clay powder, natural slow-release fertilizer and water in equal parts. Then slowly immerse the roots completely in the porridge several times. In addition to protecting them from drying out, this will make the roots heavier and hang straight into the planting hole.
  • If you follow these three tips, you’re sure to succeed in growing bare-root plants – and you’ll have saved a lot of money compared to a visit to the garden center. For all the money-savers among DIY enthusiasts, we have put together tricks on how to finance gardening tools at a low price in our article on factory sales.
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  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts. Jones James

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