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How to: plant bare-rooted plants

In winter trees and roses are often sold ‘bare-rooted’. 

They are simply a skeleton of stems, with the bare roots often wrapped in hessian or plastic for protection. 

The plants have been grown in-ground, then dug up when dormant and sent to nurseries. This practice greatly reduces the cost of buying deciduous tress and roses (and it’s much easier to fit lots of them in your car!). 


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Here’s all you need to know to give bare-rooted plants a great start in your garden.

1. Select a plant with no visible damage to the stems. Look for either a good open shape or a strong central leader, depending on the species and its desired attributes.

2. Prune any severed roots with sharp secateurs, as this will increase the speed at which they heal and lessen the opportunity for fungal spores to enter.

3. Prepare your soil by adding organic matter. This is the case for both sandy and clay soils. If planting into a clay soil it may be advisable to raise the soil level to improve drainage. It can also be useful to create a pyramid, or mound, at the base of the hole. You can sit the plant on the mound with the roots draping over the sides. This helps avoid air pockets around the roots.

4. A visible line will be evident on the stem of the plant where the previous soil line was. Plant to this same level. If in doubt, get your nurseryman to mark this level for you on the plant’s stem before you take it home.

5. Once in the ground, firm the soil around the plant, removing any air pockets. Stake plants that need some extra support.

6. Most bare-rooted roses will already be pruned, but it’s a good idea to check that cuts are clean and to an outward-facing bud. Trees will often have pruning notes on their label for planting and these should be followed. If you’re not confident, you could ask your nurseryman to make any necessary cuts before you take your tree home.

7. Water twice a week as the plant establishes. A fortnightly seaweed solution will aid this root growth.

8. Feed with a little organic food from about one month after planting. The organic matter incorporated at planting time generally has enough nutrients to sustain the tender new roots as they emerge without damage. Feeding can be increased through spring.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross