Plants such as roses, trees and small fruits are often shipped out through the mail from nursery companies as bareroot plants while they are dormant (not actively growing). This means the plants grew in a separate container, or in the ground, and the soil or other growth media was washed from the roots. Then the plants, packed in moistened sphagnum moss and usually bagged in plastic, are shipped. Upon arrival, care is needed to keep the bareroot plants healthy so they have the best start after transplanting.
Inspect your bareroot plants carefully after removing them from the packaging. Look for signs of damage, like broken or rotting roots. Check the packing material for moistness and add water if necessary if it has dried out.
Plant the bareroot plants the day of arrival, if possible. Otherwise, keep the bareroot plants in their packaging and store in the refrigerator until you are able to plant them. Do not allow the plant material to freeze.
Plant bareroot plants in the early spring during nice weather. Reduce transplant stress by avoiding planting on hot, windy days.
Soak the bareroot plants in water for an hour or two to hydrate the plants. University of Nebraska stresses not soaking the bareroot plants in water overnight. A thorough soaking while you prepare the planting area should suffice.
Prepare wide and shallow holes for each plant, giving each one just enough depth to have the top of the roots just below the soil surface when planted. A mound of soil at the bottom of the planting hole helps you place the roots where they will spread horizontally.
Keep the bareroot plants in a bucket of water while you work; work with one plant at a time. Before setting a plant in a hole, prune off any broken or twisted roots with a sharp knife or pruning shears.
Carefully set the plant in the hole and spread the roots out gently. Backfill the soil into the hole until the roots are just covered and gently firm the soil to remove air pockets.
Water the newly planted specimen and continue the process for the remaining plants, watering each plant before planting the next. Add more soil if it settles after watering.
Apply 2 inches of mulch–such as shredded wood, wood chips or pine straw–to help protect against fluctuating temperatures, soil moisture loss and weed control.