How to Care for a Bare Root Plant

Overview

Bare root plants are shipped while they are dormant with no soil around the roots. All bare root plants resemble dead twigs with roots attached. However, if cared for correctly once they are received, your bare root plants will thrive after you plant them. Most bare root plants die do to incorrect handling after they arrive. The top two reasons bare root plants die: improper storage or root damage. Plant bare root plants within 48 hours of receiving them. If you must store them for a longer period, plant them in a temporary spot. Keep the roots moist and soak them before planting.

Step 1

Plant your bare root plants the same day you receive them. If you cannot plant the bare root plants right away, do not remove the plants from their shipping container. Open the container and check the packing medium around the roots. The packing medium should be moist, not wet. Mist the packing medium with water if it is dry. Store the bare root plant in its shipping container in a dark, cool location (35 to 45 degrees). You can store bare root plants this way for 24 to 48 hours. Just remember to keep the medium around the roots moist.

Step 2

If you intend to plant the bare root plants the same day you receive them, remove your bare root plants from their shipping container as soon as you receive them. Unwrap the packing material from around the roots and upper portion of the plant. Only do this if you can plant your bare root plants the same day you receive them.

Step 3

Prune off broken branches and roots.

Step 4

Place your bare root plant in a 50 gallon bucket of water. The water should just cover the roots. Soak perennials for between half an hour and one hour. Soak trees and shrubs for three to six hours. Keep your bare root plants out of direct sun and wind while you do this.

Step 5

Plant your bare root plants in your garden after the soaking is complete. Dig a hole wide enough so that you can fully spread out the roots and deep enough to place the plant at the same depth it was growing. Tamp soil gently around the roots as you backfill the hole. Water thoroughly (one to three gallons) and mulch with 2 to 4 inches of an organic mulch like wood chips.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never allow the roots of bare root plants to dry out. The small root hairs responsible for absorbing water and nutrients will die if they dry out which will compromise the life of the plant. Never soak bare root plants for more than one hour (perennials) or six hours (shrubs and trees). Roots need oxygen to survive. Over-soaking in water will suffocate the roots as they cannot absorb oxygen while submerged in water.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears or sharp scissors
  • 50 gallon bucket
  • Water

References

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension; Care of Bare Root Plants
  • Oregon State University Extension; How to Care for Bare Root Plants
  • USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Temporary Storage and Handling of Bare Root Stock

Who Can Help

  • Arbor day foundation; Planting a Bare Root Tree
  • Lawyer Nursery; Handling Bare Root Stock
Keywords: caring for bare root plants, bare root plants, planting bare root plants, caring for bare root trees