Everything You Need to Know About Bare Root Plants

Everything You Need to Know About Bare Root Plants

Jan 25th 2024

After a harsh winter, early spring is the time to turn your garden dreams into reality. Many shrubs, evergreen trees, and hedging plants are available as bare-root plants when they are dormant between November and March. Despite dormancy, the bare root plants will grow below the ground and offer a stunning display of flowers and leaves once the soil warms in the spring.

Need help with understanding what are bare root plants and what to do with them? The gardening experts at DripWorks have compiled a guide that includes everything you need to know about bare root plants. Read on to discover!

What is a Bare Root Plant?

Bare root plants are dormant plants grown in open ground, dug up, and sold without any soil around the roots, unlike a potted plant. These plants are planted in a dormant season and are typically purchased online or through mail order. When these plants are re-planted in the soil, they grow again. Bare root plants are shipped in plastic wrap with sphagnum moss or sawdust around the roots to help them remain moist.

Advantages of Growing Bare Root Plants

There are multiple advantages of growing bare-root plants. These include:

Optimal Growth: A bare-root plant can quickly adapt to local soil conditions when planted and start growing rapidly. In contrast, potted plants experience shock when transferring from potting soil to new local soil. The roots of bare-root plants come into direct contact with the native soil, allowing the plant to develop a robust root system before producing flowers and leaves.

Lower Cost: Cost is a significant advantage of choosing bare-root plants. These plants are most economical and cost less because they come without soil. They need less labor and cost to pack and ship than the potted variety.

Great Value: They can be efficiently shipped, stored, and harvested, offering excellent value. Whether you need a few plants for your garden or many for a large landscaping project, buying bare-root plants is highly beneficial.

Easy to Plant: A bare-root plant is a plant without soil, so it is lightweight, meaning it is easy to move and easy to plant.

Drawback of Bare Root Plant

Limited Planting Time: Bare root plants have a limited planting time from November to March. Mid-spring and mid-fall are the best planting times as these plants need good soil moisture.

When to Plant Bare Root Plants

Bare-root plants are dormant from November to March, which is the best time to plant them. It would be best to plant the bare-root plants as soon as you purchase them. However, if you cannot plant them immediately, leave them in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant. The plants should receive some light and be protected from cold. If bare-root plants encounter sun and heat, they will emerge from dormancy, be stressed out, and die. Also, don't let the plant roots dry out; ensure they are not too wet.

How to Plant Bare Root Plants

Planting a bare-root plant is just like planting any other shrub or tree in your garden. Some gardeners find it easier because these plants are lighter and easier to handle. Until planting time, keep the roots of bare plants covered in sawdust. If you are planting the plant the next day after delivery, remove the plant from the packaging and soak it in a water bucket for the night. Before planting, you can prune out any damaged roots.

Here is the step-by-step process of planting a bare-root plant.

Step 1: Dig the planting hole, which needs to be as deep as the roots and twice as wide.

Step 2: Loosen up the sides of the hole using a spade fork or shovel, particularly if the soil is clay. Add 20% high-quality garden compost to the removed soil for amendment.

Step 3: Form a mound of loose soil in the middle of the hole, as it will support the plant and provide a place to spread its roots.

Step 4: Place the plant in the hole with its roots spread over the mount. The plant must be positioned in the hole so that the soil reaches the height of the crown (the point where roots meet the trunk). Keep the crown at or below the soil surface to avoid rot. If the trunk has an apparent graft, it should be kept 1 inch above the soil level.

Step 5: Next, backfill the hole with amended soil and lightly trample the soil to keep your plant firmly in place.

Step 6: Slowly soak the area with water. Newly planted bare root trees and shrubs require regular deep watering for at least two years.

How and When to Water Bare Root Plants

Insufficient watering in the first growing season is the common cause of failure for bare-root plants. Plant roots store nutrients used to fight disease, survive droughts, regenerate themselves when transferred, and promote growth in the spring. When the roots dry out, this nourishment is lost and can't be replaced.

Water plants consistently as needed throughout the growing season until they are established. If there's no rainfall for a few days during hot summers or windy spring days, you must water plants deeply with an efficient irrigation method like drip irrigation. The required amount of water varies based on the type of soil. However, it is recommended to use 30-50 liters (four to six watering cans) each square meter per week during hot summer weather.

You should check plants twice weekly and water them when the soil dries. Deep watering for two to three days is much better than a lighter splash daily. This is because it will help your plants develop deeper, robust root systems, making them self-sufficient.

Note: Always water your plants in the evening to prevent evaporation.

How to Care for Bare Root Plants After Planting

Once your bare-root plant has been planted, watered in, and settled, you can create a ring of soil at the border of the hole to form a saucer. It will help retain surface water in the root zone.

Furthermore, mulching the soil with 2-4 inches of compost will also help conserve soil moisture and maintain weed-free soil. It is crucial to mulch at least a few inches away from the crown to avoid rot.

Wait a minimum of four weeks to start fertilizing the plant. The young roots are prone to be harmed by too much fertilizer. Bare root trees need to be staked for their first year. You may place stakes in undisturbed soil rather than in a planting hole so that the stakes remain firmly in the ground to support the tree. Following spring, remove staking materials.

What Kind of Plants are Available as Bare Root

Many types of plants can be purchased as bare roots, such as:

  • Roses
  • Perennials
  • Deciduous and Evergreen Trees
  • Shrubs and Hedging
  • Fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

Bare root fruit trees grow more quickly than potted ones because the roots do not adapt to local soil from potted soil.

Read our blog post, Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees, to learn more about bare-root trees!


Bare-root plants are highly beneficial, environmentally friendly, and cheaper than container-grown plants. These dormant plants are shipped in early spring and delivered to your door at a suitable time, depending on your region and hardiness zone. So, order your favorite bare root plant this spring and plant them in your garden. By planting these lightweight plants and caring for them, you will be able to grow gorgeous flowering trees, fruits, and vegetables in your garden to enjoy for many years to come.

If you have any queries about planting and irrigating bare root plants, feel free to contact our gardening and irrigation experts at