Bareroot Perennials are the budget gardener’s dream. While not especially gorgeous at the outset (a wooden stem with bare spidery roots), bareroots acclimate quickly to their growing environment. Sure, a lovely container of red roses is a head-turner in the nursery, but you can save money by going bareroot.
What is a Bareroot?
A bareroot is a plant that is sold with exposed roots, rather than in potting mix. Bareroots are dug out during the late winter. The dormant roots are shaken free of soil and then packaged in a damp lightweight material. They are then kept in cold storage (like a fridge) until they ship to a garden center for sale.
Some of the best bareroots are:
• Fruit Trees
When to Shop
Ideally, you want to buy your bareroot when freezing temperatures give way to spring. You want to plant the perennial within three days of purchase to ensure optimal growth. However, it can be difficult to predict when temperatures will finally warm up and the ground will thaw out.
If you purchase bareroot plants during the winter you can safely store them until Spring. Simply keep them in a dark room like a basement or cellar that doesn’t get above 60 degrees. Also, make sure that the roots don’t dry out. Every once and a while open the bag that the roots are in and give your plant a drink of water. Be careful not to over water your plant.
Dormant roots are your friend. A completely dormant perennial will grow better than one that has already sprouted leaves. A newly planted perennial with leaves won’t grow as well because the roots will have to put all of its energy towards the foliage, therefore stunting growth.
Finally, inspect the bag and make sure it’s lightly moist. Steer clear of saturated or dried out bags.
Spring Into Action
The growing season arrives, and it’s time to plant your baby perennial. If you want to get a jump on the season, you can pot the plant in all purpose growing mix for a month or so. You can then transplant the bareroot into the soil when spring is in full bloom. It’s best to plant within two to three days of getting your bareroot. If you need to wait a little longer, mist the plant in its package and put it in the fridge for no more than two days.
When you decide to put the perennial in the ground, the outside temps should range between 45F and 60F. Dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Add a mound of soil into the center of the hole. Gently place the roots on the mound and allow the smaller roots to drape over the side. Fill the hole back up with the crown being flush at the top. Tamp the soil down, but don’t pack too much so the plant can breathe.
Once planted, make sure to label the perennial, especially if you’re planting a lot. You don’t want one that surprises of a rose bush actually being be a raspberry cane!
Next, water the perennial thoroughly, but try to keep all waterings on the dry side. A new plant will hate soggy soil, and it could quickly perish in the saturation. Morning time is the best for watering, since the sun will dry the soil through the day and keep diseases away.
Don’t Overdo It!
While your bareroot may look scrawny at the outset, refrain from feeding until the plant is at least 6” high. A good balanced organic fertilizer (soluble or granular) and compost will make almost any perennial happy. But, consult your plant’s specific feeding requirements as they grow bigger.
Mulching is attractive but not necessary until the perennial is established. Early mulching will only trap unneeded moisture in and possibly kill your new member of the garden family.
Prune judiciously. Pinch back leggy stems for healthy branching. Once the perennial is in full swing, research your plant’s specific pruning requirements.
While the bareroot is not gorgeous right out of the bag, a little TLC in the growing season will have your perennial outshining those “ready-to-go” starters.