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Benefits of Bare Root Plants

What are Key Benefits of Bare Root Plants?

There are many key benefits of bare root plants that may have you running to stock up when these plants are available. That’s because not only are bare root plants generally less expensive than potted plants, but they also may perform better than potted plants. Too, bare root plants can be quite a bit easier to plant than plants you need to get out of a container. And they’re likely a more environmentally friendly plant purchase choice for several reasons we’ll dig into here.

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Are Bare Root Plants Easy to Grow?

Bare root plants are easy to grow for several reasons.

First, they tend to have strong and often extensive root systems.

Second, those root systems receive minimal disruption when you put them in the earth. And this is a benefit of bare root plants over container grown plants.

That’s because roots in containers may be stressed, kinked and difficult to unwind for optimal planting. But with bare root plants, the root are already growing free. So this also makes bare root plants extra easy to pretty much put directly into a properly prepared hole you dig into your garden. No root untangling or breaking up required in most cases!

Third, because the roots tend to be strong and unstressed at planting time, bare root plants tend to root into the garden quickly and easily. And when that happens, plants tend to thrive!

Why are Bare Root Plants Less Expensive than Potted Plants?

Bare root plants tend to be less expensive than their potted plant counterparts. And this is a big benefit of bare root plants for gardeners on a budget.

So why the lower price point?

Here are a few reasons these plants tend to be less expensive:

First, bare root plants are easier to package and ship from grower to nursery. That’s because there are no bulky pots to take up space. And the plants are dormant, so they’re easier to move around without sustaining damage.

Second, bare root plants don’t include a lot of expensive “baggage.” To clarify, pots, potting soil, fertilizer and fancy labels add to the cost of plants. So not having these is a bare root plant benefit.

Third, retail nurseries get a price break for purchasing large numbers of bare root plants from growers. So that can bring down your price. Plus, many retail nurseries want to sell bare root plants before they start growing heartily in spring. That’s because if the bare root plants don’t go home to your garden, the nursery will need to plant them into pots to keep them healthy. And that costs labor and materials. While that might be okay, it will cost you more later when you return to buy that same plant in a pot later.

Where Can I Buy Bare Root Plants?

Bare root plants are often available from local nurseries, farm supplies, and hardware stores. As well, some extension offices and horticultural societies and clubs may offer bare root plants.

Semi-bare root plants may be on offer at box stores and from catalogers. To clarify: I refer to these as “semi” because there is some level of packaging involved from sources like this.

When are Bare Root Plants Available?

Bare root plants are sold from mid-to-late winter. But just as spring arrives, those bare root plants will start to disappear to make way for lots of more expensive potted plants.

Do Bare Root Plants Need to Be Planted Immediately?

Bare root plants do not always need to be planted immediately when you bring them home. And, in fact, sometimes it isn’t possible to plant them right away. That’s because gardens may be frozen or soil may be saturated in winter when we buy bare root plants.

How to Protect Bare Root Plants Before Planting?

If you bring home bare root plants and cannot plant them into your garden immediately, they do need to be protected. That means the roots need to be protected so they don’t become too wet or too dry or too frozen.

One of the best ways to protect bare root plants in situations like this is to “heal them in”. This refers to planting them temporarily in a somewhat protected location.

So if you have a pile of mulch, dig a hole and secure their roots into the mulch to stay warm.

Or shovel up some of the sawdust from the nursery where you buy them, and protect the roots with that at home.

Finally, be sure not to leave bare root plants wrapped in plastic. That’s because they can rot in condensation. And bare plastic won’t protect them from a freeze.

What Kinds of Plants are Bare Root?

Many kinds of plants that are sold bare root, for instance:

  • Deciduous, ornamental trees like Styrax, willow, birch, maple, and katsura
  • Fruit trees like peach, pear, plum, cherry, apple, apricot, and trees grafted with a “fruit salad” of several related species on one tree
  • Ornamental shrubs like lilac, viburnum, smoke bush, twig dogwood, spirea, and many more
  • Berry¬†bushes vines, and canes like blueberry, raspberry, gooseberry, and grape
  • Ornamental perennials like peonies and many lilies
  • Edible perennials like rhubarb, potatoes, horseradish, asparagus, and strawberries

Are Bare Root Plants Environmentally Friendly?

One of the greatest benefits of bare root plants is how environmentally friendly choosing them is for reasons like:

  • Bare root plants don’t require the manufacture or disposal of plastic pots
  • These plants don’t require intensive greenhouse growing to push them to look extra perfect at the nursery
  • Plants in this category don’t linger and need pampering at the nursery
  • Bare root plants aren’t rooted into peat-bog depleting potting soil
  • Minimal labelling reduces the use of inks, dyes, and plastic tagging on bare root plants

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