Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Bare root plants

Hello fellow gardeners, this week I thought would be a very appropriate time to discuss bare root plants since they are available now at all nurseries, and for your best selection, I suggest you head on over to one as soon as possible.

Why should you buy bare root plants? The major reason: they’re cheaper! The reason they can sell them “bare root” is because they are in their dormant state now. They can remove them from soil and pots and wrapped to sell – which is cheaper to ship this way.

You have many choices of types and varieties of plants to choose from now, so think about what you’d like to see growing in your garden this spring.

Roses are a favorite of mine, and this is when you want to buy them. Do your homework on varieties, don’t just grab anything, and I highly recommend purchasing only “Grade 1” plants, not “Grade 1-1/2 or Grade 2”.

Grade 1 are the healthiest plants, they have the most canes of the largest size. The other grades can have just two canes rather than three, are scrawnier overall, but are cheaper though. So if you’re really great with plants, try your luck.

Raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, strawberries, and grapes are all available now. You can buy grapes specifically for making wine (I just saw some Merlot grapes over at Home Depot last week) or you can buy those for fresh eating, like Thompson, Concord (they also make a seedless variety – look for it), and Ruby – seedless also.

For raspberries, I recommend a thornless variety if you can find it, these bushes get large and very prickly otherwise.

Many fruit tree varieties are now available bare root: apples, pears, plums, peaches, and just about everything except citrus, which is evergreen, not deciduous so it doesn’t really go dormant. One thing to remember on most fruit trees and many other plants that go dormant such as roses and grapes, is that they are grafted onto a rootstock.

The rootstock is a different variety of the tree or plant that typically has a very strong root system, thereby enabling the top growth of the plant to do better. I, personally, prefer roses grown on their own roots, this prevents something called “suckers”, the growth coming up from the grafted rootstock which can eventually overtake the plant you originally bought. Local nurseries will undoubtedly only carry grafted plants, so eventually you will have suckers, just remember to prune these out as soon as they come up.

Another important item to be aware of is that some fruit varieties require a pollinator in order to produce fruit. If the tag on your plant states that it is “self-pollinating”, you’re good to go, if not, it should recommend a pollinator plant and that plant/tree will also produce for you, so you’re just adding more plants/trees to the landscape.

Fruit trees also require a certain number of “chilling hours” or temperatures below 45 degrees, so you will need to know how many hours you have where you live.

I am not going to try to recommend specific varieties here, there are too many, just read the label, maybe check out some varieties online through a good gardening site such as the University of California at Davis – They have extremely good and in-depth information available to you there.

After you get your bare root plants home, what you want to do is remove the outer wrapping, and typically the roots may be packed in some types of sawdust or wood shavings, don’t worry about those, fill a bucket large enough to hold the roots with warm water, add a few tablespoons of B-1 to it (available at your nursery) and leave it in that solution for about a day.

Now you’re ready to plant. Trimming the roots back a couple inches and also the top growth is a good idea at this point. Dig the hole at least twice as big as the roots spread out, make a mound in the center of the hole with dirt to place the plant on, spread the roots out, and back fill. Water in well with the water from the bucket.

That’s about it, unless you want to work in some organic fertilizer into the soil while planting – always a good idea. Just keep your new plants moist and come spring watch out as they begin to grow!

Just a note also, you don’t always get much of a crop on fruit trees for a couple years, just so you don’t think you did something wrong, this is normal.

If you have any questions or would like a consultation or landscape plan drawn up, feel free to call or email me. Happy New Year!

Linda McDonald-Cash

Unique Landscape Designs

(951) 764-4762

[email protected]

2 Responses to "Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Bare root plants"

  1. Lyz   January 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Great information! Thanks.

  2. Pam   May 29, 2014 at 6:35 am

    I just planted a apple tree yesterday from Home Depot that was packed in fine wood chips. I thought the wood chips were just on top of the root ball. I set it in the hole and removed the cloth bag wrapped around it and filled in the hole. I should have known it was a bare root tree after I saw the way the "rootball" fell apart. Should I dig it up and replant it?


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