Designing Beautiful Borders

The Benefits of Buying Bare Root

Plants which are bought bare root arrive, as the name would suggest with their roots exposed rather than contained within a pot. Buying a plant which isn't housed in a container may seem like a tricky prospect, but there are many advantages to buying bare root, so it's worth knowing more.

When we talk about buying bare root plants, we are referring to deciduous trees and shrubs (often roses), which generally are bought on-line, rather than in a garden centre. Bare root plants are available during the dormant season, which runs from November through to March

What’s so good about bare root plants?

1. Healthier plants

Bare root plants are grown in the ground, rather than in a container, so from the beginning the roots have more appropriate soil conditions in which to grow. Pot grown plants, especially trees have to suffer the constraints of the pot environment, such as lack of root space. They are also reliant on being watered and fed. If this is done erratically, the pot grown plant will lose vigour, which slows growth.

2. Sold to order

Bare root plants remain in the ground until your order is placed. The plant is then dug up, and delivered to you immediately. Pot grown plants, especially trees and larger shrubs could have sat in the same pot for months/years which again, will affect the vigour and health of the plant

3. Better plant establishment

For many of the reasons above, bare root plants establish better and quicker than container grown plants, and thus will put on growth quicker.

4. Better available choice

Garden centres can only hold a certain amount of stock on their premises so have limited varieties of plants available. By buying bare root, you have the full range of fruit trees, roses, hedging and ornamental trees available in the UK.

5. Better price

Bare root plants are considerably cheaper than containerised plants, as they require significantly less maintenance to raise

So,  what’s not to like?

Not to like

1. Bare root plants should be planted as soon as possible following delivery, and this is not always convenient. Firstly, the planting area may be water logged or frozen and you shouldn't plant in either of these soil conditions. Secondly, you may have other things to do that day, other than plant a tree, or you may not wish to plant by moonlight if you don't get home until the evening. Thirdly, if you have never bought a bare root plant, it may seem unfamiliar and a bit scary!


If you are not in the position to get into the garden for a few days, then unwrap the tree or shrub and make sure the roots are still moist. If the roots are starting to dry out then dip the roots in a bucket of cold water for a few minutes, then place the roots back into the packing material and store the plant in a cool frost free place like a garage. The plant can be kept like this for around a week to ten days, as long as you don't let the roots dry out.

If you are able to get into the garden but not ready to plant, then you can do something called "Heeling in". To do this, you dig a trench big enough to accomodate the roots, then place the plants in the trench, so that the stems are level with the ground. Cover the roots over, firm the soil and give the plants a good water. The link below shows how heeling in is done.


Bare root plants are a little different to plant than containerised plants. With a containerised plant, you line up the top of the root ball with the soil, so that the plant sits flush with the ground.

The aim with bare root plants is to plant them at the same height that they were originally planted before they were lifted.This can be worked out by finding something called the "nursery mark" - a dark stain on the bark near to where the roots merge with the trunk.

nurserymark.jpgThe dark stain of the nursery mark is clearly visible on this bare root tree.

Place a cane over the planting hole, and line up  the nursery mark with the cane. Then backfill the hole with soil, firming around the roots to remove any air pockets


barerootplanting.jpg           plantingtree.jpg 

1. Planting a bare root tree                                                             2. Planting a containerised tree

Not that different!