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How to plant and care for bare-rooted plants.

If you’re thinking of sprucing up your garden this year and are looking for inspiration, then you may well want to consider investing in some bare-rooted plants. Why bare-rooted you may think when there are so many varieties of potted shrubs available in garden centres? Well, there are two simple reasons: variety and price.

There is an incredible variety of bare-rooted plants available from fruit and shade trees, to flowering shrubs and vines, grapes, cane fruits, and all kinds of roses: standards, climbers, hybrid teas and antique. Bare-rooted plants are also less expensive than container-grown plants grown in containers, and they already have good growth on them, so you get a good sized plant for the money.

So how do you choose the right bare-rooted shrub? What’s the protocol for planting and aftercare? Well, here are Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips.

Always buy quality

Always buy from a quality garden centre or nursery that heels in their bare-root properly. Roots buried in moist sand, soil or sawdust will never dry out, and will therefore be healthy. When choosing your tree or shrub, make sure it has strong, plump, fresh-looking branches and roots. Avoid any that look dried out, or that have slimy, rotted roots.

Plant as soon as possible

Ideally you should plant your bare-rooted specimen right away, but if you can’t plant, then you will need to heel the plant in again in a shady area, making sure to keep the roots covered and moist until you finally plant.

Once you have chosen the best and most-suitable location for your plants, clear the area of any weeds or debris. Dig a hole that is wide enough to comfortably accommodate the root system and that has sides that taper outward into the soil. Loosening the soil this way will allow the plant to establish quicker.

How to plant

Make a firm cone shape of soil in the bottom of the planting hole, and spread the roots over the cone, making sure the plant roots are in complete contact with the soil. You don’t want any air pockets developing between the roots and the soil.

Make sure the bare-rooted shrub/tree is planted at the correct depth. Firm the soil in around the roots, holding the plant as straight as you can. When backfilling, use your fingers to work the soil in- between the roots to make sure there are no air pockets.

When you have finished planting, make a large well around the plant. This holds the water and nutrients in the growing zone for the roots to easily access. Always water thoroughly when you are done. Don’t forget that the plant is still dormant at this stage, so let the soil dry out a little between watering (see below). However, although bare-rooted plants don’t need as much moisture when they are dormant, they do still need to be watered to keep them alive and healthy. Finally check the plant over and if you see any dead wood, or stubs, remove them with clean new cuts. Apply some pruning compound on fresh cuts to keep out insects and disease.


Water the bare-root when the top 2 inches of soil dry out. Wait to fertilise until the weather warms up and the buds start to swell with new growth. When that happens, feed your new trees and shrubs with a good quality fertiliser.

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