Monday, November 22, 2010

FAQ: How soon after receiving them should my bare root plants be planted?

Gardeners who wish to economize may purchase certain plants bare root.  Bare root plants are simply those which have had the soil removed from the roots.  Usually, young plants are sold that way.  When they have grown to the point that their roots are strong enough to be planted in the landscape, they are lifted, the soil rinsed off, and shipped.  Because the plants are small, the purchase price is lower.  Shipping without soil minimizes weight and shipping costs.  So bare root plants can be a very good bargain.

However, bare root plants are more vulnerable, and should be treated with care. Growers wrap them in moist packing material (usually in bundles), bag in plastic, box and ship as soon as possible.

Sun, wind, sub-freezing or blistering temperatures can damage or kill the plants.  Upon receipt, the package should be moved very soon to a shady, temperate location, and opened.  If left un-opened for a day or two, darkness can yellow the foliage and excessive moisture can cause the plants to rot.

Upon opening the package, set the plants upright in the box and maintain slight moisture around the roots. They should be okay if re-planted within a couple of days.  If they can not be re-planted within 48 hours, they may be 'heeled-in' to protect them. To do so, find a place in the garden where the bundled plants can be stored.  Dig a hole about 4 times as large as the bundled roots, place the roots in it, cover them with 6 to 8 inches of soil. Water well.  Soil should be in close contact with the roots.  If moisture is maintained, the plants may be stored like this for several days.

If you don't have a place in the garden for your plants to be 'heeled-in', you can do the same in a nursery container.  Half-fill a nursery container of appropriate size with potting soil.  Place the bundled plants upright in the center of it.  Fill in around them with more potting soil.  Water well, making sure soil is in close contact with the roots.

Though they can be stored like this for awhile, the answer to the question is: 'Better sooner than later.'

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