Planting bareroot trees, shrubs, and hedges

Planting bareroot trees, shrubs, and hedges

The bareroot season

The bareroot season usually starts at the end of October and finishes around early April, of course like everything in the horticultural world, this is all a little bit weather dependent. My love of Autumn is usually added to by a restlessness for the bareroot season to start, it is by far our busiest time and soon the slow days of September and October are a distant memory as we are up to our eyes in all things bareroot. Currants, raspberries, strawberries and hybrid berries are usually the first to arrive and there is something about the scent of the soil on the roots that lets you know it's time to start moving plants. Trees, top fruit, shrubs and hedging all follow very quickly and we usually have a lot of customers eager to plant as soon as they can.


There are a lot of advantages to planting bareroot, not least the price which is usually considerably cheaper than the potted option. It is a lot easier to handle in bulk and so it is much more suited to delivery for mail order. It is also more environmentally friendly with no plastic pots required, less transport and less water needed to keep them healthy.


I am a great believer in planting small, the plants tend to put their work into the roots, settle in quickly and then take off, if I had €20 for every time I heard that the small plants overtook the larger ones, I could probably retire.


The bareroot season is also the time where we usually have the best availability ( bar perennials ) on Fruit, trees and hedging, I love sourcing new varieties of trees and fruit, learning about their attributes and what they can offer. We have always prided ourselves on the good advice we give and always do our best to make sure the plants our customers buy will suit their site and soil. Of course there are a lot of people, including myself, who can’t resist giving something a go, when all evidence points to it being unlikely to survive in your conditions, you suddenly delude yourself that it isn’t that exposed ( I can hide it a bit behind that Elaeagnus) or it just might cope with the wet, if I put gravel at the bottom and plenty of loose compost.


Getting feedback from customers is what we thrive on, especially from people who garden in adverse conditions, some gardeners have trialled plants for us, of course you have to wait a full year to get proper feedback but it's great when your hunch is proved correct and you then know that you can recommend this plant with certainty in a particular site, Plum leaf Hawthorn, Crataegus persimilis prunifolia is one of these varieties, we now know that it can take extreme coastal exposure and makes a fantastic hedge.


Some people are worried that bareroot plants need to be planted immediately or they will suffer, when in fact a small bit of attention when you have received your plants should ensure no problems at all, basic rule of thumb is to keep the roots moist, you don’t have to keep them soaking in a barrel, just a quick spray, then tie them back up in the bag, keep the bag upright and out of the wind.

If you are not going to plant for a while then heel them in, which basically means dig a small trench, sit your roots into it, plants upright and backfill so the roots are covered, your plants can then sit there until you are ready to plant, your only time limit is the start of Spring. We would advise people to aim to have all their bareroot planted for the end of March.


When planting bareroot, do not lay out all your plants and then start planting, if it is a dry windy day, the roots will dry quickly, put enough in a bag to keep you busy for a half hour or so, plant that much, then refill your bag and repeat, the old saying ‘never let a root go in the ground dry’ is good advice. When I am planting, I keep a good bucket of water with me, if I find a root dry I give it a quick dip, shake off the excess water and plant away.


There is sometimes the perfect day for planting bareroot, no wind, perhaps a very soft mist falling, enough rain to not even have to worry about roots drying out but also not too much rain to make the digging hard, if you handle them well, plant and firm them in well and like all plants (bareroot or potted), if you keep them weed and competition free they should thrive for you. Good luck with your planting.

Matt Keane