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Why Bare Root Plants are a Good Option

Why Bare Root?

They may look like a bundle of twigs when they arrive but bare root plants are a really good option as they are a lot cheaper than potted plants and with a bit of TLC they will be another wonderful addition to your garden.

Bare Root Plant     Hornbeam

  • They are lighter so easier to handle.
  • They are Eco-friendly as they’re not in plastic pots.
  • They are usually a fraction of the cost of container plants allowing you to buy more.
  • They have visible roots so you can easily check on their health.

Bare root plants offer the ideal way to top up an existing garden, stock a new one, or plant in large numbers but as with any plant, their success depends on correct planting and aftercare.

Late autumn and early winter, the dormant period, is the time to plant bare root trees, hedging, and shrubs as the air may be cold but the ground is still warm meaning that they can settle in before a harsh winter. They definitely cannot be planted if the ground is frozen or waterlogged so if you have to delay planting keep them in their original packaging in a frost-free place and don’t allow the roots to dry out.

How to Plant

  • Dig a hole no deeper than the roots but three times the width of the base of the root ball and dig over the bottom of the hole to relieve compaction.
  • Soak the roots of the plant for half an hour or so before planting.
  • Plant to the high tide mark left from the soil at the nursery.I
  • Insert a tree stake if required ( usually just top heavy larger specimens)


It isn’t necessary to add manure to the backfill soil – it’s a personal choice as some people believe this now discourages roots from venturing into the soil – but if you wish to do so then add about 25% of well-rotted manure.


Use Rootgrow (Mycorrhizal fungi) following the manufacturer’s instructions as this help the roots extract and absorb minerals and water from the soil. Trees and shrubs with mycorrhizal-enhanced root systems adapt better and are more tolerant of stressful environments.

  • A sprinkling of bonemeal will also help your new plant grow away in spring.
  • Once you’ve backfilled the hole firm the plant in well with your feet to make sure there are no air pockets
  • Apply a bark mulch to prevent weeds and help with water retention.
  • Water well even if rain is forecast and make sure the plant is not allowed to dry out completely or become waterlogged over the winter months.



Trees and shrubs take some time to establish their root systems and look after themselves (shrubs between 1 and two years and trees 2 – 4 years ) so the most important time to water to avoid drought stress is the first growing season after planting but even after that regular watering is needed till they’re established. You may think the surface is wet when in fact the soil round the roots may be dry. A new 6ft tree needs something in the region of 60 gallons of water a week to thrive



Weeds lawns and other vegetation will fight with your new tree or shrub for water so keep a vegetation-free circle of at least 1m around the plant for its first 2 -3 years to help it establish and keep mulching the area to suppress weeds.



Can be done in spring with a suitable fertiliser until your plant is established


Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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