A GROWING CONCERN: The bare facts on bare-root plants

FEBRUARY IS THE time for many a gardener to get busy in preparation for “spring gardening mania.”

There are so many tasks to do from pruning, edging, sowing grass seed and never has there been a better time get on these pesky weeds that have germinated now by the thousands.

Speaking of now or never, now is the time to seek out, purchase and plant bare-root trees and other plants.


There are a variety of reasons why bare-root plants are extremely advantageous to you and your yard.

Let’s go through the list so you may better understand this social and economic way to enhance your home or business.

First, this is the only time of year this particular plant is available to the public — and for good reason.

To pass up this opportunity now is to pass up this great product for another year.

The reason that mid- and late-winter along with early spring is the only time of year bare-root plants are available is because now is the only time this particular product will survive and perform well for the homeowner.

In fact, now is also the most ideal time to plant.

The weather is cool, mild and damp — perfect for minimizing transplant shock.

In addition, the sun is still low in the horizon, so heat stress, evaporation of soil moisture and transportation of moisture from the plant itself is of little concern.

Furthermore, plants are still in their dormant or semi-dormant stage.

Planted in the next few weeks, they will essentially “wake up” in their new location believing this is where they have always been.

Feeder root production starts in earnest soon, so planting bare-root items now adheres them to the ground as they rapidly “grow in” to their new location.

In fact, as I have stated numerous times before — all pruning is stimulating and root plants have all been root pruned, so the natural cycle of root growth this time of year is accelerated by the inherent nature of being a bare root.

As stated last week, weeds are germinating now.

Anytime you dig in the dirt, you greatly increase the odds of growing new weeds.

As to digging that new hole, bare-root material has a much smaller root ball so the pit to be excavated is smaller — which is extremely beneficial since most of us need a rock bar or jackhammer in order to dig any new planting hole.

A huge advantage to bare root items is the undeniable fact that they are far less costly than their counterparts.

Root plants grow at the wholesaler closer together and weigh far less than container or potted plants, which means they ship at a greater reduced cost.

Then at the retail end, they can display more plants per square foot and care for them in less time. Bare-root plants also tend to be in larger grade size and more varieties than are offered at other times of the year.

Availability of many plants is limited later in the year, so now may be the only time to find a nice 8-foot to 10-foot edible Rainier cherry tree at an affordable price.

How to plant

Begin today by calling your favorite nurseries or greenhouses and ask if and when they will receive root plant material. Berries, ground covers, roses, perennials and even vines can also be purchased bare-root.

Make absolutely sure you fertilize them, preferably with bone meal and blood meal mix. Mulch them well.

Always, always water in extremely well to collapse dirt in and around their roots, regardless of how much it has been raining.

Never, ever use your feet to do that task. Compacted soil is a plant’s worst enemy and guarantees very poor plant performance.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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