Bare root plants are available during the dormancy period between November and March. Some online garden centres will accept pre-orders from around July or August onwards, in case you are very well prepared and planning ahead. Just bear in mind that if you pre-order you'll still need to wait until November when the dormancy period has set in to receive your plants. Digging them up and supplying them bare root any earlier (during the growing season) is not viable as it's harmful and disruptive to the plants. Naturally, this means you'll be receiving your order in late autumn to winter, so you'll have to wrap up warm when venturing out into the garden to plant them.
Interested in learning more about the basics - you may want to read out article on 'What are bare root plants?'.
At this time of the year, deciduous varieties will be yet to come into leaf. Don't worry if they look a bit brown and twiggy - they're still very healthy plants with an extensive root system. Once planted, the roots will establish in their new location over the winter ready to support a fabulous display of flowers and foliage come the spring. Bare root evergreens will of course still be in leaf with the upper growth looking very much the same as their containerised counterparts.
Bare root box plants are evergreen with upper growth that looks the same as containerised plants
If you choose to order bare root plants from Jackson's Nurseries, we use carefully selected packaging materials to lock in plenty of moisture around the roots to ensure they don't dry out in transit and arrive looking ship shaped. You'll notice that bare root plants are more affordable than the equivalent height and size of plant supplied in containers, giving you more "bang for your buck". This can equate to quite a healthy cost saving, which comes in particularly useful in the run up to Christmas, without sacrificing on the size or quality of plants you will receive.
Planting a bare rot Cornus - a good choice for heavier clay soils
We often get asked when is the best time to order bare root plants for delivery within the November to March range mentioned above. This is down to personal preference, but there are a couple of factors to keep in mind.
Firstly, your plants - whether bare root or containerised - should not be planted if the ground is frozen or waterlogged. It's also best to avoid planting on days when it is excessively windy as this makes taller and top-heavy plants more difficult to manage, particularly when backfilling. In the UK, the likelihood of frost is highest between December and February, so if you want the best chance of being able to plant immediately upon taking delivery of your order, November and March can be good options.
The second consideration that's often overlooked is when you'll have time to plant. Whilst bare root plants might look easier to put into the ground than containerised root-balls, they still need the right care and attention. A quick, hashed job of planting will not give your plants the best chance - see our guide on how to plant, grow and care for bare root plants for more information. With this in mind, it's worth arranging delivery at a time when you're able to properly prepare the ground, plant and mulch. The Easter Bank holidays unfortunately fall a little beyond the end of the bare root planting season and the run up to Christmas is usually best avoided as a busy time for other reasons.
Mulching around a newly planted bare root Cornus (dogwood)
If the ground is frozen or waterlogged when you take delivery of my plants, or if you cannot plant straight away for some other reason:
1) Store them in a cool, dry, frost-free place that's protected from the wind until you're ready to plant - a shed, garage or outbuilding is ideal (but not a greenhouse).
2) Remove the plants from the packaging and dunk the roots in a bucket of tepid water for an hour. Don't keep the roots in water for too long - any more than 2 hours and they'll drown.
3) If the delay in planting will be more than a couple of days, temporarily pot them up using a good quality compost or 'heal in' your plants by digging an angled trench, covering the roots with loose soil and keeping moist. Plants that have been 'heeled in' can be kept like that for a couple of weeks and sometimes longer, depending on the weather.
Bare root Cornus being dunked in a bucket of water after being unpacked
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