Bare Root Plants

Bare Root Plants

Bare root planting season is now open! 

Using bare root plants is a great, economical option for many people who are looking to buy plants for the garden. Bare root plants are a beginner gardeners dream, if you have a new garden and need to plant a hedge, trees or shrubs; your money will go much further planting bare root than with similar potted plants. They also generally tend to develop a better root system than potted varieties.

We often find less experienced gardeners can be nervous to buy bare root as they are unsure exactly what bare root plants are and how to plant them. We've put together a simple guide to take the mystery out of bare root planting and give inexperienced gardeners the knowledge they need to make the best choices for their gardening projects. The biggest benefits of bare root plants are that they are inexpensive to buy, the root systems tend to develop well resulting in healthier plants and last but not least, they don’t need plastic pots, making them more environmentally friendly than potted varieties.

What are bare root plants?

Bare root plants are plants which have been grown in a commercial nursery in the open ground and are supplied to your local garden centre with no soil around the roots. When you buy bare root plants, their roots will be exposed, ready to plant directly into the ground.

What are the differences between Bare Root plants and Container Plants


Bare Root Plants

Container Plants

When to plant

From November to March

All year


Visible roots, no soil around roots

Delivered in plastic pots


Excellent value for money

Reflective of the cost & time of growing plants in pots

Root formation & establishment

Faster - roots in direct contact with soil

Instant impact

Environmental cost

They do not require plastic pots

Grown in plastic pots

There is a large variety of bare root deciduous shrubs, trees and hedging plants, along with some evergreens, that you can buy bare root. You will plant bare root plants during the dormancy period of November – March. Despite the visual absence of growth above ground, the roots are slowly developing and establishing away below ground, ready to fuel a wonderful display of flowers and foliage once the soil warms up in the spring. 

When is the best time to plant bare root plants? 

Bare root plant’s should be planted when the ground temperature is below 4 degrees centigrade, known as the dormancy period. This is usually any time between November and March. Once there isn’t icy or snowy conditions, the ground should not be waterlogged or it shouldn’t be very windy when planting. Ideally, if conditions permit, bare rooted plants should be planted as soon as possible after purchase. However, if you’re not ready to plant immediately, you can give the roots a good soaking in water for 30 minutes and then temporarily pot the plants using good quality compost in a cool, dry place where there is no chance of frost. Aim to plant as soon as you can in the coming days.   

How to plant Bare Root plants

  • First prepare the ground by removing any weeds from the area. Weeds will compete for moisture and nutrients so they will reduce the opportunity for bare root to flourish. 
  • Dig a hole in the ground for each individual plant. The hole should be 2-3 times the diameter of the root system and no deeper than the depth of the roots. The hole should be square shaped ideally to encourage the roots to break past the artificial boundary. A circle shape could divert the roots to grow in a tangled fashion within the perimeter of the hole, particularly if you have clay soil. If you are growing a full border of plants, prepare the whole area rather than digging individual holes.
  • If your plants are temporarily planted in compost, pop the roots in a container of water before planting, ideally letting them soak for up to 30 minutes. Then place in a bag and take to your planting location.
  • When placing the plants in the soil, the point where the trunk meets the roots, (the high tide water mark), should sit at soil level. You will notice a little bulge in the trunk just above the roots. Loosen the soil at the sides of the plant to encourage the roots to develop in a downward fashion. We would recommend a light sprinke of Rootgrow on to the roots just before planting, this will help with the uptake of nutrients and will accelerate the establishment of the root system.
  • It is recommended to backfill the roots with existing soil, adding a soil improver such as Fastgrow or some organic matter to help the plant cope and establish well. If the soil is very sticky, adding some grit to the soil will help with drainage.
  • Firm down your soil after planting to eliminate air pockets where ice could form. If you are planting larger trees or shrubs, you should half backfill and firm down the soil and add water to the roots half way through and then add the rest of the backfill, firming down again once complete.
  • When planting taller trees, it’s a good idea to stake them, especially if they will be exposed to wind.


Bare root plants will remain dormant until the growing season begins in April, so you won’t see any growth above ground during this time.

  • Apply a slow release fertiliser a couple of times a year, apply around April and again in September to ensure vigorous growth. Flowering trees & shrubs will especially benefit, encouraging a rich blooming period. If you used Rootgrow when planting the plants, avoid using a fertiliser containing phosphorous during the first year.
  • Keep the area free of weeds, especially for the 1st couple of years, weeds will compete for nutrients and water and may supress the health of your plants.
  • Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, especially in Spring. Use organic slug repellent or egg shells to protect your plants.
Plants to plant bare root 



Tree’s are probably one of the biggest investments you will make in your garden. Bare root trees are an excellent choice, they are economical to buy and they tend to develop a really good root system in the soil so they will settle in the soil and grow well over time. Popular varieties of bare root trees are Scots Pine, Rowan, Yew, Elder, Mountain Ash, Black Thorne, Birch, Hazle, Horse chestnut and Maple.


Bare root hedging is a very affordable choice, especially if your need to plant a long hedge in the garden. While bare root hedging does not provide an ‘instant hedge’, the plants will grow quickly and knit together over a couple of years. And as we all know years pass quickly! 

Popular choices of hedging are laurel, beech and hornbeam. If you would like to plant a hedge to provide food for wildlife, blackthorn, wild cherry and rose rugosa are known as ‘edible hedges’ and are sure to attract wildlife to the garden.

Bare root box plants are another popular choice, box plants are more formal and often used as a low growing hedge to separate area's of the garden.


Due to the deciduous nature of roses, they are very suitable for planting bare root during the dormant season. Roses will be grown using traditional ‘field grown’ methods over a couple of years before they are lifted. They establish in the soil quickly and once the growing season begins you will see the plants develop. They may bloom in the first growing season. The varieties of bare rooted roses available will be limited in comparison to potted varieties, this is the only downside. 


Many popular varieties of perennials can be planted bare-root. Peonies in particular are ideally planted this way, although you can also plant agapanthus, geraniums, astilbe and heuchera for example.

Fruit bushes

Fruit bushes such as raspberries and blackcurrants will make your garden a food production haven with an abundant mix of flowers, fruit and beautiful autumn foliage colours. You can produce a decent crop even from a tiny garden. 

Fruit trees

Every gardener should experiment with planting fruit trees. There is nothing more satisfying than collecting your annual harvest from the garden. Fruit trees that are popular are apple, pear trees, plum and cherry and apricot.


Shrubs can also be planted bare-root. Popular varieties are willow, rosa rugosa, yew and viburnum.

For more information on bare root trees, shrubs and plants, you can contact our garden centre in Cork on 021 4888134. We are open 7 days.