Bare root plants are dug in the late fall and early spring while they are still dormant in the field. The soil is removed from their roots and then stored in a temperature-controlled cooler starting in October and into late spring as late as June for future shipping and planting.
The bare root plant is sold with no soil on the roots versus a container plant with the roots growing in soil. Bare root is a great alternative to container plants and balled & burlapped as they are easy to plant, less expensive and quickly establish themselves to their new environment with little to no transplant shock. Bare root plants are not as needy as container plants at the start. Don’t be alarmed on the appearance of these “sleeping” dormant plants. The lack of leaves is normal. The plant still believes it is winter since they just came out of the cooler. The initial appearance resembles a lifeless twig, but don’t panic. This is natural and these plants are most definitely alive and will soon grow and develop into the beautiful blooming plants you saw pictured in the colorful catalog as they start to “wake” up from their dormancy.
There is a limited window when bare root plants can be dug and when they can be planted. In the Midwest, bare root plants may be planted in the fall from October until the ground freezes, and in the spring from late March or early April into June. Once the plants arrive, ideally they should be planted as soon as possible. If this is not feasible, the plants can be stored in their packaged state in a garage, out of the sun and where it is cool. Make sure not to freeze. Inspect the packaging to make sure it is still moist. You may need to re-wet the packaging.
Planting Instructions: When you are ready to plant, remove the plants from the packaging, trim off any broken or damaged branches and roots and remove all of the twine on the plants completely. Soak the roots into water until you can get them into the soil. Do not expose the roots to sun. Make sure to check that the desired planting location is applicable with the plant requirements. Dig a hole at least 6” wider than the root mass. The planting depth should be the same as it was grown at the nursery. Place fertilizer packets in the hole. Spread the roots and fill up halfway with soil and water until soil settles. Re-adjust plant and fill the hole with the rest of the soil. Backfill the soil firmly around the plant and water well.
Not all plants are available bare root and some plants are only available in spring. McKay offers a variety of trees, shrubs, roses, vines and fruits. Bare root plants are a great value and easy to handle for the do it yourselfers.