November to March is the ideal time to plant bare-root plants. These are plants that have been been grown in open ground, then dug up for despatch and planting during the dormant season. They are called ‘bare-root’ plants as they are supplied with no soil around their roots. They are usually bought online, or by mail order.
Bare-root plants are generally cheaper than plants grown in containers, and you’ll often find a wider selection of varieties this way. Planting them in the dormant season means that they should establish well – while the top growth may be brown and twiggy, the roots are busy establishing beneath.
All kinds of plants can be supplied bare-root, from trees to perennials. Find out more below.
Winter is the ideal time to plant a bare-root tree – you’ll find a wide selection at tree nurseries or online. Be sure to mulch and stake afterwards. Watch Monty’s video guide to planting a bare-root tree.
A crab apple tree covered in bright red fruit
Planting a hedge is much more economical if you buy bare-root plants and while not ‘instant’, they will knit together quickly. It’s a great way to plant beech, hornbeam or an ‘edible hedge’ made up of a mix of edible plants such as blackthorn, cherry plum and Rosa rugosa. Read our guide to planting a bare-root hedge.
A neatly trimmed beech hedge
You can buy container-grown roses all year round, but for the best selection, it pays to plant them bare-root. They will establish quickly and you should enjoy flowers the following summer. Find out how to plant a bare-root rose.
Pink-cream rose blooms
Many perennials can be planted bare-root. Peonies in particular are best planted this way, although you can also plant agapanthus, hardy geraniums and a host of other plants. Discover 10 perennials to plant bare-root.
Peach bloom of Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’
Fruit bushes and canes
The dormant season is also the ideal time to plant fruit – especially if you are planting lots of plants – it’s much more economical and you’ll get the widest pick of varieties. Follow our advice on planting bare-root raspberries and bare-root blackcurrants.
Ripening and ripe raspberries on a cane
You’ll find the widest selection of fruit trees – if you buy them bare-root – apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricots can all be bought this way. You can also buy bare-root stepovers, espaliers and cordons. Discover how to plant a bare-root fruit tree.
Blossom on an apple tree
Shrubs can also be planted bare-root. Willow, yew, Rosa rugosa and viburnum are just some of the shrubs that can be planted this way. Watch our video guide to planting a bare-root shrub.
Orange, round hips of Rosa rugosa
Caring for a bare-root plant
It is essential that the roots of a bare-root plant don’t dry out. Be sure to soak the roots in winter as soon as you receive your plants. If you can’t plant immediately – if the soil is frozen, for example – heel them in until the weather improves.