Bare root

This is when dormant plants and trees are sold and transported with no soil around their roots.

It is the preferred method for shipping many trees, fruit trees, fruit bushes and roses. Bare root plants are usually, but not exclusively, deciduous plants which have a fully dormant season over winter.

Dormant plants sold as bare root have been grown in the field and are dug up when ordered, during the dormant season. This is approximately November to March in the Northern hemisphere, depending on the mildness of the season.. It is a cost effective method of growing and so bare root plants are cheaper than container grown plants.

Once dug up, the plants and trees have their bare roots wrapped in sawdust, wood shavings or plastic to protect them during transit. Some nurseries and garden centres sell bare root plants, but the greatest choice can be found online. Specialist fruit tree nurseries may only sell bare root plants.

Some are sold as ‘root ball’. Root ball trees have some soil around the root ball to protect the roots, so are not strictly speaking ‘bare root’.

See also our gardening articles on choosing and planting bare root plants and bare root fruit trees.

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Chartered Institute of Horticulture