Bare root season

30th Nov 2022

Bare root rails Dale

As the temperature finally drops, the world of tree-planting starts to talk about bare root. For the uninitiated, this means you can buy trees and hedging that are dug up from the ground, with bare roots. You can still plant container-grown things, as well.

Winter is the traditional time for planting trees and hedging. Back in the not-too-distant past, it was difficult for plant nurseries to maintain trees and hedging in pots, so they were mostly grown in the field and only transplanted once dormant (i.e. in winter) when there was less chance of them drying out and suffering during transportation.

Times changed, and now you can buy a huge range of trees grown in containers, maintained carefully in nursery systems that keep them upright, fed and watered until they are quite a height. This is fantastic for the customer, since it means they are available for planting all year round. Sometimes they're cheaper in bare root form as field-grown trees are a bit easier to grow and transport without pots, but it's not always the case.

If you’re going to plant trees or hedging this winter, things to bear in mind are that container-grown trees need to be transported with their pot and compost. The roots usually fill the pot and grip the compost all around them, so you don't pull them out and they become bare root, just in case you were wondering! Bare root trees can be easier to carry and transport to the planting location, for example you might be able to balance one over your shoulder without the weight of a pot and compost, or carry several at a time. This advantage really comes into its own with hedging whips (young plants) – if you’re planting dozens or tens of dozens, bags of bare root whips really is the way to go. That said, we have more variety of trees grown in pots, and you can browse these in the nursery (whereas we will choose bare root trees for you).

In a nutshell, that’s the difference between bare root and container. Traditionalists might look for bare root plants for planting between November and March, which will be ready to wake up in spring and delight with their unfurling leafbuds, but there’s nothing to say you can’t plant something container-grown this season.

Whatever you do, please take care of your new trees before and after planting. They might look like tough sticks in midwinter, but any damage to the stem or roots can prevent their flourishing. This means taking care during transportation (hence we use our own trusted delivery team) and making sure that no animals munch on the trunk, rub up against it or push it over (see When to use rabbit and deer guards).

More information on bare root trees and planting can be found in our guides section, including:

Bare root or container?

Buying bare root hedging

Heeling-in bare root trees and hedging

Planting bare root whips

Planting in cold weather

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