Guides

Bare root or container?

There are two ways we mostly supply trees to you: as a bare root or grown in a container. In short, a bare root tree comes without anything on the roots except a bag; a container grown tree comes rooted into a pot with compost. The bare root tree was growing in a field till shortly before you decided to buy it; the container grown one is growing in its pot.

The main differences you need to be aware of are that:

  • some plants (including evergreens) are only available in containers
  • bare root trees are only available between November and March, but container grown ones are available all year round
  • bare root trees can be cheaper, especially if you are buying several of the same type
  • you can come to the nursery and choose your own container grown tree, but if you order a bare root, we'll choose the specimens for you

It's also worth bearing in mind that we need a bit of notice before you can come and pick up bare roots as they need to be dug up. If your container tree is in stock, you can just come down and take it away with no need to pre-order.

Bare root trees and hedging at the nursery
Bare root trees and hedging at the nursery

Which is best?

There's no quality difference between bare root and container trees, per se. So which is best for you depends on:

  • What time of year you want to plant

If you want to plant between March and November, container grown is the only option. Between November and March, you can choose either bare root or container grown.

  • If you want to save money

Bare root trees are often cheaper than a similar size in a container, especially if you are taking more than one of the same species/variety.

  • Whether you want to choose your own tree

We regret that because of the way bare root trees are stored, our staff pick trees for bare root orders. These are always checked for quality and we will do our best to fulfil special requests for characteristics. If you prefer to choose your own specimens, container trees are on show at the nursery.

  • Whether you have to carry your tree far

Trees in pots are heavier and more difficult to move around, so bare root trees can be advantageous if you need to take your tree across a field, for example, with no mechanical help.

  • If you're looking for a really large, mature tree

The largest bare root trees we generally stock are 10-12cm girth (maximum 3-4m tall). Larger trees are available from our container grown stock, sometimes as airpots.

If you prefer to choose your own tree, opt for potted
If you prefer to choose your own tree, opt for potted

Why are bare root trees cheaper than container grown?

As they're grown in the ground, bare root trees do not need repotting each year, constant irrigation and feeding. They're easier to take care of! There is also more stock of bare root trees available. Added to that, they're easier to despatch due to being lighter and taking up less space than trees in pots. For these reasons, bare root trees can be sold at a lower price than their potted counterparts, especially if you are purchasing large quantities.

Why don't you sell bare rooted evergreens?

Not all trees are available bare rooted, as some don't enjoy being transplanted this way. Evergreens are almost never available bare rooted as they don't go into full dormancy, so most of our bare root stock are deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves).

Why can't I buy a bare root tree in summer?

A bare root tree is dug up from the ground while it's dormant (after it loses its leaves and before they come back in the spring). At this time, it can be transplanted without the soil its roots were growing in. You can't remove the soil from the roots in the growing months, as the roots would dry out quickly and the tree could die. Even in winter, you should plant a bare root tree as soon as possible after receipt.

When can I order a bare root tree?

We usually take orders from September until March. Some trees are ready to send out or pick up in November, but fruit trees aren't ready until December as they enter dormancy later.

What does 6-8cm / 8-10cm / 10-12cm mean?

Bare root trees are sold by their 'girth size', i.e. 6-8cm, 8-10cm or 10-12cm. This is a measurement taken around the tree stem, at one metre above the ground. You may ask, why use this instead of height? The girth size often corresponds quite well to a certain height, but in general it's a better indicator of the maturity of a tree than the height.

Bare root hedging

From November to March, we also supply bare root hedging as 'whips' (young, whippy plants). The same general principles apply, except that they are graded by height instead of girth: 40-60cm, 60-80cm, 80-100cm and 100-125cm.

Bare root hedging is priced per plant, unless you opt for our native hedging mix, which is priced per metre (4 plants). Read more about buying bare root hedging and planting bare root hedging.

Is a container tree just one that has been dug up and put into a pot?

A container grown tree may have been transplanted from the ground into a pot, or it may have always been grown in a succession of larger and larger pots. It will never be recently transplanted from the ground to pot, though. Before it is sold to you, we make sure that it is 'well rooted' in the pot, meaning it has formed a sturdy root system in the compost. If a tree or plant is not well rooted, it will suffer when transplanted.

When can I plant a container grown tree?

Container trees are available all year round, and can be planted at any time of year. It is best to avoid planting in extreme weather conditions, though, e.g. when the ground is frozen solid or completely sodden, or in very dry weather. Read about the right time to plant trees.

What does 30L mean?

We sell container trees by the pot size - from 3 litre to 350L. Again, this is a stable measurement, unlike height. Our 15L (easily transportable) and 30L sizes are the most popular.

Are all trees available as container grown and bare root?

No. Our range of container trees is greater than our bare root range. Some trees fare much better transplanted from containers, so we prefer to only offer them in this form.

We hope that answers many of the questions you may have about the difference between bare root and container trees, but please get in touch if you have any other queries.

Comments

By Jennifer anderson on 08/10/2019

HI have you any amelanchier lamarckii multi stemmed trees with bare roots for delivery in the near future,
Kind regards

By Simon on 10/10/2019

Hello Jennifer,

I’m afraid we don’t do Amelanchier lamarckii as bare roots. As it’s somewhat weak to root out, we only do them in pots to ensure good establishment. Please see link for options available https://www.chewvalleytrees.co.uk/products/detail/amelanchier-lamarckii .

By Pauline broad on 15/10/2019

Hello

Do you supply Cotoneaster Cornubia as a bare rooted plant?

By Simon on 17/10/2019

Hello Pauline,

As Cotoneaster Cornubia is a semi-evergreen, it’s never fully dormant and hence harder to lift from ground. We have them container grown only as they’ve proven better quality this way.

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