Spring Planting: Perennials

When to Plant Dormant Bare Root Perennials and How to Delay Planting by Storing or Heeling In or Potting Up the Bare Rooted Plant

Your bare root perennial plants are ready for planting. Are you ready for them? When to plant these in the garden and how to delay planting, if you must.

Perennials are sold either as bare root plants or as container grown plants. To know when to plant your bare root perennials (sold without soil) in the spring garden, follow these guidelines.

Bare Root Perennials

If you have received or purchased a dormant bare root plant, you can plant it as soon as the ground can be worked, meaning the soil is not frozen and not too wet and muddy. This allows the plant to wake up naturally with the season. Frost and cold weather will not hurt the dormant plant, assuming it is hardy for your zone.

Holding Bare Root Plants

If for some reason you must hold a bare root plant prior to planting in its intended garden spot, you can store it for a day or two in a dark, cool place. (Keep it cool but do not allow it to freeze — this could damage the exposed bare root.) Since it is bare root and dormant, you want it to stay dormant. Do not put it in a warm spot or try to make it grow.

Heeling In Bare Root Plants

If you need to keep it a little longer than that, you can heel it in outside in the garden. To heel it in, dig a shallow trench in the garden and drape the roots sideways into it. The plant will be at an angle. Cover the roots with soil and mulch over top of that. This is a temporary location for only a short time. Transplant to a permanent location as soon as possible, preferably before it begins to grow for the season.

Potting Up Bare Root Plants

Another temporary measure for holding a bare root plant, if you must, is to pot up your plant. Use a good quality soil-less potting mix formulated for container plants. Plant into a pot that is large enough to hold the roots without crowding. Keep the plant outdoors in a morning sun location with protection from harsh winds, and water as needed to keep the soil slightly moist. You do not want to force it into growth, allow it to wake up naturally with the season.

Truly this is not the best way to handle your new plant. Plant bare roots in the garden as soon as you can, it is usually less stressful for the plant to be in the ground than be started in a container and then transplanted later.

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