How To Plant Bare Root Perennials [ Full Guide ]

Bare root perennials are plants that are sold and shipped without soil around their roots. They are dormant and typically sold during the winter months. Planting bare root perennials is an economical and efficient way to add new greenery to your garden. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps of planting bare root perennials, ensuring a successful and flourishing garden.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Bare Root Perennials

Planting bare root perennials involves a few key steps:

  1. Site selection: Choose a suitable location with the right amount of sunlight and well-drained soil.
  2. Prepping the soil: Prepare the soil by removing weeds, breaking up clumps, and adding organic matter.
  3. How to soak bare root perennials: Soak the roots of the bare root perennials to rehydrate them before planting.
  4. Planting: Ensure the roots are spread out and the crown is at the correct depth.
  5. Watering and mulching: Water the newly planted perennials thoroughly and apply mulch around the base.

Now, let’s delve into each step in detail.

Site Selection

Selecting the right site for planting bare root perennials is crucial for their growth and longevity. Consider the following factors when choosing a location:


Most perennials require at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Observe the potential planting area throughout the day to determine the amount of sunlight it receives. Choose a spot with the appropriate sunlight for the specific type of bare root perennial you intend to plant.

Soil Drainage

Good drainage is essential for the health of bare root perennials. Avoid areas with heavy clay soil that tends to retain water, as it can lead to root rot. Conversely, sandy soils drain too quickly and may not retain enough moisture. Select a site with loamy, well-drained soil to provide an ideal growing environment for the perennials.


Consider the mature size of the perennial when selecting a planting site. Ensure there is adequate space for the plant to grow and spread without crowding other vegetation. Additionally, take into account the potential height of the perennial to prevent shading issues with other plants.

Prepping The Soil

Preparing the soil is essential for providing a healthy foundation for the bare root perennials. Follow these steps to ensure the soil is ready for planting:

Clear The Area

Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting site. Weeds can compete with the new perennials for nutrients and water, hindering their growth.

Loosen The Soil

Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. This process improves the soil’s aeration and allows the roots to penetrate easily.

Add Organic Matter

Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the soil. This enriches the soil with essential nutrients and improves its structure, promoting healthy root development.

Test The Soil Ph

Test the soil pH to ensure it falls within the optimal range for the specific type of perennial you plan to plant. Many perennials prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. If necessary, amend the soil to adjust its pH level.

How To Soak Bare Root Perennials

Soaking bare root perennials before planting is a crucial step that rehydrates the dormant roots, preparing them for growth. Follow these steps to soak bare root perennials effectively:


Upon receiving the bare root perennials, it’s essential to soak them as soon as possible. If immediate planting is not feasible, store the bare root plants in a cool, dark location, and ensure the roots remain moist until soaking and planting.

Choose An Appropriate Container

Select a container large enough to accommodate the bare root perennials. A bucket or tub works well for this purpose.

Fill With Water

Fill the container with water, ensuring it is deep enough to submerge the roots entirely. Use room temperature water to avoid shocking the roots.

Submerge The Roots

Carefully place the bare root perennials in the container, ensuring the roots are fully submerged. Allow the roots to soak for at least 1 to 2 hours, or as recommended for the specific type of perennial.

Inspect For Swelling

After soaking, inspect the roots for signs of rehydration, such as swelling and increased flexibility. Rehydrated roots are more pliable and easier to handle during planting.


Planting bare root perennials properly sets the stage for their growth and development. Follow these steps to plant bare root perennials:

Spread The Roots

Gently spread the roots of the bare root perennials in all directions. This encourages outward growth and prevents them from becoming pot-bound.

Dig A Hole

Dig a hole in the prepared soil that is wide enough to accommodate the spread roots and deep enough for the plant’s crown to sit at ground level. Avoid planting too deep, as this can lead to crown rot.

Position The Plant

Position the plant in the center of the hole, ensuring the roots are spread out and not cramped. Adjust the depth of the hole as needed to place the crown at the appropriate level.

Backfill With Soil

Fill the hole with soil, tamping it gently to remove air pockets. Ensure the newly planted perennial is secure and upright.

Water Thoroughly

Water the newly planted perennials immediately after planting to settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots. Use a gentle stream of water to avoid displacing the soil.

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Watering And Mulching

Proper watering and mulching are essential for nurturing the newly planted bare root perennials. Follow these steps to ensure the plants receive adequate moisture and protection:


After planting, water the bare root perennials deeply to ensure the entire root system is thoroughly moistened. Monitor the soil moisture levels and water as needed to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.


Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the base of the newly planted perennials. Mulch helps conserve moisture, suppresses weeds, and moderates soil temperature, creating an optimal growing environment for the plants.

Planting bare root perennials is a rewarding endeavor that can result in thriving, long-lasting garden additions. By carefully selecting the planting site, preparing the soil, rehydrating the bare root plants, and following proper planting and maintenance techniques, you can establish a healthy and vibrant perennial garden. With the knowledge and steps outlined in this guide, you are well-equipped to successfully plant and nurture bare root perennials, adding beauty and diversity to your outdoor space.

Digging The Planting Hole

Bare root perennials are a popular choice for gardening enthusiasts due to their affordability, ease of transport, and health benefits. These plants are dormant, which means they lack leaves and flowers. However, once planted, they quickly establish roots and start producing beautiful foliage and blossoms. To ensure successful growth, it is essential to know how to properly plant bare root perennials.

Before you can plant your bare root perennials, it is crucial to prepare the planting hole. The size and depth of the hole will depend on the specific requirements of the plant, which can usually be found on the packaging or obtained from the supplier. Here’s how to dig the planting hole:

  1. Start by selecting a suitable location for your perennial. Consider the lighting conditions and the soil fertility in the area.

  2. Use a garden spade or a shovel to dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the plant’s roots. The width should be two to three times wider than the spread of the roots, and the depth should allow for the plant to be positioned at the same depth it was previously planted.

  3. Remove any rocks, weeds, or debris from the hole. This will help prevent physical barriers that may impede root growth.

Fertilizing And Amending The Soil

Proper soil preparation is essential for the long-term health and success of your bare root perennials. Fertilizing and amending the soil will provide the necessary nutrients and improve its overall structure. Follow these steps to ensure your plants have the best growing conditions:

  1. Test the soil pH and nutrient levels using a soil testing kit. This information will help you determine if any adjustments are needed.

  2. If the soil pH is outside the appropriate range for the specific perennial you are planting, consider using amendments to adjust it. For example, if the soil is too acidic, you can add lime to increase the pH, or if it is too alkaline, sulfur or peat moss can be added to lower the pH. Follow the instructions provided with the soil amendments for the correct application rates.

  3. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost, into the soil to provide essential nutrients and improve drainage and water retention. Spread a layer of compost over the area around the planting hole and mix it into the excavated soil.

  4. Consider adding a slow-release fertilizer or a balanced organic fertilizer to provide the necessary nutrients for the plant’s growth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and methods. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can damage the plant’s roots.

How To Properly Plant The Bare Root Perennials

Now that you have prepared the planting hole and amended the soil, it’s time to plant your bare root perennial. Follow these steps for a successful planting:

  1. Carefully remove the bare root perennial from its packaging or container. Inspect the roots to ensure they are healthy and not dry or damaged. If any damaged or dead roots are present, trim them off with clean and sharp pruning shears.

  2. Place the root system into the prepared planting hole, ensuring that the crown (the area where the roots meet the stem) is level with or slightly above the soil surface. This is particularly important for perennials that prefer well-drained soil or have a crown that is prone to rotting.

  3. Gently backfill the hole with the amended soil, pressing it firmly around the roots to eliminate any air pockets. Take care not to bury the crown too deep, as this can suffocate the plant.

  4. Water the newly planted bare root perennial thoroughly, providing ample moisture to help the roots establish. Adding a layer of organic mulch around the plant will help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Watering And Irrigation Tips

Proper watering is essential for the successful growth and establishment of bare root perennials. Here are some tips to ensure your plants receive the right amount of moisture:

  1. Deeply water the bare root perennial immediately after planting to provide the necessary hydration for root development. Use a gentle spray or a watering can to avoid disturbing the soil or displacing the newly planted perennial.

  2. Monitor the moisture levels in the soil regularly. Insert your finger into the soil, about an inch deep, to check for moisture. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot and other diseases.

  3. Water the perennials deeply but infrequently. It is generally better to water deeply once or twice a week rather than providing small amounts of water daily. This encourages the roots to grow deep into the soil and become more drought-tolerant.

  4. Consider using an irrigation system, such as drip irrigation or a soaker hose, to deliver water efficiently and directly to the roots. This reduces water waste and minimizes the chances of fungal diseases caused by wet foliage.

Planting bare root perennials can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your perennials have the best start in their new home. Remember to properly dig the planting hole, fertilize and amend the soil, plant the bare root perennials at the right depth, and provide adequate watering and irrigation. With the right care and attention, your bare root perennials will thrive and reward you with beautiful foliage and blossoms year after year. Happy gardening!

Staking And Supporting

Bare root perennials are plants that are sold without soil around their roots. They are often dormant and have their roots exposed. Planting bare root perennials can be an economical and efficient way to establish a beautiful garden. However, it is important to follow the correct planting techniques to ensure their successful growth and establishment.

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Before planting bare root perennials, it is important to consider if they require staking or support. Some taller varieties of perennials, such as delphiniums or peonies, may need additional support to prevent them from falling over or getting damaged by strong winds.

To stake a perennial, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by determining the height and size of the plant. This will help you decide on the appropriate staking method and materials.
  2. Choose stakes that are sturdy and long enough to provide adequate support for the plant. Bamboo stakes or metal rods are commonly used.
  3. Insert the stakes into the ground, leaving a few inches above the soil level. For taller perennials, it is recommended to place the stakes at the outer edge of the plant’s root zone to avoid damaging the roots.
  4. Tie the plant to the stakes using soft plant ties or stretchy materials like pantyhose. Make sure the ties are not too tight to allow for natural growth but tight enough to provide support.

For sprawling perennials that require support, such as some varieties of roses or clematis, using trellises or frameworks can help them grow in an organized and aesthetically pleasing manner. Ensure that the support structures are properly installed before planting the bare root perennials.

Mulching The Planted Area

Mulching is an essential step in planting bare root perennials as it helps conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and insulate the soil. Here’s how to mulch the planted area:

  1. After planting the bare root perennial, water the area thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.
  2. Once the soil has settled, spread a layer of organic mulch around the plant. Good choices for mulch include shredded bark, wood chips, or compost.
  3. Apply the mulch to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches, making sure to leave a small gap around the base of the plant to prevent moisture buildup and potential rotting of the stem.
  4. Extend the mulch out to cover the entire root zone, which is usually equal to the width of the plant’s foliage. This helps create a healthy growing environment for the perennial.
  5. Make sure the mulch is not in direct contact with the plant’s stem, as this can lead to moisture retention and increase the risk of diseases.

Mulching should be done after planting the bare root perennial, but it is advisable to prepare the area beforehand by removing any weeds and loosening the soil. This will promote better root growth and make the mulching process easier and more effective.

Post-planting Care And Maintenance

After planting bare root perennials, it is important to provide them with proper care and maintenance to ensure their healthy establishment and growth. Here are some important steps to follow:

  1. Watering: Newly planted bare root perennials need regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. Water deeply and thoroughly, ensuring the entire root zone is moistened. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. As the plants establish, gradually reduce the frequency of watering but increase the amount of water given each time.

  2. Fertilizing: Fertilizer application can help promote healthy growth in bare root perennials. Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer or a layer of compost around the plants in early spring, following the package instructions for the recommended application rate. Avoid over-fertilization, as this can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of flower production.

  3. Pruning: Pruning is an important part of maintaining bare root perennials. Remove any dead or damaged foliage or stems to improve the overall health and appearance of the plant. Deadheading, the removal of spent flowers, also encourages further blooming and prevents the plant from wasting energy on seed production.

  4. Dividing: Some perennials tend to become overcrowded over time, leading to reduced vigor and flower production. Dividing them every few years can rejuvenate the plants and promote better growth. The best time to divide perennials is usually in early spring or late summer, when the plants are dormant or experiencing less active growth.

  5. Weed control: Regular weeding is crucial to maintain the health and appearance of bare root perennials. Weeds not only compete for nutrients and water but can also harbor pests and diseases. Remove any weeds as soon as they appear to prevent them from establishing and spreading.

  6. Pest and disease management: Monitor your bare root perennials for any signs of pest infestation or disease. Common pests include aphids, slugs, and snails, while diseases such as powdery mildew or root rot can affect the health of the plants. If necessary, take appropriate measures to control and treat these issues, using organic or chemical methods as necessary.

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Common Problems And Solutions

While planting bare root perennials can be a rewarding experience, there are some common problems that gardeners may encounter. Here are a few of these problems and their potential solutions:

  1. Failure to establish: Sometimes bare root perennials fail to establish and show signs of growth. This could be due to incorrect planting techniques or poor soil conditions. To avoid this problem, make sure to follow the proper planting guidelines, prepare the soil adequately, and choose a suitable planting location for the specific perennial. Performing a soil test can also help identify any necessary soil amendments.

  2. Root rot: Overwatering or poorly drained soil can lead to root rot in bare root perennials. To prevent this issue, ensure that the soil is well-drained and water the plants appropriately, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. If root rot is suspected, carefully dig up the plant and examine the roots. If they appear brown, mushy, or have a foul odor, it is likely a case of root rot. In such cases, it is best to replace the plant and improve the soil drainage before replanting.

  3. Pests and diseases: Bare root perennials are susceptible to various pests and diseases. Aphids, for example, can be controlled by spraying the plants with a strong jet of water or by using environmentally friendly insecticidal soap. For fungal diseases like powdery mildew, proper air circulation and reducing plant stress can help prevent its occurrence. If pests or diseases become a severe problem, consult a local gardening professional or extension service for appropriate treatment options.

  4. Insufficient sun: Many perennial plants require full sun to thrive. Insufficient sunlight can result in weak growth, poor flowering, and susceptibility to diseases. Before planting, ensure that the chosen location receives the recommended amount of sunlight for the specific perennial species. If the area is shaded, consider selecting shade-tolerant perennials instead.


Planting bare root perennials can be an exciting and cost-effective way to create a beautiful garden. By following the proper planting techniques, providing adequate support, mulching the planted area, and practicing post-planting care and maintenance, you can ensure the healthy establishment and growth of your perennials. Remember to be attentive to common problems and follow their respective solutions for a thriving garden filled with vibrant and long-lasting plants.


What Are Bare Root Perennials?

Bare root perennials are plants that are sold and transplanted without any soil or potting mix around the roots. This means that roots are not contained in a container or ball of soil, making them easier to transport and store.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Bare Root Perennials?

The best time to plant bare root perennials is during their dormant season, usually in late fall or early spring. This allows the roots to establish themselves before the plant starts to actively grow and bloom.

How Do I Prepare The Planting Site For Bare Root Perennials?

First, make sure the planting area has good drainage and is free of weeds and debris. Then, loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches and mix in some compost or organic matter to provide nutrients for the plant.

How Deep Should I Plant Bare Root Perennials?

As a general rule, the planting hole should be two to three times wider than the root spread, and the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem) should be at or slightly above soil level. Firmly pack the soil around the roots to eliminate any air pockets.

How Often Should I Water Bare Root Perennials After Planting?

It’s important to keep the soil around bare root perennials slightly moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply once a week until the plant starts to show new growth, then adjust watering to the plant’s specific needs. Be sure to also check watering instructions for the specific plant you are planting.