Bare Root Plant Guide

About Bare Root Plants

Bare root plants were chosen for our Miyawaki Mini-forest because they are often less expensive than potted plants, and easier to transport. However, they require some different treatment, so we’ve compiled some information on them. Recommendations vary based on specific plants and climates, but these are the methods we plan to use.  

Bare root plants are still-dormant (not growing) plants which are dug up, stored, and transported without soil around their roots. This has to occur during dormancy, which is generally in late fall to early spring. Transporting plants bare root can help avoid the shock that non dormant plants may experience in transport and replanting. Woody plants tend to do better bare root since their roots are less likely to get damaged.


As we looked for a way to keep our bare root plants on site for almost a month, the most common recommendation was heeling in. The general steps go as follows:

  1. Find a protected area in deep shade (this helps reduce the likelihood of breaking dormancy and protects from weather damage)
  2. Dig a v shaped trench deep enough for root masses
  3. Remove the plant from its packaging, and soak the roots in water for about 1 hour
    • It is important throughout the handling of a bare root plant to have them exposed to as little light and cold wind as possible, so work quickly!
  4. Lay plants in  trench at a 30° angle (this keeps the canopy close to the ground and protects it from wind and cold)
  5. Fill trench with loose medium - don’t cover plant stem, or it will cause rotting
    • We use wood chips, but others have also had success with soil, sawdust, mulch, or straw. It is important to keep the roots moist but not waterlogged, so choose a medium accessible to you that will allow air in but also hold moisture
  6. Water until soil is slightly moist, like a run out sponge
  7. Keep roots moist and covered until planting
  8. If buds start swelling, the tree has broken dormancy and must be planted immediately


Bare root plants do best when planted while still dormant, before temperatures have reached 40 to 56 °F. 

  1. Trim any dead roots
  2. Let roots sit in room temperature water for 30 minutes to an hour before planting
  3. Dig the hole for the plant, twice as wide as the root mass and slightly deeper
  4. Make a small mound at the bottom of the hole to drape the roots over (helps make sure they are spaced well) 
  5. Place the plant in the hole, and level the root collar with the soil
  6. Gently fill hole with soil, and tamp to avoid air bubbles
  7. 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the plant will help to regulate temperatures and avoid other plant competition 
    1. If you are still worried about frost, a thicker layer of mulch may help protect the plant
  8. Water well at first planting

Thank you to Noah Booker, Darrel Gray, Richard Kessler, and Frank Corey for answering our questions!

The following sites were also helpful for us: