Why Some Plants Arrive Bare Root While Others are in Containers
The dry, sparse appearance of bare root perennials can be alarming to the novice gardener, but in reality ordering bare root is often the smarter choice. Foliage and blooms can be seductive, but the health and long-term potential of a plant truly lies in its roots. Bare root plants have several advantages over plants in containers—bare roots are less likely to be harmed in the shipping process, their timing is easier to control, and they are field-grown for larger, healthier root systems. This why Wayside Gardens has had great success with bare root plants, and you can too!
It is safer to ship plants in bare root form because there is no risk in harming new growth, and therefore the plant actually has a better chance of making it safely into the customer’s garden.
And thanks to refrigerated storage, the timing of bare root perennials can be precisely controlled. "(Bare root perennials) are dormant," explains JPPA's Lead Horticulturist, "But as soon as they leave the refrigerated storage they'll begin breaking dormancy." And once the plant 'wakes up', it is ready to begin the growing season in earnest, which means it will quickly catch up to the level of container plants.
The most important benefit of bare root perennials is that they can be field grown rather than confined to containers. The bare root hibiscus from Wayside Gardens used to be offered in a quart container. But the hibiscus was simply too cramped in that space, so Wayside switched to growing it in the earth and selling it bare root. The result is a thick, fibrous mass of roots that used to fill up several cubic feet of soil and which, even in its bare, pruned form would be too large to fit back into the 1-Quart container. What a difference a little space makes! While small and slow-growing cultivars can start well in containers, large and vigorous cultivars need more room to stretch out and develop a solid root system.