The Expert Secret to Save Hundreds on Gardening: Bare Root Plants

What are bare root plants and how can homeowners take advantage of this inexpensive way to garden?

woman gardening

Homeowners spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on gardening and landscaping each year. What may be surprising to the amateur gardener is that plants and even trees need not be that expensive. The key to saving hundreds on gardening is the bare root plant.

What are bare root plants and how can homeowners take advantage of this inexpensive way to garden? Keep reading to discover a horticulturist's best kept secret.

What Are Bare Root Plants?

Bare root plants are shipped during the dormant season when leaves have fallen from the trees. This means there is no foliage, no soil and no container on a bare root plant. It is just the bare root of the plant that's been dug out of the field.

To some, bare root plants might look dead. After a simple scratch test to reveal the green inside the plant, gardeners will see it's alive and healthy.

Growing dormant plants from a bare root may seem like an overwhelming task. In reality, bare root plants are some of the easiest plants you could grow yourself. Once the growing season hits, the plants will bloom and lengthen just as containerized plants would. They require no special care aside from thorough watering when planting.

Why Are Bare Root Plants Cost Effective?

When you order bare root plants, you aren't paying for the expense of a heavy container and even heavier soil. Oftentimes, the soil in a plant container weighs four times what the bare root plant would weigh on its own.

Prices can be astronomical when you're shipping heavy plants and soil. You have soil in your garden, so why pay extra for it? You can get larger plants for a fraction of the cost when you buy them bare root.

To ship bare root plants at TN Nursery, we dip the roots in terra-sorb gel that can absorb up to 200 times weight in water and slowly release it to keep plants happy and healthy. Then, we surround the bare root plant in peat moss and place them in bags to retain moisture. This process feeds moisture to the root system for up to 12 days in transit and makes for much more affordable shipping.

What's the Difference Between Bare Root Plants and Containerized Plants?

When plants have been grown in a container, their roots attach to the soil of the container. Because of this, when you're buying a containerized plant, you're paying for soil.

Bare root plants are grown in a field and can be planted right in your garden. There is no need for hiring help or heavy equipment to get bare root trees in your yard. Unlike large containerized tree orders, you don't need landscapers to get bare root plants in your space.

Bare root plants are also just as hardy as containerized plants. Because the bare roots are in dormancy, they can adapt to new soil conditions quickly without going through transplant shock. As soon as you plant and water the bare root plant, it will start growing again. This is why bare root plants are more likely to adapt better to your garden than containerized plants.

What Bare Root Plants Are Popular Among Gardeners?

Bare root plants are a great way to get all kinds of plants and trees in your garden for less than half the cost of containerized plants.

Maple trees are a popular tree homeowners look for. This vibrant fall foliage grows in moist conditions, but will also tolerate dry and sandy environments. They require little to no maintenance and may only need to be pruned every couple of years.

Among perennials, we see a lot of gardeners looking for bare root daffodils. These resilient and easy-to-grow plants flourish in sunny locations. For greenery year-round, gardeners look for pine trees and hedge trees.

Spring's first bloomers are always a popular choice. Gardeners can't get enough of the vibrant blooms of plants like forsythia and hydrangeas.

How Can I Prepare Soil for Bare Root Plants?

There are many DIY tricks you can use to save on soil expenses. Using table scraps for fertilizer not only saves money but can also provide better nutrients for plants than store-bought options. Aged chicken or cow manure can also be good for plants. Anywhere you have old garden beds, you'll likely find rich topsoil that's nutritious for garden plants.

As a horticulturist, I've discovered that the nutrients in your soil determine the color of your plants. Take hydrangea blooms for example. In some areas, they'll look blue and lavender. That's because of acidic soil with a pH lower than 6.0. In places with a pH above 7.0, you'll see more pink and red blooms.

The beginning gardener may not know that you can lower your pH by adding sulfur or aluminum sulfate to your soil and get brighter blooms. With a cheap pH test from Amazon or your local co-op, you can discover what your garden needs to get those vibrant blooms everyone loves. You can also just add a cup of water and a half cup of vinegar to your soil. If the soil starts to bubble and fizz, it has a high alkalinity.

Bare root plants are a fantastic way to get the garden of your dreams without spending hundreds on plants. Before you set out with a four-figure shopping list, consider bare root plants and perfect your landscape without emptying your wallet.

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts