Save money with bare-root products

Once you have made the purchase of a bare-root product, open the contents as soon as possible.

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Various bare-root products wait at local retailers for purchase.<br/><br/>
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun
John Zvirovski.jpg
John Zvirovski, Jamestown Sun garden editor
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

The itch is on and people are beginning to get anxious to get out into their yards to satiate the spring fever urges. This year seems like it is going to be a late one as we have a lot of snow on the ground to melt. Indoors, seeds are beginning to sprout for those who have started their peppers, tomatoes, flowers and other plants to place into the yard after the last frost has passed. Many retailers are setting out bare-root products for early sales. Many of these are packaged up in boxes, plastic bags and netting materials for best storage.

Be careful when making purchases of these bare-root products along with the many different bulb types. The packaging alone is enough to entice each and every one of us into making a purchase. Photos adorn the outside of these packages with brilliant flower colors hinting at what could be. One can quickly acquire a few too many by the pictures alone but be aware that some of these may take a year or two to mature and produce flowers. Many others can produce blooms within the first year.

My first suggestion is to find out what the return policy is for the products you are purchasing. Most will accept the product back within a few weeks of purchase if they are in poor condition or dead. A great deal of the packaging today is in bags that you cannot see through, thus keeping us from actually seeing the product inside. This isn’t done to discourage the buyer, but more so to protect the plants inside from light to keep them dormant.

Once you have made the purchase of a bare-root product, open the contents as soon as possible and get them planted into containers of soil. This will encourage them to begin root development and growth. Grow lights above the containers will keep the plants from becoming too tall and leggy while they begin growing. When the weather begins to moderate outdoors, place them in the early morning sunshine to get them acclimated to the outdoor conditions. This will also strengthen their stems.

If the roots are dry and lifeless upon opening the package, my suggestion would be to return them as soon as possible and get a different package. These products can be large money-savers, but only if you are getting live plants.


Many different plants are available in these types of packaging. Some of the most common perennial selections are peonies, phlox, iris, hosta, lily of the valley, rudbeckia, daylilies, Asiatic lilies and oriental lilies.

Other common packaged bare-root items include woody plant materials such as rose bushes, blackberries, raspberries, grape vines, honeysuckle vines and even Chinese wisteria! Always check the bud health on the branches to ensure a healthy product. If the plant has already broke buds, make sure they get plenty of light to ensure strong growth that won’t become damaged once placed outside.

Bulbs, tubers and corms are also commonly sold in bulk this time of year. Many are in packages you can’t see through also such as begonia, caladiums, dahlias, and cannas. Many of these tend to begin to rot if left in the packaging for long periods of time. Often, I gently squeeze the contents in the bags to make sure they are firm and not soft and mushy. No point in purchasing something that is already past its prime.

Other bulbs are packaged in a netted material to keep the air circulation flowing around the product, keeping them from deteriorating. Gladiolus, tuberose, peacock flower, Dutch iris and ismenes are commonly sold this way. It is the best type of packaging to see the product firsthand and make the wisest choices. Many of these items can remain in the netted bags until planting time in May but store them in a cool, dark and dry place to keep them healthy.

Bare-root products can be a very inexpensive route to take as long as you make cautious purchases to acquire the best product early. If you wait too long, you will only have poor product left from which to choose.

Remember, buy the product early, open the packaging immediately, and get the roots planted as soon as possible. It won’t be long before you are planting your green plants into the garden to enjoy for the coming summer season; at least that is what I am dreaming about! It is one of the best ways to start the gardening season early and to become prepared.

I have started many of mine already and I can attest that it has already improved my mood. Gardening just seems to have a way of doing that!

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