Tips and Techniques: A Comprehensive Guide to Planting and Maintaining Bare Root Hedges


If you’re gardening on a budget or looking for a cost-effective way to fill a new hedge, bare-root plants are the solution you’ve been searching for. Bare-root hedges are young plants that have been lifted from the nursery without any soil around their roots. They are dormant during the winter months and can be planted in late autumn or early spring when they are likely to perform best.

Before you start planting your bare-root hedge, it’s important to prepare the ground thoroughly. Clear away any weeds and ensure the soil is well-drained. If your soil is heavy or waterlogged, it might be worth considering planting your hedge on a raised bed or improving the soil drainage. This will help prevent waterlogged roots and ensure that your new hedge stays healthy.

When you’re ready to plant, gently tease out the roots of your bare-root plants and plant them in a trench that’s wide enough to accommodate their roots without being too deep. The depth at which you plant your hedge will depend on the type and size of plants you’re using, but as a general rule of thumb, the roots should be level with the ground surface. Once you’ve positioned the plants in the trench, carefully backfill and firm the soil around the roots, ensuring there are no air pockets left.

After planting, it’s important to water your bare-root hedge thoroughly. Water the plants well and make sure the soil around them is moist. This will help them establish and encourage good root growth. If you’re planting in the autumn, be sure to keep watered until the ground freezes, as the root system will continue to grow until that point. In the spring, water regularly to keep the plants hydrated during the establishment period.

Bare-root hedges have many advantages over their potted counterparts. They are often cheaper and can be easier to establish, as they don’t have the risk of being pot-bound. Bare-root plants also have a slower-release of water and nutrients, which can be beneficial during the establishment period. Ensure you add a slow-release fertilizer and a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds around your newly planted hedge.

If you’ve chosen evergreen plants, such as Taxus or Ilex, for your bare-root hedge, it’s important to protect them from frost. Windbreak netting or fleece can be used to provide some protection during cold spells. During the first growing season, it’s important to keep the area around your hedge free from competing vegetation. Regularly check for weeds and remove them before they have a chance to take hold and outcompete your hedge for water and nutrients.

With the right care and attention, your bare-root hedge can establish and fill in your gardens in no time. Just remember to water them adequately, check for weeds, and protect them from frost during the vulnerable period. Follow these steps, and soon you’ll have a healthy, thriving hedge without breaking the bank.

Understanding Bare Roots

When it comes to planting and caring for bare root hedges, it is important to understand the concept of bare roots. Bare roots are trees or plants that are sold and shipped without any soil or container surrounding their roots. They may seem like a strange choice for some gardeners, but they offer several advantages over container-grown plants.

Firstly, bare root hedges are usually more affordable than their container-grown counterparts. This is because they are less costly to produce and transport. Secondly, bare roots can be planted and established more easily, as they have not been confined in a container and their roots spread out more naturally.

However, bare root hedges do require special care and attention to ensure their successful growth. When choosing bare-root plants, it is important to select ones with healthy and well-developed roots. Look for plants with firm and undamaged roots, as rotting or damaged roots can hinder their growth.

Before planting bare root hedges, soak the roots in a bucket of water for about 1 to 4 hours. This helps rehydrate the roots and prepare them for planting. While soaking, sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer into the water to provide the plants with necessary nutrients.

When planting bare-root hedges, it is important to prepare the soil in advance. Dig a trench that is wide and deep enough to comfortably accommodate the roots of the plants. Make sure the soil is well-rotted and free from any weeds or debris. Also, ensure that the planting site is not prone to waterlogging or frost, as these conditions can damage the roots.

Place the bare-root plants in the trench, making sure the roots are spread out evenly. Position the plants according to the desired height and form of the hedge, leaving enough space between each plant to allow for their growth. Gently backfill the trench with soil, ensuring that the roots are well-covered and there are no air pockets around them.

After planting, water the bare-root hedges thoroughly, ensuring that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Regularly water the hedges during dry periods, especially during their first year of growth, to help them establish themselves. Additionally, consider providing support such as stakes or ties to protect the plants from strong winds.

In conclusion, understanding bare roots is crucial for successfully planting and caring for bare root hedges. By choosing healthy bare-root plants and providing them with adequate care, you can create a beautiful and thriving hedge in your garden. Remember to be creative and take the time to measure the height and form of your hedge, as well as choosing the right type of bare-root plants for your specific needs, such as taxus for evergreen hedges or deciduous trees for a more seasonal appearance.

So now you understand what a bare root plant is you probably want to know the advantages of choosing this root type

Choosing bare root plants for your hedges offers several advantages over other root types. Here are some of the reasons why bare root plants are the best choice:

  • Better size: Bare root plants are usually larger than potted or container-grown plants. This means you get a head start on your hedge, as larger plants have a better chance of establishing quickly and filling out.
  • Cost-effective: Bare root plants are more affordable compared to potted or container-grown plants. This makes them a budget-friendly option, especially if you are looking to create a hedge on a larger scale.
  • Easy to handle: Bare root plants are easier to handle and transport compared to potted or container-grown plants. They are lightweight and don’t require bulky containers or plastic pots.
  • Planting flexibility: Bare root plants can be planted at any time during the dormant period, which is usually from autumn to early spring. This gives you more flexibility in choosing when to start planting your hedges.
  • Better establishment: Bare root plants have a higher chance of establishing quickly and developing a strong root system. They adapt well to their new surroundings and are less prone to transplant shock compared to potted or container-grown plants.
  • Improved water absorption: Bare root plants have been grown without plastic pots, allowing their roots to spread and access more water and nutrients. This helps ensure better water absorption and overall growth.
  • Enhanced drainage: Bare root plants have better drainage as their roots are not confined by pots or containers. This reduces the risk of waterlogging, which can be detrimental to the health of your hedge.
  • Vigorous growth: Bare root plants are known for their vigorous growth. They have not been restricted by containers, allowing them to develop a strong trunk, branches, and stems.
  • Higher berry and nut production: Bare root deciduous hedges have a higher chance of producing berries and nuts compared to potted or container-grown plants. This is because they have had a longer period of growth before being dug up for transplantation.
  • Protection against winds: Bare root hedges, being larger and well-established, are more resistant to wind damage compared to smaller potted or container-grown plants. They can withstand strong winds without bending or breaking.
  • Creative gardening: Bare root plants offer creative opportunities for gardening. Due to their adaptability and size, you can shape and prune them to create unique hedge designs and features in your landscape.

Considering these advantages, it’s no wonder why many gardeners and professionals recommend choosing bare-root plants for your hedges. They offer better performance, easier establishment, and overall growth of your hedge, ensuring a beautiful and thriving landscape for years to come.

1 The Cost

When it comes to planting a taxus hedge, the cost of bare-root plants is an important factor to consider. Bare-root plants are vulnerable and need to be handled with care. The cost of bare-root plants is often lower compared to potted plants. However, you need to ensure that you plant them at the right time.

If the ground is still waterlogged from frost and heavy rains, it is best to avoid planting bare-root hedges. Wind can also cause damage to bare-root plants, so it is important to choose a sheltered spot to plant them. Whilst each bare-root plant can be comfortably held in your hand, it is important to avoid exposing the bare roots to the air for too long.

Before planting, ensure that the trench is well-prepared to ensure strong growth. Sprinkle some water into the trench without making it waterlogged. If you’re not able to plant them immediately, you can keep them in a plastic container with some water around the roots.

The cost of bare-root plants is generally lower compared to potted plants, making them a popular choice for many gardeners. With proper care, bare-root hedges can grow into healthy and beautiful masses of foliage, providing privacy and adding aesthetic appeal to your home. Given the cost and ease of planting, it is a great choice for those who want to enjoy the benefits of hedges without breaking the bank.

Understanding the cost factor and taking proper care of bare-root plants is essential for ensuring their successful growth. So, if you’re considering planting bare-root hedges, make sure to do your research and choose the best plants for your garden.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.