African Garden + water

Do You Dare to Bare?
I planted this potbound plant last spring.

Bareroot that is. I've been doing a lot of planting lately, trying to get everything in pots into the ground before the end of autumn. While planting the shrubs, I got to thinking about my planting method. I can't recall exactly when I started barerooting woody plants, but it probably started while I was attempting to detangle a particularly pot-bound specimen.


Barerooting has been a categorical success. Removing the potting medium forces the roots to adapt to my garden's soil. Left in the potting medium, the roots often simply stay in the potting medium, resulting in a weakened plant. Contented roots are not questing roots, so I try to make them want to spread out into the garden's soil. All the plants which have received this treatment have thrived. So I'm divulging my planting secret with a step by step tutorial.
Here is a trial* Hydrangea macrophylla 'PIIHM-I' (Twist and Shout), a reblooming lacecap type, from Proven Winners.

I carefully turn the plant on its side and remove the pot.

This is a lovely rootball, not at all rootbound like most of the shrubs I purchase. Yet the roots are still packed in pretty tightly and, were I to simply pop this into the ground, it would eventually become rootbound.
I begin by loosening up the bottom if the rootmass.

I try not to break any roots, but instead cut them cleanly as necessary. I also shake the shrub to dislodge the potting medium. Had this been potbound, I would have spent as long as necessary carefully detangling the roots and spreading them out so they don't cross. Soaking the whole thing in water at this point helps, but as it was threatening rain, I did it dry.
Here's the finished product.

It's not necessary to remove every speck of potting soil, but the outer roots should be free of it. Now it's ready to be planted.
Here's the lousy soil into which it will go.

Studies have shown that improving the soil of shrubs when planting causes them to become rootbound, as the roots prefer to stay in the lovely, improved soil, so it's better to leave the soil as is, but loosened. The hole should be wide and shallow. Sorry, no photos of this part because I didn't want to get mud all over my camera. I spread the roots out so that they don't cross and fill in with the unimproved soil, watering as I go. The plant should be placed at or slightly above the rootflare, or, if that's too hard to determine, at about the same depth it was in the container. Then I topdress with the potting medium.

After watering, I mulch the plant with about 2" of mulch. I bareroot all trees and shrubs before planting.
Once you go bare, you'll never go back.
edit. 10/7/09 "trial" = free

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Do You Dare to Bare? + water