Bareroot vs Potted Plants: What Is The Difference?

Bareroot vs Potted Plant

Bareroot or Potted Plants? That Is The Question.

Just like Hamlet, who asks himself the simple question, “To be or not to be?”, we sometimes let our minds delve way too deeply into basic questions and we can slip into a sort of contemplative paralysis. Instead of allowing ourselves to be immobilized by such a simple choice, all home gardeners should rejoice at the sheer number of selections and wide availability of plants at our fingertips. A never-ending variety of edible and ornamental shrubs and trees have never been so available to us, thanks to the connectiveness of the internet.

But is it better to choose bareroot or potted plants? Given so many available options, many home gardeners may need some guidance and practical advice about which of these options to choose. Never fear, we are here to help and explain why you would choose bareroot over potted plants or vice versa.

Why Choose Bareroot Plants?

Bareroot fruit tree stock

Historically gardeners and nurseries of all types, have utilized bareroot trees to build gardens, orchards, groves, and vineyards. The term “bareroot” refers to the basic technique of harvesting an established plant, while it’s in a dormant state and removing all the soil from its roots in order to transplant it to another location. Bareroots must be planted in early spring, prior to the plant breaking dormancy.

Advantages Of Bareroot

Bareroot blueberries

The advantages of bareroot trees and shrubs include ease of handling, ease of planting, availability, potential performance, a more substantial root system, and lower initial cost.

  • Ease of Handling: No soil on the roots means way less weight and hassle. Dormant bareroot trees can be of greater age but still shipped via mail-order.
  • Ease of Planting: No soil around the root ball means less digging and transplanting is simple. One person can carry half an orchard in one hand. Try that with potted trees.
  • Availability: They require less space in the garden center, and the ease of handling allows nurseries to offer a much wider selection of varieties.
  • Better Performance: Bareroot plantings have an easier physical transition from dormancy to growth with normal seasonal changes. Bareroots have no soil interface issues between the natural or native soil & different container soils.
  • Substantial Root System: With roots visible it is easy for growers to cull out inferior trees. Root systems are better formed than trees grown for long periods in containers.
  • Lower Cost: No costs for soil, no container costs, less weight to ship keeps costs lower than with containerized plants.

Why Choose Potted Plants?

Shrubs in a pot

There are two sides to every coin and potted plants offer some advantages over bareroot plants. When it comes to considering options for choosing potted vs bareroot, the advantages may make potted plants a better choice for you.

Advantages Of Potted Plants

potted hydrangea

The advantages of potted trees and shrubs include the length of planting time, lack of dormancy, size or maturity, uniformity, and instant gratification.

  • Planting time: Unlike bareroot plants that require a specific planting window, containerized plants with a fully formed root ball allow for a longer planting window, from spring into fall.
  • Lack of Dormancy: Containerized plants typically have foliage and blooms, which allows you to better visualize and choose the characteristics you most want.
  • Size & Maturity: Potted plants and ball & burlap trees or shrubs are available in larger, more mature sizes than typical bareroot options.
  • Uniformity: Although there is quality grading with bareroot plants and trees, it is much easier to visualize the uniformity of fully leafed containerized shrubs and trees.
  • Instant Gratification: Dormant bareroot plants, will require several weeks to re-grow roots, form leaves, to then eventually bloom. Containerized plants are already clothed in handsome foliage, colorful bracts, or full fragrant flowers, which allow you to be instantly beguiled by what you are purchasing and planting at home.

Bareroot VS Potted Plants? Do Not Over Think It.

Garden center full of potted plants

Shakespeare’s Hamlet knows, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Both bareroot and potted plants have important advantages and qualities that will play a role in your decision of which type to choose, but neither is right or wrong. They are simply different.

When it comes to figuring out whether to choose bareroot trees or shrubs it will probably come down to looking at the calendar. Are bareroot options available? If you need or want to plant raspberries or roses in early summer, well then, potted plants are the only option. Order some healthy vigorous potted plants and plant away!

Other Recommended Reading

open book with a branch of blooming lilacs

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