By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Growing hollyhocks in the sunny garden makes a statement. Beautiful blooms may tower up to 9 feet (1.7 m.) tall and can be used as an old-fashioned focal point in a garden bed. Large blooms are long lasting when planted correctly. Planting hollyhock roots is the best way to start this large and attractive flower.
About Hollyhock Bare Root Plants
Healthy bare root plants don’t have the susceptibility to the dreaded rust disease as those started in other ways. Seed-grown hollyhocks and those started from cuttings often start life in a weaker form and are more prone to develop rust disease, a disease that plagues long-time hollyhock growers. Plants grown from seed may not be true to the parent plant either.
More than 60 species of bare root hollyhock plants are available. Hollyhock plants are biennials or short lived perennials. Some do not bloom until the second year after starting bare root plants, but you should see foliage growth the first year. Most hollyhock plants are of the Alcea species, of the family Malvaceae.
How to Grow Bare Root Hollyhocks
Learning how to grow bare root hollyhocks is a challenge for some. Follow a few simple steps, however, and you’ll have a wealth of the beautiful blooms from the hollyhocks as well as from other bare root plants.
When purchasing bare root plants, keep a few things in mind. Buy firm, healthy roots without blemishes. Soft spots or mildew can indicate a diseased specimen. Bare root plants should not be broken. If you’ve bought bare roots with any of these problems, follow the instructions below before planting.
Planting Hollyhock Roots
Bare root hollyhock plants usually come in plastic packaging protected by peat moss or sawdust. Remove the fleshy roots from the bag and lightly shake off the protective material. Trim any damage from the roots, such as mold or breakage.
Bare root hollyhock plants often appear to be dried out, so soak them in a tub of water for 10 minutes to rejuvenate them. They may also be soaked overnight, but don’t leave them in water long enough to get soft.
Plant hollyhock roots in a prepared hole in the right location. The hole should be wider than the roots and deep enough to encourage the long taproot of bare root hollyhock plants to easily grow downward. When planting, the taproot should point downward. Don’t plant too deeply though, just a couple inches (5 cm.) below the soil.
Bare root hollyhocks can be set on a mound of loose soil in the middle of the hole with another hole in the center for the taproot. The bud or crown of the bare root hollyhock should point upward and be level with the surrounding soil.
Gently press the roots into the soil for good contact and cover with soil. After covering the bare root plant with soil, water well and add a layer of mulch. Bare root hollyhock plants should not be allowed to dry out; neither should they sit in waterlogged soil. When planting hollyhock roots in spring, cover them with a box or newspaper if spring days get unseasonably warm.
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Read more about Hollyhock
How to grow perfect Perennials from Bare Roots
Reliable, resilient and repeating every year – these are just some of the reasons why growing bare root perennials is so satisfying, not to mention their quintessential cottage-garden charm. Returning every year, their ability to make more of an impact each time means that by planting perennials you’re making an investment which will just keep rewarding you for years to come!
↑ Beautiful planting combo of Stachys (Alpine Betony) and Geranium (Cranesbill)
Also noteworthy is their typically low-maintenance nature which means you don’t have to make too much of a fuss to get them to do well. The determination of hardy perennials is undeniable, once they’re happy in their place they just keep on giving!
Why choose bare root perennials?
If you want quicker results than growing from seed (which can take years to establish into a substantial plant) but don’t want to pay nursery prices for potted plants, the bare root option is without doubt the way forward.
When choosing plants, buying potted plants which have benefitted from months of time and care in a nursery can be a pricy way to do it. The great thing about hardy perennials is that they are very easy to grow at home yourself, not requiring any special protection or expensive methods. Plus, being acclimatised to your garden conditions from the start, they may well even establish quicker.
↑ These are the bare roots of Allium 'Millenium'
Pre-potted plants may have been grown from cuttings, seeds or bare roots. While they may have some bushy top growth, they may not be very mature and it could take some time before they establish a strong root system and really start to put on a good show. Bare roots are taken from established plants which gives them a head start with a bit more guts and vigour from the very beginning – they’re ready and raring to continue growing and working as they were on the established parent plant they were taken from – this is what forms a stronger and more vigorous plant in the first years.
How to grow bare root perennials
Hardy perennials are typically undemanding, fairly resilient and can be exposed to the elements from an early stage. This means you don’t have to worry about making space to start them off in a greenhouse. That said, a little nurture at first does go a long way towards producing healthy plants which establish quickly.
↑ Echinacea 'Strawberry & Cream' (Coneflower)
Bare root perennials can grow very well if planted straight into borders, but doing so does expose them to the risk of becoming lost among neighbouring plants, subject to disturbance during routine weeding as well as competition with more established plants around them. Also, it’s not uncommon for the roots to be whipped out and lost by birds looking for worms! To allow your bare root plants a chance to establish without accidental disturbance or competition, we recommend potting them up first in temporary pots and growing them on in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors for a few months before planting out.
Generally speaking, most hardy perennial plants will do well in a position with full sun or partial shade and a free-draining soil, but do check the instructions on each variety before choosing where to plant them to make sure you find a spot that’s well suited. Some varieties, including Convallaria, Dicentra and Epimedium prefer a cool position in shade with a fairly moist soil. Then there are plants like Astilbe which enjoys a damp, poorly drained soil.
↑ Dicentra spectabilis 'Cupid' (Bleeding Heart")
It’s worth noting that perennial plants grown from bare roots often take a year to establish before they start to make a big impression. In the first year, you can expect to see a modest display of flowers and foliage, but each year thereafter they come back with around twice the impact!
Planting instructions for bare root perennials
Follow these brief instructions to help get your bare root perennials off to a good start…
- Soak the roots in water for 3-6 hours prior to planting
- Plant your bare roots into temporary pots with a multipurpose compost in spring and grow-on in a sheltered spot outdoors
- Choose a pot which comfortably fits the bare roots
- Some bare root perennials have a noticeable crown which should be just below the soil surface with any top growth exposed
- Some varieties are a length of root which should be planted lengthways and shallowly (1-2cm)
- Plant out into borders or permanent containers in late spring or early summer once in full growth. Choose a position in sun or shade depending on the variety
- Water-in after planting and keep hydrated when in growth.
Growing perennials in pots
Most perennials are very happy to grow in pots and will provide you with a low maintenance display which will come back each year. Generally speaking, a large, sturdy pot is best if you have plants which are over 30cm tall and wide, so that it doesn’t topple over on a windy day. Lower growing plants like hardy geraniums are great for pots because they are also drought tolerant, reducing the need to keep your pots watered throughout the season.
↑ Agapanthus 'Poppin' Purple' (African Lily) in a pot
Use a soil-based compost or garden soil instead of multipurpose compost when planting a permanent perennial pot display as this will be more robust, heavier and has a higher density to able to support your plants for longer without shrinking down.
How to care for perennials
Part of the beauty of hardy perennials is that they are generally fairly low maintenance – as long as they’re in the right spot and they’re happy, they’ll do their job without much fuss at all. Those which grow tall could benefit from staking either once in growth or by putting a support in place for them to grow through. Otherwise, allow them to grow throughout summer, deadheading as and when necessary. Some earlier-flowering varieties may bloom again towards late summer. At the end of the season when flowering has finished, cut the stems right down to just above ground level. Their hardiness means the plants can remain unprotected throughout winter, before putting on fresh growth the following spring.
↑ Digging up and (optionally) dividing a clump for replanting
Do take note of the plant’s preferred conditions when choosing where to plant it. Those which prefer a shady position may not cope in full sun, and vice-versa. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and plant it and give it a bit of time – if you find that it isn’t thriving, it is likely that it doesn’t like the conditions it is growing in. But the good thing about perennials is that they are happy to be moved around, so if they look unhappy, simply dig up the clump in autumn and replant it immediately in a part of the garden with more favourable conditions.
Many hardy perennials are clump forming, which means that they grow a larger root network and base, or ‘clump’ as they establish over the years. Once you have a large clump, you can lift and divide it – doing so helps to keep the plants healthy and productive, it also means you gain extra plants for free!
The best time to divide perennials is in late Autumn when the soil is consistently moist, this allows time for the plants to settle in over winter so they can continue to grow undisturbed in the spring. If you don’t get around to it in autumn, you can divide perennials in early spring too.
↑ Lifting and dividing perennial root clumps
To divide your perennials, use a spade to dig around the clump and carefully lift the whole thing. Once out of the ground, use your spade to cut the clump into sections, either in half or quarters depending on how big it is. Then, simply replant the sections in the same place but with a little more space between them in which to grow, or replant one in the same place and replant the others elsewhere in the garden.
Planning a perennial planting scheme
When it comes to positioning plants in the border, think about their heights, habits, colours and flowering time. Taller varieties should be positioned towards the back, whereas more compact or low-growing perennials should be nestled in at the front where they can be seen. Whether you have a special colour scheme or a full colour palette, you’ll want to make sure that your colours are evenly spaced too.
↑ Example perennial planting scheme
If you have multiples of one plant variety, they’ll make a bigger impact if planted in groups of three or more. If you have a large border, repeating groups of the same variety a few times along the length of the border will help create a professional look. Also, choose plants which flower successively to provide a full season of colour.
Plants to plant bare-root
Discover which plants can be planted bare-root in winter, from trees and fruit bushes to roses and peonies, in our handy guide.
Published: Thursday, 3 December, 2020 at 8:28 am
November to March is the ideal time to plant bare-root plants. These are plants that have been been grown in open ground, then dug up for despatch and planting during the dormant season. They are called ‘bare-root’ plants as they are supplied with no soil around their roots. They are usually bought online, or by mail order.
Bare-root plants are generally cheaper than plants grown in containers, and you’ll often find a wider selection of varieties this way. Planting them in the dormant season means that they should establish well – while the top growth may be brown and twiggy, the roots are busy establishing beneath.
All kinds of plants can be supplied bare-root, from trees to perennials. Find out more below.
Winter is the ideal time to plant a bare-root tree – you’ll find a wide selection at tree nurseries or online. Be sure to mulch and stake afterwards. Watch Monty’s video guide to planting a bare-root tree.
Planting a hedge is much more economical if you buy bare-root plants and while not ‘instant’, they will knit together quickly. It’s a great way to plant beech, hornbeam or an ‘edible hedge’ made up of a mix of edible plants such as blackthorn, cherry plum and Rosa rugosa. Read our guide to planting a bare-root hedge.
You can buy container-grown roses all year round, but for the best selection, it pays to plant them bare-root. They will establish quickly and you should enjoy flowers the following summer. Find out how to plant a bare-root rose.
Many perennials can be planted bare-root. Peonies in particular are best planted this way, although you can also plant agapanthus, hardy geraniums and a host of other plants. Discover 10 perennials to plant bare-root.
Fruit bushes and canes
The dormant season is also the ideal time to plant fruit – especially if you are planting lots of plants – it’s much more economical and you’ll get the widest pick of varieties. Follow our advice on planting bare-root raspberries and bare-root blackcurrants.
You’ll find the widest selection of fruit trees – if you buy them bare-root – apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricots can all be bought this way. You can also buy bare-root stepovers, espaliers and cordons. Discover how to plant a bare-root fruit tree.
Shrubs can also be planted bare-root. Willow, yew, Rosa rugosa and viburnum are just some of the shrubs that can be planted this way. Watch our video guide to planting a bare-root shrub.
Caring for a bare-root plant
It is essential that the roots of a bare-root plant don’t dry out. Be sure to soak the roots in winter as soon as you receive your plants. If you can’t plant immediately – if the soil is frozen, for example – heel them in until the weather improves.
Sprinkling miccorhizal fungi around the roots when planting will increase nutrient and water uptake and help bare-root plants establish well.
Bare-Root Plants: The Best Bargain In Gardening
Cash in on one of gardening's best bargains: bare-root plants. These garden-ready plants don't demand tricky techniques. They're wired to grow and, despite their lifeless appearance, sprout new growth soon after planting
From fall through early spring, nurseries will be selling bare-root trees, shrubs and even perennials. Mail-order nurseries also ship their plants bare-root. Nearly always deciduous, bare-root plants are grown in fields and dug while dormant. For easy shipping, all soil is removed from the roots, which are sometimes packed in moist sawdust or wood shavings and wrapped in plastic. Other times they are simply bundled together and shipped as is. Nurseries then either plant them in containers or store them with their roots packed in moist shavings or sawdust.
What Types Of Plants Come Bare-Root?
Common bare-root plants include ornamental and shade trees, fruit trees, shrubs and vines, such as Grapes or Kiwi. You can also find bare-root Artichoke, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Bramble Fruits and Strawberries. Many roses and perennials are also sold as bare-root plants. Most bare-root plants are deciduous-type plants or become fully dormant in winter. Learn more about bare-root perennials, bare-root roses and growing bare-root trees.
Why Should I Grow Bare-Root Plants?
Bare-root plants offer several advantages:
- They're cheaper than the potted or burlap-wrapped versions sold at nurseries later in the year.
- You'll find a greater selection.
- These plants aren't grown in soil and are cheaper to ship, so you can get bare-root plants from mail order nurseries. This expands the selection of available plants.
- Because they've been grown in the ground, these plants have never been root-bound.
When Are Bare-Root Plants Available?
Look for bare-root plants at local nurseries and garden centers during late fall to early spring. When plants appear locally, it's the right time for planting in your region. Place mail orders for bare-root plants early in the season to ensure the best selection. The mail-order company will ship the plant during the correct planting window for your region.
How Can I Tell If A Bare-Root Plant Is Healthy?
When buying bare-root plants with roots wrapped in plastic, make sure the packing material is moist. Plants that still have adequate moisture will be heavier than dry ones. Avoid plants that have started to grow.
If the plants aren't packaged, inspect the roots. Healthy roots are flexible, bending instead of breaking, and you might see new, small, white roots. Look for roots that branch out in all directions. Avoid those with mushy, dry or damaged roots, or with roots concentrated on one side of the plant.
With mail-order bare-root plants, soak dry and shriveled roots in water for an hour or two to see if they rehydrate. If they don't, the plant most likely won't grow. If roots are mushy and smelly, your plant probably has root rot and won't grow. With roses and other woody plants, check stems to make sure they're not shriveled and dry.
Planting – Sooner Is Better
Same-day planting is ideal. When mail order plants arrive, it's best to plant them that day. The rush is because once these plants leave refrigerated storage, they begin to break dormancy, which means they need moisture and nutrients. Rehydrate plants by soaking them in water before planting. Follow instructions on packaging for specific soaking times. Ultimately, you want bare-root plants in soil before buds begin to swell or new growth appears.
If You Can’t Plant Right Away…
Store plants in a cool area (35-40ºF) out of direct sunlight, such as the north side of the house or a cold garage. Keep wraps in place over the roots to retain moisture. For mail-order plants, remove plants from boxes before storing and check packing material around roots. Moisten lightly if they're dry. Don't let the roots dry out. You can safely store most bare-root plants for 2-3 days without adverse effects. If soil isn't frozen, you can also temporarily plant bare-root plants by digging a shallow trench and covering roots with soil or by tucking plants into pots.
Will Bare-Root Plants Go On Sale?
Yes, but you should be wary of late-season discounts. When bare-root plants don't sell, they're often marked down. Purchase these plants at your own risk. They don't always take off once planted.