Storage & Care For Plants Before Planting
One question we get asked the most is, "How do I care for my new plants until I have time to plant them?". No worries, sometimes we get busy, we're working, kids have games, practices, recitals etc., travel obligations, weather and life in general can prevent us from planting right away. Remember, your plants want to live, let's dive in to this one.
Did you know that if proper care is taken, storing trees and shrubs before planting is super easy? If you purchased or received dormant trees, plants or shrubs they can be stored for up to two months before being planted.
Follow these few steps to ensure your plants will be ready to plant when you are.
If you need up to 1 week before planting, the packing that your plants arrived in will be fine for storage. Most companies take extra care when packing plants for mail orders so that they will survive for extended periods. Upon receiving your items, remove any bindings around the plastic to allow air flow in and so that you can add a little water every few days. Do not over saturate. Less is more. Plant bare-root when the weather is still crisp. It's better to have them established when the seasons change.
If you need up to two months, you can do two things
Keep them dormant by placing them in a bucket or pot with 2-3" of moist dirt/media, in a cool dark environment. A shed, garage basement, cellar etc. are all idea locations during colder months. Do not allow them to receive any sunlight and do not allow the roots to freeze. Keep them at 34° - 45° F. Keep the roots moist but not saturated. Saturated roots will rot and then become mushy.
You can heel them into loose dirt/mulch in your garden. This can be tricky if they break dormancy. If they do break dormancy, you will want to keep the roots covered with the surrounding dirt/mulch while transplanting to a prepared location. You can achieve this by scooping them up with a shovel.
Temperature is most important for the survival of your bare-root plants
The ideal temperature range is 34° - 45° F
If kept in a location that’s below 25° F, freeze damage can stunt its growth rate in the spring and summer.
If kept in a location that’s 55° F or warmer, your tree will spring out of dormancy and awake ready for spring.
The occasional night below freezing or day of sunny 60°-62° weather won’t be harmful in late winter.
Most container plants won't need much attention other than water, the proper sunlight & temperature requirements. No matter which season you receive them, they are ready to plant. If you need a few days or weeks, the same rules as above apply. Keep your plants hydrated with plenty of air flow. Do not over-water. Most container grown plants are grown in specialty containers meant for growing plants. They are designed to be flexible, allow air to flow and to properly drain water away from the roots. The do not typically have a drip tray under them meaning they will require water every few days or every day depending on temperatures, and the time of year. This also means that they can become root-bound to the ground or surface they are placed on. Plants that have become root-bound will branch out of the bottom from the drain holes, attaching to the surface below them. This will not harm the plant, but this is a clear indication that it's time to get this plant in to the ground as soon as you can.
Also remember, if your ground is not frozen and per your region, after the last freeze has passed, it is time to plant your bare-root trees and plants. Fall and early spring are the optimal times for planting.
Pro Tip: Don't toss those nursery pots, recycle them instead. They are perfect for starting all your new plants, trees, shrubs and even vegetables. They are specially designed to grow beautiful plants every time. Make sure to wash and sanitize them well before each use. .
- Charlie Winter