Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

This member-only article is part of our All Access subscription.

Member only

Root Washing: Why and How to Wash Roots

Fine Gardening – Issue 191
Your roots are showing. Unless they are surrounded by native soil, roots are unlikely to leave the soil media they are growing in, thereby preventing the plant from becoming established in its new home. Photo: Steve Aitken

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard fellow gardeners talking about “root washing” their trees, shrubs, or even perennials before planting. The thought of removing all the protective coverings from the root mass may seem counterintuitive or even dangerous. But this method—when performed correctly—will give your plants the best chance of establishing into your gardens and landscapes.

The most common reason container or balled-in-burlap (B&B) plants die after transplanting is that their roots fail to establish in the landscape. In comparison, bare-root stock like roses or fruit trees are more likely to establish, though their initial aboveground growth may be slow. This sluggish top growth is often referred to as “transplant shock,” a term I dislike because it not only sounds bad, but it also suggests that everything has stopped. Nothing could be further from the truth! Newly planted bare-root stock puts its resources into new root growth—not crown…

This article is only available to All Access members

This article is available online for the first time ever exclusively for All Access members. Sign up for a free trial to access our entire collection of articles, videos, and plant records.

Start Free Trial

View Comments


Log in or become a member to post a comment on this article.

Related Articles

The Latest

Magazine Cover

Take your passion for plants to the next level

Subscribe today and save up to 44%

"As a recently identified gardening nut I have tried all the magazines and this one is head and shoulders above the pack."


View All