Skip to Content

How To Plant Bare Root And Potted Perennials

Here are step-by-step instructions for planting bare root and potted perennial plants. If you have any questions, please contact us!

Start here: Planting Prep


Preparing the Soil

  • Most perennials prefer well-drained soil; soggy soil will lead to rot. If your soil is wet, consider planting in raised beds.
  • For best results, take some time to prepare the planting site.
  • Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches to make it easier for roots to spread.
  • You may want to mix some compost into the planting bed to help improve drainage. You can also add some granular, slow-release fertilizer at this time. Do not use lawn fertilizer, or add more than the amount recommended on the package - this can inhibit flowering.

Right Plant, Right Place

  • For Full Sun plants, select a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day.
  • Half Sun plants prefer about 2 hours of direct sun, or dappled sun all day.
  • Shade plants, like most of our Woodland Wildflowers and Ferns, require moist, rich soil and Half Sun to Full Shade. (In regions with hot, sunny summers plant in Full Shade.)

Jump To:   How To Plant Bare Root Perennials   |   How To Plant Potted Perennials


Watch: How To Plant Perennials


How To Plant Bare Root Perennials


When Your Plants Arrive

  • Open the box immediately to check plants.
  • Bare root plants arrive in a dormant state, ready to grow once they're planted.
  • Plant as soon as possible after you receive your plants. If you must store bare roots before planting, keep them in a cool room and protect them from freezing.

Planting Bare Root Perennials

  1. Remove and discard the packing material that surrounds the roots.
  2. Place the roots in a container of tepid water while you’re preparing the planting hole, or for up to an hour before planting.
  3. Examine the roots to determine the approximate width and depth of the planting hole you’ll need. Unless otherwise noted, set the plant so the crown — the point where the stems and leaves meet the roots — sits about an inch below the soil surface (see image below).
  4. If you are unsure which end is up, look closely for buds or remnants of stems that indicate the top of the plant. If you’re still unsure, set the roots on their side. The plant will know which way to grow.
  5. Dig a hole in the prepared soil to the necessary width and depth.
  6. Set the bare root plant in the hole, spreading out the roots. Holding the plant with one hand, use the other to add soil around and in between the roots, firming it gently to eliminate air pockets. Adjust the planting depth if necessary.
  7. Water the soil thoroughly, using a gentle flow to prevent soil from washing away.
planting sketch

How To Plant Potted Perennials

When Your Potted Plants Arrive

  • Open the box immediately to check plants.
  • Water potted plants if the soil is dry.
  • Some of your potted plants may have green growth, some may not, depending on the lifecycle of your plant and the time of year it was shipped. If you don't see any leaves, that means the plant is dormant; look for healthy white roots to know the plant is ready to grow in your garden. 
  • Dormant potted perennials: plant as soon as possible after they arrive.
  • For plants that have new leafy growth: wait to plant until after the last frost date to plant to protect green growth.
  • If you must store plants before planting, keep them in a cool room where they get some indirect sun through a window. Protect them from freezing, and keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Planting Potted Perennials

planting sketch


1. Dig a hole as deep and a little wider than the pot. Most perennials should be planted at the same depth as they are in their containers.

removing plant


2. Carefully remove the plant from its pot by holding one hand over the soil and tapping the bottom of the pot. Squeezing the pot can help loosen the root ball from the pot. Don't pull on the plant or you may damage the stem.

planting sketch


3. Place the root ball into the planting hole, doublechecking to be sure that the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface. Then backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it as you go.

planting sketch


4. Water the soil thoroughly. 

5. Apply a 2" deep layer of mulch around the plant to help maintain soil moisture and control weeds. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the plant stem to prevent rot.

Ongoing Care For Perennials

  • Apply water as necessary to keep soil moist but not soaking wet. Even drought-tolerant plants need to be watered weekly until their roots get established.
  • Apply a 2" to 3" layer of organic mulch, like shredded bark or pine straw, after planting to help conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds. Keep the mulch a few inches away from plant stems to prevent rot.
  • Be patient; it may take weeks or even a month for the new growth to emerge from the soil. How quickly the plant grows depends on a number of factors, including the type of plant, degree of dormancy and temperature of the soil.
  • “Deadhead” flowering plants by removing spent flowers. This encourages the plant to produce more blooms; it also helps bulbs to replenish the energy stored in their bulbs/roots.
  • Tall, top-heavy plants may need staking or another type of support to keep them from falling over from the weight of the flowers. 


Shop Perennial Plants

To learn more about the plants we sell and how to grow them in your garden beds and patio containers, sign up for our inspiring emails.