Transplanting Instructions for Bare Root Plants
The area you are planting should be well prepared, free of weeds and other vegetation. Other plants will compete for water, light and nutrients. If not eliminated, they will make it difficult for your plants to become established. Planting directly into an established sod is not recommended. Large clods or clumps of soil should be broken up, as they will leave air spaces around the transplant. This can allow the roots to dry out. Make sure that the soil is in a condition that allows full contact with the roots, at all points. For detailed, specific soil preparation directions, please refer to the Prairie Nursery catalog.
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Basic Planting Tips
When planting, take care not to let the plants dry out. Do not leave your plants exposed to sun or wind. If possible, plant early in the day, in the evening, or on a cloudy day. A moment's exposure of the roots to the sun or a hot, dry wind can damage or kill your plants.
Dig the hole for a transplant deep enough to accommodate the entire length of the root. Do NOT bend roots into a hole that is too shallow, as this will retard growth. An easy method of installing transplants is to place the roots up against the "wall" of soil that is created by the digging of the hole. Position the plant so that the buds are at the proper depth for that root type (please refer to the examples shown in this brochure). Spread the roots out to maximize contact with the soil. This will allow for rapid establishment by encouraging maximum absorption of water and nutrients. Now place soil firmly around the roots. Avoid compacting the soil. Compacted soil impedes water and air movement to and from the roots, which can suffocate the plant. Clay soils are particularly prone to compaction, especially if they are worked when wet. Never transplant into wet clay soils. DO NOT PACK SOIL DIRECTLY ABOVE THE BUDS. This can damage buds and retard emergence.
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Different Root Systems How to Plant Them
Bare root plants typically possess one of five basic types of root systems:
- TAPROOT Lupine
- FIBROUS Shootingstar, Beardtongue, Spiderworts
- RHIZOME Prairie Smoke, Irises, Queen of the Prairie, Sunflowers, Solomon's Plume, Wild Geranium, Trilliums, Ebony Spleenwort, Hayscented Fern, Toothed Wood Fern, Sharp-Leaved Hepatica, Ostrich Fern, Bloodroot, Celendine Poppy, Indian Pink, Red Trillium, Yellow Wakerobin Trillium, Straw Lily
- CORM Blazingstars, Jack in the Pulpit
- BULB Wild Onions
TAPROOT: Taprooted plants have one or more strong,main roots that go deep into the soil. This allows them to reach far below the fibrous-rooted plants for moisture and nutrients. Tap-rooted wildflowers like Lupine, coexist well when planted with fibrous-rooted grasses and flowers.
The dormant buds should be one inch below the soil surface. If leaves are present, they should extend above the soil surface, with the root itself completely covered.
Many prairie flowers possess fibrous root systems. These are characterized by numerous roots, emanating from the root crown (where the roots meet the buds).
The dormant buds should be one inch below the soil surface. If leaves are present, make sure that they extend above the soil line, with the root itself completely in the ground.
A rhizome is a modified root that serves the dual function of storing plant food as well as absorbing water and nutrients. Rhizomes also act as agents for the spread of a plant.
Plant rhizomes horizontally, one to two inches deep, with buds at or just below the soil surface. Attached feeder roots should be planted down into the soil.
Corms are modified stems that resemble bulbs. The only difference is that bulbs have scales, while corms are solid when cut in cross section.
Corms should be placed so the top of corm and the buds are two inches below the soil surface. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the roots of the Blazingstars from the buds, making it hard to tell which end is up. The roots are dark and wiry. The buds have a pinkish color, and are often obscured by the previous year's brown-colored old growth.
Bulbs are roots adapted to store nutrients and moisture during periods of plant dormancy. Most bulbs produce off shoots to generate new plants to ensure longevity.
Bulbs should be planted so that the white part of the plant is below ground, with any green growth being above the soil.
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Care after Planting
Watering. As with any newly installed transplant, prairie plants will benefit greatly from regular watering in the first few weeks of establishment. The frequency of watering will depend upon your soil type and rainfall. Moist soils need less watering than dry soils. Clay soils hold more water than sandy or loamy soils, and generally require less frequent watering. Over-watering of plants in clay soils can be as bad as under-watering, causing plants to "drown," by preventing air movement to the roots. The best guide for when to water is the condition of the plants themselves. If they appear healthy, with no sign of wilting, they are probably fine. At the first sign of wilting, a good soaking will quickly revive them. One or two good soakings per week is better than daily light watering. Soaking the soil provides water to the lower roots, and three or four days between soakings allow the soil to drain so the roots are aerated.
Weed Control. All perennial weeds and grasses must be eliminated prior to planting. Even with the best soil preparation, weed seeds still lurk in the soil, waiting to attack at the first opportunity. The application of a weed-free mulch will prevent most weed seeds from germinating. Apply mulch two to three inches deep and six to twelve inches in diameter around the plant. Use light mulches such as wheat or oat straw, marsh or salt hay, grass clippings, rice hulls, or cocoa bean hulls. Avoid wood chips, bark chips, or sawdust. These rob the soil of nitrogen, and can contain plant-damaging toxins. Mulch also conserves soil moisture, enhancing plant establishment. Once your plants are well established, mulching should not be necessary in future years. Most prairie plants grow best under warm soil conditions, and mulching them after the first year can actually suppress their growth.
Fall is an excellent time to transplant prairie wildflowers. For the sake of safety, however, fall transplants should be covered with a generous quantity of mulch (3 to 5 inches) to prevent winter losses due to frost-heaving. The mulch keeps the soil from experiencing rapid soil temperature changes, which can damage new transplants and sometimes force them out of the soil. The mulch should be removed in the spring to encourage plant emergence, leaving one to two inches of mulch around the plant. Marking transplants with small stakes or plastic markers helps to identify their location as the season progresses. This is useful for keeping track of both fall and spring transplants.
Fertilizing. One of the nice things about our native prairie plants is that they seldom require fertilizers to perform beautifully. However, a little help at the outset can hasten their establishment. We recommend using organic, slow-release fertilizers with nearly equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. They are unnecessary, and can harm your plants by stimulating excessive top growth. To fertilize when transplanting, mix 1/4 cup of low-analysis, non-burning, slow release fertilizer into the soil in the hole before installing the plant. This will provide year-long nutrients for your transplants. Foliar spray fertilizers can also be used in the early stages of establishment to "jump-start" your transplants once they have developed full-sized leaves. Use a foliar fertilizer with nearly equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium
for best results.
Careful planting and mulching, combined with a regular schedule of watering and fertilizing in the first few months will give your perennial prairie plants the best opportunity to become firmly established in their new home. Once established, they will return year after year to bring you maximum enjoyment with a minimum of effort.
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