Heeling bareroot plants (spring)

Whether it be roses, berries, trees or any perennial, planting time can be delayed by heeling. Let’s face it, life gets in the way or throws a curve ball that interferes with our plans. On the other side of the table, nurseries clear inventory at the end of each species growing seasons that yield fantastic deals.

The nursery sent my berries and grapes 3 weeks before they had originally agreed. Heeling might not be 100% effective, but its my only chance for saving these plants.

Heeling is a way to prevent plants from breaking dormancy which explains why I included (spring) in the title. As I am trying to fight the rising temperatures and day length that triggers plants to come out of dormancy, I heeled my plants on the north side of the barn close to the structure. Hopefully, the lack of sunshine and cool, shady area will keep them dormant.

Plants can also be heeled in the winter but the longest recommended time to keep plants heeled is up to 1 month. Permanent planting locations should be utilized as soon as possible. The objective of heeling is to keep the roots protected from drying out and dying completely while keeping the plants in their dormant state.

In the spring, once the buds begin to swell indicating that dormancy is broken, they need to be planted immediately.

Tools required:

Spade shovel


  1. Dig a hole for a single plant or a trench for multiple plants that is large enough to fit the roots of the plant(s) to be heeled
  2. One side of the hole or trench can be straight down, the other should be at a 45 degree angle like this: \|
  3. Clean any packing material from the roots and place the plants into the trench with the trunks resting against the 45 degree side oriented so only the roots are in the trench
  4. Fill the trench and lightly pack soil around the roots.

Note: the plants can be crowded closely!

Here is a finished shot:



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