A guide to the specifications of bare root plants

There are many names for what we grow – bare roots, whips, seedlings, field grown plants, transplants, undercuts – and in this article we explain what those mean and how to decide which specification is right for you. The National Plant Specification sets out all of this detail but it’s not in easy language for anyone who isn’t a plant producer – hopefully this guide will be helpful to plant purchasers.

Further explanation on how these plants are grown is at the bottom of this article.

If you are in doubt about what specification to use please email us on enquiries@rjtreesandhedging.co.uk with a description of the project (and photos if appropriate) and we will advise you.

1+0 – field grown in one season from seed, known as a seedling (sometimes called a whip), generally a slender single stem plant.   These are the cheapest specification and are particularly suitable for planting where weed competition will be less intense, soil is shallow or on exposed windy sites.  Gives a high root to shoot ratio and minimal plant “check.

2+0 – a seedling, field grown from seed in two growing seasons where the species cannot be grown to a saleable plant from seed in one season (eg Oak, Beech, Hornbeam).

1U1 – 2 year old plant called an undercut, field grown for two seasons in the same seed bed and undercut after the first year to develop the root structure. This gives a slim, straight plant.

1+1 – 2 year old plant (transplant) grown from seed in the first year and then transplanted into a different area of the field and spaced out for the second growing season – a robust plant with a larger and more robust root system than a 1+0 seedling or a 1U1 which will enable it to better withstand drought and weed competition. Often the best choice and the staple norm for farm hedging

1+2- a 3 year old plant, two years field growing in the seedbed and then transplanted (and spaced out) for a further two growing seasons giving a tall, stocky, bushy plant

2+1- a 3 year old plant, two years field growing in the seedbed and then transplanted (and spaced out) for a further growing season, giving a strong bushy plant

3+1 – as above but field grown for a further growing season for more height and a very bushy plant

1+3- 4 year old, one year field growing in the seed beds and then transplanted (and spaced out) for three years, giving a very strong, bushy plant

2+2- 4 year old, two years field growing in the seed beds and then transplanted (and spaced out) for a further two years – a very mature plant suited to certain species like Beech and Hornbeam

and some that are a bit different…..

P9 – a plant grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel in a 9cm pot (for Holly which germinates poorly in the field)

Cell grown – a plant grown in small pots (like a small yogurt pot) and then lifted out of those pots for transportation. Commonly used in forestry and large hedging projects.  Very high quality plants with excellent success rate and unlike bare roots which are only available in the winter, cell grown plants are available all year round.

C+1 or C+2 – a 3 or 4 year old plant initally started as a plug (very small pot used for propogation) and then lined out in fields to grow on for a further 1 or 2 years (a technique used for Cherry Laurel)

0/1 – a hardwood cutting, then field grown for one season (a technique used for Cornus sibirica)

Further information

Bare root and field grown are the same thing.  Field growing is where we do it and how we do it (seeds sown into seed beds in fields, like arable farming) and bare roots are what we sell (harvested like an arable crop by a special machine on the tractor which lifts them carefully and leaves the soil behind).

The vast majority of our plants are grown from seed – sometimes in one year (sown in March, harvested throughout the following winter from November until March the following year) and those would be described as 1+0’s, but for some species, it takes two years to get a plant to be sufficiently viable (with enough root structure) to be moved to its permanent home and those would be described as 1U1’s.  Oak, Beech, Hornbeam and all the conifer range take two years.  Hawthorn, Blackthorn, rose varieties, Field Maple, Hazel are examples of species that can be grown from seed in one year, though in practise we often grow these species for longer to be able to offer a larger, bushier plant. 

Some species (Cherry Laurel, Privet, Yew, some willows and some poplars) are better grown from cuttings than from seed. 

Holly is a species that is very tricky to germinate so we grow it in a commercial glasshouse in small pots (called P9’s or 9cm pots). 

So, there are exceptions but generally what we do can best be described as field growing of bare root seedlings and transplants.   Woodland trees, conifer trees for forestry and hedging plants have historically and traditionally always been grown this way prior to the post-war development of garden centres which were better suited to displaying plants in pots.

Everything that is ready just one year after being sown from seed is called a seedling (some people call it a whip) and the technical description of it is 1+0.  Generally, these are sold when they are 40/60cm in height (sometimes a bit less but that’s always made clear on the website and will be cheaper).  They can grow to 60/80cm in good years and even taller in some species.   These plants are ideal for woodland and hedgerow planting and are very easy to replant on your site and to fit with rabbit protection.  Smaller plants often “get away better” than bigger plants which take time to get their roots settled in so as well as being less expensive than undercuts and transplants (see below) they have the added benefit of ease of handling and good success rate.

When we keep seedlings and grow them on for a second year we either leave them where they were originally sown from seed and undercut the roots with a special machine (to improve root development) in which case they are called undercuts (or 1u1 or sometimes 1_1) or we harvest them during the winter and then we replant them at lower density to grow them on for another year or even longer and in this situation they are called transplants or 1+1 or 1+2 or 1+3.  The lower density of planting means that every plant has more soil, more water, more nutrients and therefore they grow much bigger and bulkier and they develop bigger roots (maintaining a good root to shoot ratio).    There are only a small handful of UK growers with expertise in transplanting and you would struggle to find anyone with more transplanting experience than our owner Ray Jenkins.

It is important to compare like with like when buying plants which is why we are very clear what specification we are offering for what price. Even if the specifications are identical, there can be quality differences between a plant we supply and a plant supplied by others. It’s blowing our own trumpet a bit but if you read our customer reviews you’ll see that our quality is exceptional and that comes from Ray’s 35+ years’ experience.

There are many photos of our stock on our website but you can also ask for a photo to be taken of the plants we are offering.

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