When to plant bagged perennials?

linnea56(z5 IL)March 29, 2014

I normally never do this. But now I have :) , so need advice.

I bought a few bagged perennials when I was picking up my summer bulbs. Last frost date here in Zone 5 Chicago is not til near the end of May. Each have 2 or 3 plants in the bag. I can't see inside the opaque bag, but they must be bare root, bagged with moss.

I got:

Black single hollyhock (have always wanted one, and just fell for it). If those are biennials, though, I don't know what to expect.

Bleeding heart (old fashioned, they had Luxuriant too, but those roots felt smaller. I don't know if that's normal for Luxuriant)

Rhubarb (I know, not a "perennial" as in a flower, but still a perennial) . I bought potted plants last year, but both died (or went dormant?) in mid summer. I want to try another way to get them started. I bought bagged also, late last season, and those were dried up old things, which will probably not come back. But these felt firm and fresh through the bag.

I don't know if these should be potted up in the house, or planted straight into the garden. I'm hoping the latter, if I just know when would not be too early.

I should add that the display with the bagged plants were not in the fully heated store, but in an annex that acts as a transition zone between the store and the outside nursery. Cooler than the store, but warmer than outside. If not potted, my storage options are: cement floor in basement closet, where I overwinter tender bulbs; unheated attached garage, with no windows; refrigerator in same garage.


This post was edited by linnea56 on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 18:49

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I bought several dozen bagged perennials when I was trying to fill up my garden beds. I potted most of them up indoors & bottom-watered them until they broke dormancy and sent up new growth. I waited until late May to plant them out; my garden beds weren't ready to receive them any sooner.

I'm guessing I had close to 90% success with the things I planted out plus a higher survival rate than several nursery-grown plants.

I think the majority of them were hosta, peony, astilbe, bleeding heart, Japanese painted fern & tall phlox. I avoided hollyhock because it's a biennial here + I had so many free plants thanks to winter sowing.

The hybrid bleeding hearts (which I believe are D. eximia) like Luxuriant are considerably smaller plants than old-fashioned Dicentra spectabilis which I'm guessing would explain why the root mass was smaller.

Best of luck to you with your "bagged" perennials!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:36PM
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thebadmonkey(z7 Ok)

always best to wait until after last frost. gardenweed is giving good advice.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:15PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

brilliant question ... you are on the right track ... but you didnt go far enough ...

frost is NOT your issue ... in your zone ...

the issue is FREEZE ... these south folks dont see/hear any difference in the words .. and there is a big difference

a fully dormant.. zone appropriate plant.. could go out ... as the soil temps would be issue.. not the air temps.. if the plant is underground..

and God help us.. the soil should not refreeze ... but this year.. who knows.. lol...technically a dormant plant.. that should live thru the winter .. wont really care about soil temps ...

but the real problem with bagged plants.... is that they were bagged dormant.. but having sat in a warm store.. they have probably 'bolted' on some level.. and are no longer dormant.. and as such.. they are 'tender' ... and subject to frost and FREEZE ... and subject to icy soil temps ...

ergo ipso presto ... potted and IN THE GARAGE ... they dont need that much light ... and even if it goes down to 20 at night ... the garage will probably not go below 35 ... so no frost nor freeze ...

i would NEVER bring them in the house .. they will bolt even faster.. its all about soil temps.. and the house will warm the media ... and bolt them even more...

its about keeping them in slow motion.. it will be a real giant stress if they fully leaf out.. and you plant them.. after you get past frost free date.. which in my z5 is normally the third week of may ... crikey thats a long way away ... and your zone should not be much different than mine ...

i got distracted.. i will reread and add more.. later ...


ps: i would open the bags.. to let in some air circulation ... and i would check the stock.. and if anything is well on its way to rotting .. remove it ... and then i would just make sure the moss is A BIT damp [a few drops of water] ... and you could probably hold them as such for a while.. in the cool garage ... or even the veg drawer in the fridge ... but not in the house ... it will just complicate you life ... trust me ...

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:50AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I used to pot these up in potting mix. On warm days I would take them out into the sunshine and bring them back in the garage at night to avoid freeze on any tender new growth. As the nights got warmer toward May or so, I would start leaving them out overnight (being mindful of a frost warning, though). I'd plant them usually sometime in May or even later if I had to find a spot for them - they grow fine in the pots for a while. If it's still really cold where you are, leave them in the house, perhaps near a bright window, but if it's warming up (it is here, finally!), you can leave them in the garage overnight.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:08AM
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If the ground is workable and drains well (no ice/frost left in the garden) then I would plant the bleeding heart and rhubarb directly out in the ground IF they are still completely dormant. You'll have better success with those in the ground than in pots. I'd try to start the hollyhock in pots.

If they have broken dormancy then not much choice but to pot them up.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:34PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks, everyone! IâÂÂll get them potted and put in the garage tomorrow.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:15AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

mx reminds me ...

back in the day i had the radio flyer wagon with a 3 by two foot plywood board on top .. and a dozen or two pots...

before work i would wheel it out into the shade .. and after dinner.. back in the garage overnight ...

shade so the black pots wouldnt get too hot in sun.. bolting them even more ...

stacked in a wheelbarrow also works ...

plants in pots in very early spring do NOT need a lot of water ... dampen your media at potting ... but dont go dosing them too much ... some plants simply do not like excess water in cold media ...

i did a post somewhere .. i will run across it.. about the fact that just because you buy them.. does not mean its the right time to plant them ... i will link you if i remember ... probably find it as soon as i hit send.. lol ..


Here is a link that might be useful: i remembered the forum.. see link ... think about the subject.. rather than the incessant bickering.. lol ... we all need to get out in the garden ... and work off some of this pent up nonsense ...

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:23AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I opened and checked the bags today. The rhubarb has a sprout about 3 inches long, and the packing moss was dry. I gave it a sprinkle of water.

The hollyhocks and bleeding heart have no sprouts, very healthy looking firm roots and the moss was slightly damp. The bleeding heart looked so good, each looking like a many fingered hand, IâÂÂm tempted to go back for more of them. I have always wanted a whole grouping of them under the trees at the back of my yard, where my other ephemerals like Virginia bluebells are, and hostas later hold sway.

Ctopher, I see you are zone 5 too, though in a different state. I would normally never think of planting so early. I think IâÂÂll go check that bed tomorrow.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 11:02PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

IâÂÂm tempted to go back for more of them.

==>>>> you got the fever bad.. eh .. lol ...

chris is about 30 miles west of me ... probably directly between you and i ... brilliant plantsman .. if i say so myself ... especially when he agrees with me ... lol ...

here is how it works...

mass producer harvests his stock in late fall.. after dormancy ... most likely.. i large bins ... and put them in a refridge warehouse ...

over winter.. when there is nothing else to do ... they are bagged into lots ... some are bagged as you got them ... some in lots of say 25 ...

nearing spring... small bags to bigboxstore ... larger lots to nurseries.. WHO POT THEM JUST LIKE YOU ARE DOING... though a few weeks back.. to force them into growth to sell them at a profit ...

its all the same stock.. is my point ... you just arent paying for the pot.. media ... greenhouse.. etc ...

but the real key... is getting them out of the bigboxstore before they die ... i love these peeps who buy them in late june.. for a penny.. then wonder why they died... lol ..

on your timing here... you should be all set ..

buy more??? ... bargain is a bargain.. how many pots can you cope with... lol ... if the stock looks good.. why not ..????


    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:09AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I have pots! I have a garage! I have potting soil! Both cheap stuff and expensive Miracle Grow with water saver stuff whose name I canâÂÂt recall.

The only thing IâÂÂm tempted to get is the bleeding heart, since I want a lot of them. I bought potted twice and the price was really high. I would love white, but all they had was the standard pink and Luxuriant pink.

If IâÂÂm tempted, itâÂÂs really displacement activity. I am supposed to be getting ready to teach a metals workshop this weekend. Creative procrastination.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 2:02PM
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