Container-Grown vs Root-Ball – Which Is Best?

So what is the best plant to buy for your new hedge – container-grown or root-ball?

In December 2013 , we decided to lay to rest the debate once and for all by planting two laurel hedges end to end on the same site, in the same soil with the same conditions. One would be planted using container-grown plants, the other using root-balled plants.

The trial will be ongoing and updated each season over a number of years

December 2013

The hedge is lined out with a string & appropriate spaced holes dug larger than the root ball or pot to enable the plant to easily root into neighbouring soil.

A slow release fertilizer is added (bone meal) to help supply nutrients. Whilst not strictly essential in most cases in the early stages, it can help if any deficiencies are present.

After the trench is dug, time to incorporate compost to the trench. This allows a good root run as new roots are put out into the neighbouring soil.

The entire trench is backfilled with compost.

A little bit of fine tuning with the spade and foot takes place to ensure plant is upright & soil is firmed around the root zone.

Please note the pot grown Laurel has a deeper root ball & is therefore easier to plant as stays upright.

A slow release, organic fertiliser is added such as blood, fish and bone or bonemeal. This helps the plant retain condition in the early stages of development.

Whilst some fertiliser is added to the trench, some is left on the soil surface.

Please note the hessian is left on the root ball as it will rot. The root ball is not deep and will allow wind rock later in the winter. A supporting system is therefore necessary as will be shown later.

It is essential to achieve good contact between the plant and soil allowing the roots to pick up moisture.

The final plant makes it’s way into the ground!

April 2014

The results are showing in April from a December planting the stress on the root ball with leaf drop, less branches and a more drawn structure. This is likely to get more pronounced as we go through summer and into the autumn.