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How to Share Your Plants Safely

Sharing plants from our gardens is a common and gratifying practice among gardeners. But in these times, we must know how to share plants safely. Safe from what? Jumping worms have become a significant and difficult problem for Minnesota gardens. This particular type of worm has the ability to ravage your garden soil and weaken or kill your plants. This article will help you learn more about this pest and show you how you can still share your plants safe from the spread of jumping worms.

Mary Gadek, Master Gardener

How to Share Your Plants Safely

The Dakota County Master Gardener Plant Sale is scheduled soon. As we plan to share the lovely garden flowers abound in Dakota County, we will be mindfully bare rooting the plants before donating to the sale. If you are planning to share plants from your garden with others this summer, bare rooting them is the safe way to do it.


Why bare root?! The goal of bare rooting plants is to prevent the spread of jumping worms, which are an invasive species of worms in the United States. The worms can produce significant destruction in your garden by severely impacting the soil structure of your garden and reducing or destroying plant growth. Read this article from the University of Minnesota Extension to learn more about jumping worms in Minnesota.


Prevention is key to limiting the spread of invasive jumping worms. Since soil, plant roots and mulch are the common materials most likely to spread the jumping worms, you can play an integral role in minimizing jumping worm issues. Note that in the spring, jumping worms are either cocoons or juveniles. The cocoons are the size and color of soil aggregates so they are difficult to see. Juvenile jumping worms may look like other juvenile earthworms at this point, without the telltale cream color collar, so they are hard to find or identify. These worms and juvenile worms can easily hide inside the roots of your plant.


You can still share your plants and dramatically reduce the spread of jumping worms by taking steps to “bare root” your plants. The remainder of this article will provide step-by-step instructions about how to do so.


How to Bare Root Your Plants


Before sharing your beautiful garden plants, please take the following steps to bare root your donations.




Drop cloth for work area; your plant; deep tray or wash tub; chopsticks or bamboo skewer; 4-5 five gallon buckets, with all but one half full of water; sheets of newspaper; paper towel; sterile soil; twine; label; 5 gallon elastic-top paint strainer and a gallon sized plastic bag.



1. Prepare the work area with a dropcloth. Take the plant out of its pot over the deep tray/washtub. Using the chopsticks/skewer or your hands, completely remove all the dirt directly into the tray.

2. Rinse the roots in 2-3 of the water buckets until clean.

3. Examine the roots to ensure no dirt or potential jumping worm cocoons remain.

4. Position one sheet of newspaper into a diamond shape. Set a paper towel in the middle of the newspaper.

5. Lay the plant on the paper towel. Sprinkle sterile soil on the roots.

6. Wrap the bottom of the newspaper up on the roots and dirt. Fold in both sides of the newspaper over the roots. Tie the packet with twine.

7. Attach a label with the plant’s name to the twine. Write the plant’s name on the newspaper, too.

8. Put the tied packet into a bucket of clean water (ie., a bucket of water not used to rinse the roots) to hydrate it initially, removing it after soaked. Water the packet daily.

9. Return the dirt from the washtub to the old plant pot. Put the dirt back where it came from.

10. Pull the elastic paint strainer over the empty bucket. Dump everything collected in the other 5 gallon buckets (that you used to rinse off the plant’s dirt) into the empty bucket. Remove the strainer and the strained material into a gallon sized plastic bag. Seal the bag and discard it in the trash. Tip the bucket to empty the water into the area where the plant originated. Clean the dropcloth to prevent inadvertent spread of the worms/cocoons.


NOTE: Since no earthworms are native to Minnesota, drop any worms found while bare rooting into a plastic bag, seal it and put it in the trash. Do not compost.


With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of bare rooting. A practice well worth it to keep your garden healthy.




Bare Root Instructions Credit to Marie Stolte, Dakota County Master Gardener


Video instructions from Dakota County Master Gardeners. Included in this video is another video by Julia Vanatta. Special credit must be given to her. Without her research and demonstration classes this article could not have been written. Julia promotes sustainable gardening as a volunteer for Wild Ones Twin Cities. 

Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (2, 3), Longfield Gardens (from Creative Commons licenses) (1)

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