What Does Heeling In Plants Mean?
In the nursery business we often toss around terminology that some people get confused by. I often suggest to people that when they buy plants late in the fall to just “heel them in” until spring. And they often have no idea what I mean by that.
Sometimes we gardeners simply run out of time to properly plant everything in the garden. In the winter, bare root trees and plants or trees and plants in containers do not have the protection to survive the cold and, in the summer, bare root and container plants are susceptible to heat damage. Heeling in plants gives them a little extra layer of protection from the weather.Heeling in plants gives them a little extra layer of protection from the weather.
In this video I am going to show you what I mean by that, and show you what extremes I go to in an effort to protect my young bare root plants for the winter. Take a look.
Jennifer Montgomery says
I’m a bit late to the heeling in party here…..but…..I have 13 apple trees in pots, grafted spring of 2021, can I heel them in upright in their pots in my (currently empty) kitchen garden raised beds until Spring? Or should i take them out of their pots? We live in Zone 6 in Eastern Washington State. Thank you so very much for your reply!
Either way should be fine.
Thank you for all your videos. They are so helpful!
I just received two spicebush “sticks” from a nursery in Michigan that I ordered in April. They are bare root, and dormant. The planting instructions that came with them mentioned “heeling in,” but this is summer, so I am nervous about how to handle them. I think they ship mostly in the fall, so I suspect the instructions were meant for that time of the year.
I put them in separate pots for now, but don’t know how to treat them afterwards. I figured I could put them on the side of the morning room that sticks out at the back of my house, to protect from wind (we get a lot of it here) and to keep its exposure to the sun at half a day. I used leftover soil from the pots of plants that I planted already. I figure I can replant them into the landscape next year. DId I do the right thing?
I was disappointed at how small and skinny the pieces were. I was hoping for something more substantial.
Those plants really should be outside, especially come winter so they can go dormant. Leave where they are for now. If they don’t leaf out contact the company. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.
Clifton Harmon says
I wish u would do a video on how to take care of cutting that u get from somewhere else & it is gonna be a few days before you can pot up, say when traveling from another state!
Softwood cuttings have a really short shelf life. Put them in a cooler with cold water.
Clifton Harmon says
I have a low spot in my backyard that doesn’t seem to help it to put topsoil or garden soil on it. So I end up with a pond. What should I do?
See this; https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2017/11/get-rid-standing-water-yard/
I have a problem as I have to move at the end of July! Should I dig up my plants now put them in pots ( its early May now) and heel them in a cooler spot pot and all till I need to lift them in July? Then heel them again into a cooler spot at new location till I can then plant tbem in the ground in the fall? Help!! Not sure what to do!
If they are already leafed out, it’s really pasting transplanting season and digging them could shock them severely. All I can say is you and try and then shade and water.
Debby Pozza says
Hi Mike, In your healing in plants underground video……you don’t mention anything about water. Do you water them before placing the cover over the underground bed?
I do, just using a sprinkling can I wet the roots. But honestly, heeling them in above ground works well too. In this video, https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2011/07/mikes-new-nursery-from-the-beginning/, you’ll see me pulling small trees from an above ground frame I made for heeling things in as well.
Usually, people show young plants being “heeled” in close to the ground or on the diagonal. Not sure why. At my son’s college, they got a ton of saplings (deciduous and evergreens) last fall. They didn’t “heel” them in; instead they just put them on the soil and heaped up more soil and then mulch around them. This spring, most got planted and they seem to be thriving!
Anna Geary says
AM DOWN SOUTH, KINGSVILLE (close to the King Ranch); WEATHER HOTTER THAN HADES IN SUMMER; BUT HAVE BEAUTIFUL LAWN IN SPITE OF HEAT!! AM “NURSING” A MINATURE LEMON TREE THRU A SECOND SEASON
hank hajduk says
actually, it’s “heeling” in, in reference to using the heel of your boot, to push back and firm the soil around the cutting or seedling.
Robert Stringer says
Mike you look just like an old ARK boy like me..I live in Houston now.
Mike i am going to get this for Christmas. I have waited 2 yrs but i believe this is my time. Hubby has cancer and i cant work but i adore gardening ..just plants ready to die at 1st..now i root every thing i can get my hands on. I have yucca plants everywhere now im experimenting with japanese plums..loquats..i feel i could be good at this given a chance. Hubby laughs when he sees me ..I take 2.00 and get half dead plants and i succeed.
We have a whole group of people just like you. You’d be right at home with us.
I love your helpful tips…I’ve often thought about grafting roses, but it’s just that Colorado is so cold in the winter and I don’t have a hot house. Your tips are great though about healing in. I did try to do some cuttings on the Lilac tree that hangs over the fence to my property. I don’t think it worked out too well. I recal I crushed them under foot while trying to regrade the vegetable garden. I think I’ll try that again in the spring and maybe soak them in water for a couple of days first. I do have that root hormone.
I’d love to have Japanese Maple varieties grace my front and back yard but I just know this bitter cold weather will kill them. Ohh, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is beautiful in San Francisco. Love to Bonsai cedars as well. Just wish I was able to have a Japanese maple. Oh and that Bouganvelia, I’d love to have that as well. I even have trouble with the yellow variety of Honeysuckle here.
Do you have any tips for me on that Mike? I do put leaves around the small 30 dollar plant of two years that just wont bloom prolifically. Please give me help on this. A neighbor down the street has a beautiful red variety – maybe it’s just more cold hardy but I really want this yellow one to grow and I could really use some help…Thanks Mike
Your yard is gorgeous…which state do you live in?