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18 January 2016

What is Rootex?

I was recently reading an article about planting bare-rooted shrubs and trees and it mentioned copper-lined planting bags, which I had not heard of previously. Let me fill you in, as the gardener said to the hole!

The planting bags are made from a fabric known as Rootex, which was developed for commercial tree and shrub growers in North America. It has a copper based latex coating on one side, and when the root tip comes into contact with the copper it stops growing. However, new roots develop further back towards the plant, promoting the proliferation of feeder roots, and leading to roots which are more fibrous and absorb water and nutrients better. It also prevents roots from suffering from root circling, as is often the case in containers, or moving downwards as with a solid barrier.

Rootex is permeable allowing water and nutrients to pass through it. As the plant within the area of Rootex needs to be able to absorb nutrients and water from surrounding areas, this is essential.

Rootex is sold in the form of bags of varying size and also as 45cm wide fabric which can be cut to the required length. The bags are copper coated on the inside of the bag and are used commercially to grow larger trees that are transplanted after 5 to 6 years. These trees can be moved at any time of the year without damage to the root system. The Rootex bags are kept slightly out of the ground to prevent roots from growing across the surface. Very few roots normally penetrate the bags, which are ideal for use as a liner in a pot to prevent root circling. An added benefit is that you can plant shrubs in the bags and then take them with you if you move house, or move them elsewhere in the garden.

When used as a barrier, Rootex is installed vertically in a trench just under 45cm deep, so that it just shows above the surface. Make sure that you allow a reasonable distance for the tree or plant roots to grow to prevent it becoming unstable. Unlike many other barriers, Rootex is permeable, encouraging free movement of nutrients and water on a lateral plane. Therefore, unlike non-permeable barriers the roots do not have to search for water and nutrients outside the barrier limits.

To summarise, the benefits of Rootex are

it keeps the roots where you want them

prervents the roots tips from spreading and creates a fibrous root system

ideal for use in the garden to prevent plants from spreading

available as a bag to keep new plants and their roots under control or by the metre length to create a barrier

You probably won't find it in you local garden centre yet, but Rootex products are available on the internet.
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