I purchased some clematis, bleeding heart, ferns and astilbes as bagged roots a few weeks ago. They’ve been sitting in the house but are starting to smell. Is it too early to plant them in the garden now? Have I done them in by keeping them inside in a heated house for a few weeks?
Thanks for your advice!
Thank you for writing, and I hope this response reaches you in time, as it sounds as if your plant material has perhaps developed some fungus, from what you are smelling. If you can take them out of their plastic bags, even if they are the distributor’s perforated bags, right away and gently dust off any signs of powdery mildew or moist soil still attached, do so right away.
Before setting them into the ground, let them dry enough so that you can be assured there are no damaged sections of the roots. If the roots have rotted while in the bags they will feel slimy and come apart in your hands. If that’s not the case – you’ve saved them in time!
The best time for planting would be late May. By then the chance of frost has likely passed, but the days are still cool enough to avoid stressing the plant. Having said that it sounds like your plants need news homes ASAP. All the plants you choose are wonderfully hardy (though clematis is a bit more sensitive). You probably could put them in the ground now without too much damage.
Here are some pointers on where to plant your rootstocks:
Astible: partially shaded areas in moist, well draining soil
Clematis: full sun (depending on the variety)
Bleeding hearts: Variety of conditions including shade
Ferns: Rich soil and shelter from very hot sun and strong wind (though tolerant of most conditions)
And some more resources for further reading: