What are RootMaker Containers?

RootMaker containers specialize in the growth of a fibrous root system. Johnson's Nursery uses them in the production of Wisconsin native trees, shrubs, and conifers.

They are different than the typical, solid-wall container in a few ways. They prevent stem-girdling roots, a condition that may arise from growing a plant without considering the shape of the root system at installation. RootMaker pots overcome this by having multiple ridges and air holes on the sides of the pot walls and base.

The design has specific size small holes that allows roots to push outside of the container instead of growing around the inside of the pot. This physical diameter restriction causes root tips to dry out and prune off. The plant then sends energy back into its roots, creating a more fibrous root system. This root-pruning action is the main design benefit of the RootMaker pot. It’s why we like using it to grow certain plants like small trees.

A fibrous root system translates to:

  • Better structure to the root system, improving long-term plant health.
  • Quicker establishment time comparable to standard containers.
  • Better efficiency of nutrient uptake, which increases growth rate potential.
  • Reducing the need for staking trees.

RootMakers Add More Control

1. Controlling Our Seed Provenance

We produce many of our trees in-house from seed. This allows us to have a high degree of control over our plants. Many of our native offerings are grown in-house from seed that we hand pick from local provenances (location is species specific). We focus heavily on local-ecotype natives, with attention paid to soil types, historical origins, and qualities like vigor, disease resistance, and overall appearance.

2. Controlling Deer Browse

We use #5 Container RootMakers. If you’re unsure what this size means, read Understanding Nursery Stock Sizes. #5 Containers represent a younger tree or a slightly more mature shrub.

They’re a great tool in the pocket of every restorationist. Who knows the pain of losing 60%+ of their seed or plug planting to weed pressure, wildlife, and deer. #5 RootMakers are bigger than many plants (or smaller sizes) prone to being browsed by deer – so – while still needing protection, they need it for less time. Most RootMaker plants (trees) are in the 3 to 7-foot range, so they need only a few years to surpass the browse line of deer.

3. Start Planting in Fall

If the ground isn’t frozen and you’re able to supply consistent water, you can install these more mature, RootMaker plants any time of year! It’s a tall order to overcome the urge to plant after a long, cold Wisconsin winter as warm weather and spring bring on new motivation. But spring and summer plantings require much more work and attention to your new plants to overcome weed pressure and hot summer temperatures. We’re partial to fall planting for several reasons:

  1. The weather is cooler since we’re past the high heat of summer. This allows soils to better retain moisture – less evapotranspiration. Also, in Southeastern Wisconsin, we retain decent rainfall averages* into fall.
  2. Winter is helpful to newly installed plants. The frozen ground will hold the plant(s) tight. Winter snows protect the ground. Winter thaw, snow melting, and spring rains make loose, moisture-rich soil for better transplanting and improved establishment.
  3. A plant has already begun to establish from the fall planting, making your entire next season much less work.

4. Control Hard-to-Transplant Species

Species such as Oaks, Hickories, and Musclewood have more coarse roots, which makes them more difficult to transplant from a pot. The design of RootMakers helps turn coarse roots into fibrous roots, which improves the overall transplant strength and success rate of these species.

For example, our internal observations show that Oaks from traditional containers grow 6-inches on average their first year, while our Oaks from RootMaker pots grow 1-foot on average their first year!

Notable RootMaker Plants at Johnson's Nursery

You will find RootMaker grown plants in our inventory. We're open to the public! Please visit the Public Inventory. Wholesale & Contractors should use the Wholesale Availability (password protected). The examples below are only a couple of the many RootMaker grown plants you'll find at Johnson's Nursery.

* National Weather Service, MKX Yearly Climate Images for Milwaukee, WI