How To Plant A Fruit Tree from Its Bare Roots

How To Plant A Fruit Tree from Its Bare Roots

Planting bare-root though a tree is dormant is the preferred method for gardeners to optimize strong growth from a fruit tree’s young age. As roots break out of their relaxed condition, they begin sucking up water and nutrients for a rush of spring development. Since they’ve never been in a container, their young roots have not suffered from confined circumstances. They are typically more fibrous, and trees usually cost less. Produce trees need to be nurtured in the appropriate circumstances if they’re to blossom and fruit to their maximum potential.

When is the best time to plant bare-root trees?

If you’re planting a fruit tree and want to ensure it remains healthy and fruitful for years to come, you should pick a bare root tree rather than a potted tree purchased at a large box shop.

Potted trees can be advantageous. After all, a potted tree may be planted throughout the growing season. By contrast, you must exercise caution while planting bare root trees. This is because bare-root trees must be planted during the dormant season, early spring or late fall.

Once your bare root trees come, you’ll most likely want to plant them immediately. However, you may wish to keep a close eye on the weather. There are advantages and disadvantages to planting on bright and cloudy days. And what if you’re amid a gale? Then it may be prudent to wait one or two days.

What are bare root trees, and how do they differ from other types of trees?

Bare root trees are obtained from fruit tree nurseries specializing in this type. These nurseries remove their trees from the ground in the early spring or late fall, when they are dormant, without leaves, blooms, or fruit.

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The grower will wrap the roots in moist hay, mulch, or newspaper and then cover them with plastic to keep them hydrated. Then, these trees may be packaged and transported around the world.

The catch is that bare root trees can only be retained in this state for a short period and must be stored in an excellent, dark location until planting time. Without soil sheltering and nourishing their roots, bare-root trees will emerge from dormancy, get stressed, and eventually die.

Therefore, after you deliver bare root trees, you must plant them immediately to avoid their buds opening, which indicates that they are rising from dormancy.

Site Preparation

  1. Choose a location that receives full light for 6-8 hours every day and has adequate room for the tree’s mature growth.
  2. Bear in mind that the process of supporting healthy root growth & tree health begins at the time of planting. The objective is to stimulate roots to develop out of the planting hole and then into the surrounding native soil while avoiding the use of amendment materials within the planting hole.
  3. Dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the roots but only as deep as the longest root. A small hole keeps the tree from sinking too far into the ground.
  4. Construct a cone in the hole’s centre using the excavated earth, giving adequate room for the roots to spread. The top of the cone should not be lower than 2-3 in. above the soil surface to allow for settling.
  5. Arrange to plant on a low mound where heavy soil threatens rapid drainage. Begin by excavating a shallower hole, extending the cone 4-6 above the surface.

The Tree’s Planting

  1. Prepare in advance to detach and rehydrate roots from packing material. Soak them for at least 1 hour and 24 hours in a container.
  2. Remove any sick, kinked, or damaged roots with a sharp instrument.
  3. To avoid sunscald, put the trunk on top of the cone with the bud union or graft facing north. Locate a little jog on the lower stem, frequently where the trunk meets the roots, but occasionally several inches higher.
  4. Distribute roots evenly across the soil cone, fill halfway with excavated soil, and gently water.
  5. Ensure that no stem portion is covered in soil—only the roots.
  6. Completely fill the hole and carefully press the dirt to remove any air pockets around the root ball—immediate yet gentle irrigation. If the soil cone and stem have sunk below grade level, gently tug on the stem to raise it and cover the roots.
  7. If more dirt is required to cover roots, particularly when mound-planting, combine one part of native soil with an equal amount of any modified soil.
  8. Create a shallow, narrow moat around the planted area, approximately 8 to 12 inches from the trunk. If necessary, use this dirt to cover the roots completely.
  9. This moat, or ring, should stretch as far away from the stem as the root points do. When the reservoir is full, water filters down to the fibrous roots, which absorb it, let the root ball remain moist.
  10. Mulch the surface area with compost or another mulching material, keeping a 3-6 inch gap around the trunk exposed to prevent moisture from destroying the crown.
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Getting Ready for New Growth

  1. When implementing drip irrigation, locate emitters in the same region as the irrigation moat and progressively move them further from the trunk in later years as roots spread.
  2. Trim the trunk after planting—or head it back—to around knee height or 18-24 in. from the ground for future pruning, thinning, pest management, and harvesting convenience. Ensure that at least 1/3 of the original trunk height is removed.
  3. Remove any remaining spindly branches but keep any 14 in. or bigger units evenly spaced around the stem and reduced to 2-3 buds. These will eventually become the primary scaffolding or structural branches.
  4. The next spring, more branches will sprout.
  5. Paint the trunk of a young tree with a 1:1 combination of white latex interior paint and water to protect it from sunburn. This paint should be applied from two inches below the soil line to two feet up the trunk.

Final Thoughts

Fruit tree nurseries sell bare-root trees. These nurseries dig up their trees in early spring or late fall. Bare-root trees will emerge from dormancy, become agitated, and eventually perish. Planting trees promotes healthy root growth and tree health. The goal is to encourage root growth from the planting hole into the surrounding native soil while avoiding the use of amendment materials in the planting area.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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