Planting Bare-Root Trees

The most common way to establish trees in the home landscape is to purchase balled and burlapped or container-grown plants at local garden centers and nurseries.  However, bare-root trees are the most economical type of nursery stock when purchasing large quantities of trees for screens and windbreaks.  Additionally, shade and fruit trees purchased from mail-order nurseries are often bare-root. 

Bare-root trees must be planted in early spring before growth begins.  If rainy weather or other circumstances prevent planting within a few days of purchase, store bare-root trees in a cool location, such as an unheated garage or root cellar, until planting is possible. 

Prior to planting, soak the tree’s roots in a bucket of water for one to two hours.  Also, prune off damaged or broken roots. 

When ready to plant, dig a hole that is 2 to 2.5 times wider than the spread of the tree’s root system. The depth of the hole should be equal to the distance from the tree’s trunk flare to the bottom of its roots.  The trunk flare is the point where the trunk begins to spread out as it meets the roots.  Build a cone-shaped mound of soil in the center of the hole.  Place the tree on top of the mound. The trunk flare should be even with the surrounding soil surface.  Spread the roots evenly over the mound.  Then begin backfilling with the original soil.  As you backfill, firm the soil in the hole with your hands.  Place soil to the trunk flare.  Finally, water the tree thoroughly.

Many shade and fruit trees are propagated by grafting.  The graft union is located near the base of the tree’s trunk and is denoted by a bulge or crook in the trunk.  The graft union is typically 1 to 3 inches above the trunk flare.  When planting bare-root trees, be careful not to confuse the graft union with the trunk flare.

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