Planting Bare-Root Trees

Planting trees with bare, exposed roots can be somewhat tricky business. Here is a guide to help you successfully plant and grow your young tree.

Sapling with exposed roots

When to Plant

Bare root trees should be planted during the dormant season. This can either be in the fall after the leaves have dropped or in early spring before tree has sprouted new leaves. Either way, waiting to plant until the weather is cooler or just before a rain will give your young tree a better chance of establishing itself in a new environment.

Click here to learn about how to propagate dogwood trees from clippings!

Transporting Your Tree

Bare root trees loose large amounts of moisture through their roots and leaves if they are not protected from heat and wind. Without special care during transportation, bare-root trees can quickly become dehydrated and suffer potentially fatal damage.

Side Note: At room temperature, your trees can lose up to 3 percent of their weight in moisture per hour.

If you have to transport your tree from a nursery to your home, you should immediately place your sapling roots into a container with some water, or gently wrap the roots in dampened paper towels for the ride home. When you get home, continue to soak the roots in water for about 3 to 6 hours.

Another way to help reduce water loss during transportation is to dip your sapling’s roots in hydro-gel before transporting your plant. Many nurseries have adopted this practice, but some people are concerned about the long-term health effects related to hydro-gels.

When planting a young tree into a new environment, it is normal for it to undergo some “transplant shock.” This means your plant may experience slowed growth and reduced vitality as it adjusts to its new environment.

Planting Your Bare-Root Tree

Young pine trees

Because time is of the essence when planting your young tree, it is best to dig and turn the soil around your hole before transporting your tree. Remove any grass within a 4-foot circular area, and dig a hole wider and deeper than seems necessary so that the roots can grow without crowding.

Refill the hole with your native soil. Don’t add soil amendments such as peat, bark, fertilizer, potting soil or chemicals on your new tree. These nutrient-rich products may kill your young tree. As you shovel in the remaining soil, it should be firm but not tightly packed. If you are planting a grafted tree, keep the graft union (noticeable “bump” in the lower trunk) 2-3 inches above the ground.

Give the tree plenty of water. After the water has soaked in, spread a two-inch layer of mulch around the tree base, but not touching the trunk. The soil and mulch around the trees should be kept moist but not soggy. During dry weather, generously water the tree every 7 days during the first year.

If you live in an area with wildlife, such as rabbits or deer, you may consider protecting your tree with a small chicken wire fence. With proper planting and enough TLC, your tree will soon establish itself and develop new buds and stems.

I hope this information is helpful. Happy planting!

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Planting a bare-root tree
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