How to Plant A Bare Root Tree: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re ready to try your hand at growing a fruit tree, now is a good time to plant a bare root tree. Here’s how…

The end of winter is typically the best time to plant bare root trees, while they are still dormant, so their roots have time to start getting established before it gets too hot outside.

Bare root trees come with no leaves, and no pot or soil. They are usually shipped during the winter or cold season, and typically become available in local nurseries towards the end of the winter. The roots may be totally bare, or wrapped in paper, plastic, or burlap.

Many fruit trees come from the nursery as bare root trees, and while they are pretty easy to plant, there are a few tips to keep in mind to give your new tree a good start.

If you’ve been thinking about planting some fruit trees, or you have planted some in the past and haven’t had good luck with them, try following these steps to ensure a good result.

How to Plant Bare Root Trees

Step 1) Soak your bare root tree in plain water or a diluted fish emulsion solution for about 6 hours.

…This will really help your trees avoid shock when being planted into the ground.

Step 2) Prep your tree hole

Start by digging a SQUARE hole about twice the width of your tree’s roots…. Go for twice in depth as well, but don’t over do it….

A circular hole will encourage the root to climb around again and again in a spiral, but a square hole will encourage the roots to grow out to the corners and then out further. Wider roots = stronger tree, so be sure to dig a square hole.

Step 3) Fill that hole up halfway.

…After you dig the hole for your bare root tree, you’re going to fill ‘er on back up about halfway. Your goal is to create a kinder environment for your new tree. Yes, you’ll have native soil in the hole, but you’ll also add back some other things….

Step 3) Place the tree in the hole and try your best to place the BASE of the tree SLIGHTLY ABOVE ground level.

One of the biggest mistakes that new tree planters make is that they bury their new tree TOO DEEP, which will actually suffocate the tree and cause it to die.

The roots on the base of the tree right before the trunk starts are called FEEDER ROOTS, and they need air flow and a light layer of compost followed by mulch. We’ll cover this later, but for now be sure to position the tree so that the feeder roots are slightly higher than ground level.

Step 4) Fill the hole the rest of the way with your native soil/potting soil combo.

Keep alternating native soil & potting soil as you fill up all the areas around the roots until you get to the top feeder roots.

You can pack it in slightly, just don’t go too crazy.

Step 5) Build a berm around your tree, cover your tree’s base with mulch, and water for the first time!

A berm is important as it will keep the water around the roots. Mulch is vital for the soil to become live with worms and other microorganisms….

NOTE: After your first watering, you may notice some settling of the soil. If so, just brush back the mulch and add some more potting soil & native soil, then cover back up.

Step 6) Place some stakes in the ground and tie your tree to it.

It’s important to support your young tree until it’s ready to stand on it’s own….

For more tips, plus pictures and illustrations, see the full article at

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Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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