Friday, 07 October 2016 17:04

Planting Bareroot Trees & Shrubs

Written by  Ron Ludekens

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Phillip holding freshly dug bareroot Snow Fountains® Flowering Cherry

We are somewhat biased about planting bareroot trees. Correction, we are passionately biased about you planting bareroot treessmile. Since 1944 we have been growing bareroot trees and helping nurseries, landscapers, farmers, municipalities and of course homeowners to have great success planting those bareroot trees and shrubs.

Today, planting bareroot trees is unfamiliar to many homeowners. It was not always so. In the old days, before plastic buckets existed, trees were planted bareroot.  Everyone planted either bareroot trees or trees dug out with dirt on the roots held in place by burlap (ball and burlap). So Bareroot goes back eons - that was how you transplanted trees and why most trees were only available during the winter dormant season to buy and plant.  (Historical side note: Before plastic arrived on the scene, some trees were initially canned in "Tin Cans" when we scavenged old 5 gallon lard cans from restaurants - hence where term "canned" was derived and "gallons" became the measurement for canning trees).

So if your grandparents and great grandparents could be successful planting bareroot in the "dark ages", you can be successful too in the internet age.

Speaking of internet - it is full of great helpful articles and videos on how to plant bareroot so I see not need to create another one.

Here are a few:

The Beauty of Planting Bareroot Trees (

I like how this author not only shows and tells how to plant a bareroot tree, but also give the advantages and disadvantages of bareroot. (Spoiler: the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages)


How To Buy The Best Bare-Root Trees, Shrubs and Roses (

And another from the Weekend Gardener site: How to Plant Bareroot Trees and Shrubs.

Each step is expailned and has photos to go with it.  Only correction I would make is step 12.  After you water it in, it does NOT need any more watering until there are leaves on it. See bottom of this page on the topic of watering.


Gardening 101: How To Plant Bare Roots    (

I like her intro sentence: "Planting bare roots is one of the many gardening techniques that seem scary and very difficult when you first begin, but then become so easy you have no idea why you hadn’t done it before! Seriously, it is actually easier than planting a potted plant".  She happens to use berries as her example and then says why trees are just like it.


Cornel University: Creating the Urban Forest - the Bareroot Method

This is a little more geared toward the Municipality staff that do larger projects.  Planting a tree or two in the yard is much easier than this.


Two Common Errors to Avoid

There are a lot of very good articles on the internet how to plant bareroot.  But many of them repeat one or two errors that should not be done.

1) Soaking trees before planting.  NO! - do not do any more than dipping.  Too many sites say to leave it in the water for hours on end (some say overnight or even days). Roots need oxygen.  How does your skin look if left soaking in a tub for hours on end?  Since the roots have stored up starches and sugars, think of them as a sugar cube that will start dissolving if left in too long.

Yes - dipping the roots of a tree into a bucket of water is fine (even better, some say, with a root stimulant - but that is debated).  I usually just spray the roots gently before planting so the soil sticks to the roots. 

2) Watering after initial planting. NO!  We have a simple rule: Once the tree was planted and soaked in well so the soil settles around the roots - not not water again until there are leaves on the tree.  All the roots need is some dampness during dormancy which is already in the hole.  The tree uses no water until there are leaves to pull the water up for transpiration.  Even though the soil may feel dry after a few weeks (or even months) down 2-3 inches, the soil at the root level will still be moist.  The exception might be if the surrounding soil was so bone dry to start with that it took the moisture away.  If the soil had some moisture when you dug the hole, it will still be moist for many weeks after planting and soaking in the tree. 

Think of it this way: Those dormant trees in the forests are only watered by mother nature and do not need any extra human hose or sprinkler watering. It is the same with your newly planted tree.  I dare you to try to kill the tree by not watering it smile.  It will thrive if you leave it alone until it feafs out.

Hope this helps you with the fascination and enjoyment of planting your personal world.