Fri. Mar. 17, 2017

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Barerootin’

As soon as the soil thaws it’s time to plant bareroot trees.  A bare root tree has no soil at all around its roots.  It’s been removed from the soil while still dormant.  These trees are generally kept dormant by refrigeration until sold.

Bareroot tree

Bare root trees, shrubs and roses are often quite a bit less expensive than any other type.  Frost depths are more shallow for most of us than is typical.  That means an earlier date to be able to work the soil.  HOWEVER, you must not dig around in wet soil.  Find some great pictures and good information at Howbert & Mays

If you’re transporting bareroot trees, their roots must be protected from drying out, wrap them in plastic.  If you ordered online, the roots will come packed in a box full of damp mulching material.  Leave them packed and keep them wet until you’re ready to plant.  If you picked up the tree from your nursery, pack the roots and wet mulching material into a plastic bag and close the top around the trunk.  Store only for short periods in the garage or in the shade until ready to plant, keeping the mulching material wet.

For 3 to 6 hours before planting, soak the roots in a bucket of water.  Make sure the roots are fully immersed but don’t crush them.   In the picture below, they look a little cramped!  Use a larger container.

bare root tree roots soaking in water

Dig a hole twice as wide as the length of the roots spread horizontally.  Don’t plant too deep.  The portion of the trunk that was originally below ground before it was dug up will be discolored, often darker, that’s your planting level.    And yet more information and pictures at Midwest Gardening

Mound some soil in the middle of the hole to place your plant on top of.  Spread the roots out horizontally, this is where those roots will get their water, oxygen and nutrients.  (eventually they will grow deeper on their own).  Fill the hole with soil, gently work the soil around the roots while holding your plant steady.  I know, you need 3 hands for this!

bare root planting

bare root planting

Gently pack the soil down with your feet, hands, and/or water.  You want your bareroot stock watered thoroughly and not let it dry out.  Water often during the first year.  Do NOT fertilize right away.  Bareroot roots are more vulnerable to fertilizer burn.  You can fertilize with a weak solution in 4 weeks.

Bareroot stock CAN be kept for a week IF you place the roots in soil, keeping them moist and out of direct sunlight.

Alpine currant from bareroot

The above picture is of Alpine Currant that I bought bareroot.  This was about 4 years later.  I never cut them back, they were about 4 1/2 feet tall and made a great friendly fence.


Bareroot trees are will catch up to the more expensive container grown in a few years.  The price difference may be well worth it.


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