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Plant a Bare Root Fruit Tree

Dec 15, 2014 -
  Plant a Bare Root Fruit Tree
Tricia plants a bare root fruit tree in our new video, using the latest techniques.

Size of the Planting Hole

Things change. Advice for planting bare root trees has changed too! Colorado State University studied root growth in fruit trees. They have a planting technique that expands root growth exponentially (see bottom of the document for bare root trees).


Tricia plants a bare root tree the new way in our video “How to Plant a Bare Root Tree”. No more deep holes here, the new method calls for a shallow, saucer-shaped hole that is three times as wide as the tree roots and deep enough to allow planting at the same depth the tree was in the field (Note the change in color on the trunk).

These standards have been adopted industry wide, including endorsement by the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA), American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

Just Planted Bare Root Tree

Positioning the Tree in the Hole

The position will depend whether or not it is a single or multi-graft tree. If you are putting in a multi-graft tree, position the smallest graft or scion, to the south facing position. This will assure that the largest scion does not take over the tree. For a single graft tree be sure and point the graft towards the north or the northeast to prevent sun damage.

Our complete directions on how to plant a bare root tree are in our downloadable PDF Growing Guide, Fruit & Nut Trees.

Mulching Newly Planted Trees

Colorado State warns against mulching around the base of the new tree: With newly planted trees, do NOT place mulch directly over the root ball. Rather, mulch the backfill area and beyond. Never place mulch up against the trunk as this may lead to bark decay. Over the backfill area and beyond, 3-4 inches of wood chip mulch gives better weed control and prevents additional soil compaction from foot traffic.

There’s an epidemic of over-mulching trees. Some call it “volcano mulching”. Make sure it doesn’t happen on your property!

Bare Root Tree Season is December – February

So what if you can’t plant your trees as soon as you receive them? That’s ok, you can heel them in and plant them when the time is right.

To heel in your trees, choose a shady location and dig a trench about a foot deep. If your ground is frozen you can heel in either in the cellar or in the garage. Place the trees in the trench bundled as closely together as possible leaning against the slope. Cover the roots with loose soil compost or wood shavings, but avoid using rice hulls cedar or redwood shavings, and it’s important not to let your trees roots dry out or freeze.

You want to keep the roots moist but not soaking wet. The point of heeling in is to keep the roots moist, protect the tree from freezing and keep it cool enough that it doesn’t break dormancy.

If your ground is frozen or if you’re under snow you can create this same environment in a wheelbarrow or some other type of container and store it in your basement, garage or cellar. If you see the buds swell and then the tree starts to flower, it has broken dormancy and it needs to be planted immediately.

Whether you want to try the new-fangled planting method from Colorado State, or go with the traditional way, be sure to take advantage of one of the great bargains in food production—bare root trees.

Someday you could be looking at your own almond trees in bloom!

Categories: Fruit Trees, Apple Trees, Pluot Trees, Plum Trees, Persimmon Trees, Pear Trees, Peach Trees, Nectarine Trees, Multi-Graft Trees, Mulberry Trees, Jujube Trees, Cherry Trees, Apricot Trees, Quince Trees, Fruits & Berries, Edible Landscaping, Organic Gardening 101, Urban Gardening & farming

Peacotum bare root tree Says:
Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I bought a bare root tree (a peacotum-peach x apricot x plum cross) from this company two weeks ago. It was too cold and windy to plant it directly to the ground, therefore I decided to plant it in a pot and I store it inside my garage.

My question is, was this the right thing to do?

When do peacotum trees start to leaf out?
How do the leaves look like? Do they look like a peach? or and apricot? or like the plum?  What about the fruit?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jan 27th, 2012 at 11:08 am

Your tree should be just fine in the garage as long as the temperatures stay roughly between fourty-five and thirty-eight degrees, that way the tree’s roots won’t freeze and the tree won’t get warm enough to break dormancy.

From the 500 chill hours I am guessing it will leaf out with Pluots and Japanese Plums. Peacotums are a brand new interspecific, looking at the pictures the leaves look like fat peach leaves. From the reading I’ve done, fruit tastes more Pluot-like when it is young (shipping ripe) and more peachy as it matures (soft-ripe). The flesh is peach-like in texture and juicyness and the skin has a little bit of fuzz.

Ulises Says:
Feb 1st, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I am a gardener, I have some news for all the gardeners and to

Did you know that the United States Department of Agriculture updated their plant hardiness Zone map. They updated last week.

Article name;
USDA Unveils New Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Charlotte, Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 5th, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Thank you, Ulises!

Will be planting 10 fruit and nut trees. Howfar a Says:
Dec 23rd, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Howard A. Van Erem
21823 215th Ave SE
Maple Valley, WA 98038

Drey Says:
Jan 9th, 2014 at 11:36 pm

I live in Mount Shasta and my bare root fruit trees arrived a couple of days ago.  Our soil is frozen currently and I don’t see it thawing anytime soon (just the top couple of inches).  Is it o.k. to plant our trees now in these cold temperatures or do they need to be stored in a garage with sligtly warmer soil temperatures. 
We’ve already planted several of the trees, and are concerned that we may have made a big mistake.  What should we do?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jan 15th, 2014 at 10:17 am

Hello Drey, the trees will likely be just fine. Remember, we have a bare root guarantee so if they don’t leaf out in spring contact our customer service before June 1st and you’ll get a credit for the trees. You’re digging below the frozen soil (I’m assuming) so the trees will be fine. If you’re not sure you can heel the trees in. We have a video on instruction on how to heel in trees as well.

Ann Says:
Jan 22nd, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I recently planted my two new bare-root cherries. Please confirm that I do not prune these trees now. I am in So California, if location matters. Thanks, Ann

Stephanie Brown Says:
Feb 7th, 2014 at 9:07 am

Hello Ann, Yes, you don’t need to prune them now, but you could. Since you are in Southern California which is a very dry climate there is little danger of waterborn disease which is the primary reason for summer pruning apricots and cherries. The other perk of summer pruning is size control, so if you want smaller trees go ahead and summer prune.

Holiday Van Erem Says:
Feb 10th, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Hello, we are getting ready to plant our bare root trees in Washington State - we are wondering if it would be a good idea to mix compost dirt into the soil when we plant them - our existing soil tends to be sandy and rocky. Is that okay?

Abel Says:
Apr 20th, 2014 at 10:46 am

I bought 2 bare root cherry trees long does it take for them to starting to show life.. and leaf or bud out….thank you

Stephanie Brown Says:
Apr 21st, 2014 at 10:16 am

Hello Holiday,

Sandy and rocky should be fine. Just make sure you fertilize the trees once they leaf out since that kind of soil doesn’t hold nutrients well.

Stephanie Brown Says:
Apr 21st, 2014 at 10:21 am

Hello Abel,

It depends on the weather and your area. If you bought them from us, and they haven’t leafed out call us by June 1st because they are guaranteed to leaf out by then.

Abel Rodriguez Says:
Apr 23rd, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I bought 2 bare root cherry trees about a month ago.. i check for life by cutting a pieace off the tips. and i realized my tree is completly dried dead…why is all my cherry trees drying out it because of over watering or what ..i am a beginner planter on bare root trees..could yo tell me the right way t plant a bare broot cherry tree and how to water it prperly and take care of it ..i would apreciated..thank you for your time..abel form texas the panhandle…

Abel Rodriguez Says:
Apr 23rd, 2014 at 6:30 pm

PS…Iforgot to tell you all the cherry trees they send me is that they have a little greenn on them ..but the rooting system is damage our lake of rooting system..may be thats why the die all the time..i dont know why ..thank you . ireally need some advise…

Des Says:
Dec 20th, 2014 at 10:16 am

What are some good trees to plant indoors? How would I go about growing indoor plants?

Sonia Preciado Says:
Dec 21st, 2014 at 8:46 am

Do you have to soak tree in water for 24 hrs before planting or can they be planted without soaking?

Pat Says:
Dec 22nd, 2014 at 7:05 am

I live in the central mountains of Idaho - 6200’elevation, experience winter lows to 40 below.  I have purchased fruit trees mail-order from Maine which are rated for low temps. but are grown at sea level.  Would it desirable for me to get trees grafted and grown at higher altitudes to suit our climate? Do you know of any mail-order co.that sell high altitude trees?

Jan 4th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I just purchased bare root table grapes tree (i’m in Michigan) from you 2 days ago. I’m new to gardening, and plan on growing the fruit tree indoors(until it warms up). Can the fruit tree be grown in a smart pot indoors, if not what do you suggest. Also how large should the pot be…..thanks!!!

Brian Weaver Says:
Jan 15th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

My bare root trees were delivered in January on the coldest day of the year so I didn’t water them.  I put them in a huge pot together and covered with loose soil and put in my garage up on a chair.  Its been around zero for a week now, so I went to check and the soil was frozen around the trees.  Should I heel them in outside?  I could try my unheated attic instead of the garage.  I’m afraid they will die.  I didn’t get to water them one time since they arrived.  Im not sure what to do.  Pleas help!

Paul Donovan Says:
Feb 11th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I am having the exact same issue as Brian Weaver above. I heeled in the fruit trees in a bundle in my unheated garage. The compost/peat moss froze around the roots, and I am concerned they won’t leaf out. I’ve watered them, and get the soil moist, but it’s pretty much a brick now.

Greg Says:
Feb 16th, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Brian and Paul, I just received 18 bare root trees and everyone thinks I’m crazy because they look outside and see a blizzard.  My top 3” of soil is frozen solid so I went out and bought black mulch. Once I laid the mulch there for insulation the ground thawed somewhat over the next couple days.  Then I proceeded to dig my holes and upon digging I noticed how incredibly warm the dirt was down in the hole.  So yes let your frozen trees thaw in a bucket of cold water and put them in ASAP.

Paul Donovan Says:
Feb 20th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for the advice Greg. I’m in CT, and the snow accumulation is pretty bad. Can’t access the earth very easy at all…I’m just going to hope for the best and not order from California next time.

Caitlin Says:
May 27th, 2015 at 5:36 pm


I planted a variety of bare root trees this winter from Peacefull Valley- most of them are looking great! Both of my Cherry trees have leafed out- but the leaves are shriveling and falling off. What can I do to help my cherries survive?

ray Says:
Jan 4th, 2016 at 8:12 am

hello, i got my bare root trees and they look great, planted them 2 weeks ago. but my cherry trees are budding already, is there anything i need to do, or not do to protect the trees, since our wheather is turning cold now.

Becky Sewell Says:
Jan 6th, 2016 at 6:45 am

My bare-root Suncrest peach tree arrived yesterday when our temperature here in Central New York (Finger Lakes region) was about 14 degrees. It looks pretty good, and is presently soaking in a bucket of water in my bathtub, before I plant it today. The temperature is climbing toward 40 today, so I will plant my new tree in a hole it will share until spring with a volunteer peach I transplanted on Christmas Day, when it was around 60 degrees! Thankfully, I had dug wide, shallow holes for all of my new plantings (including the peach ,16 honeyberry bushes - Lonicera caerulea, and some blueberries), so there is plenty of room for both peaches in the same hole, for now. I just pray this lovely Suncrest will not have too much culture-shock, going from warm, sunny California to frigid and often dreary New York winter! At least it’s dormant for now, but I feel like I should wrap it in an electric blanket until spring! I’m REALLY looking forward to enjoying the first peach from this particular tree - I ate Suncrest peaches grown in Colorado and have wanted a Suncrest tree ever since. This will be a dream come true, if the tree thrives here.

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