How to Plant Bare Root Trees

Bare root trees are a great way to plant a tree as it is easy to spread the roots correctly and judge proper planting depth. Because the roots are in direct contact with the soil, bare root trees start growing quickly and do not require additional amendments. Here’s a step-by-step guide to planting a bare root tree correctly.

Before planting, keep roots cool, moist, and out of direct sunlight. Whenever possible, submerge roots in water and soak for an hour before planting. Bare root trees and shrubs must be planted as soon as possible. Prune off any split or broken roots and branches, using pruners that are sharp enough to keep from crushing or fraying roots.

Clear the area where you will plant.

Look at the roots to determine depth. As you can see, there are lots of fine feeder roots on this tree.

Find the root flare, so that you don’t plant the tree too deep. This is the area of the bark that begins to flare out into the root zone. Trees do best when planted so that the root flare is at ground level. Dig a hole wide enough to allow roots to be spread without bending or breaking them.

Digging a hole often causes glazing, where the sides become compacted and slick. This impedes root growth as it’s difficult to puncture through the compacted section.

Using a rake or pitchfork, loosen the sides of the hole.

Gently place the tree in the hole and use a rake or pole to determine proper depth. You may need to mound soil up in the center to support the tree.

You can easily determine that this tree is at the proper planting depth, with the root flare at ground level. The trunk graft (the knobby section) should be above the soil. As the tree grows, it will build trunk tissue around the graft and in a few years, it will not be noticeable.

Using the soil that came out of the hole, gently pack it around roots, breaking up any large clumps. Do not add amendments. The tree will readily adapt to soil conditions when planted as a bare root specimen. Water as you backfill the soil to settle it and reduce large air pockets.

Check the straightness of your tree as you backfill.

Backfill soil and tamp down gently until all the roots are covered.

Double-check your planting depth. Here you can see that the root flare is just at the soil line.

Mulch your new tree. Spread chips to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. No mulch should touch the trunk and should gently slope upwards like a saucer. Mulch against tree trunks can create the ideal environment for rot, rodents or disease.

Now your tree is ready to grow! You may want to consider staking the tree if you are planting in an especially windy site. Water regularly, checking the soil every three to four days for moisture by pushing fingers in below the mulch or using a water meter.

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Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

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Naperville, IL 60563

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