Bare Root Tree Planting
What does that mean?
What are the advantages of planting bare root trees?
- Bare root trees are trees that are dug and stored without any
soil around their roots.
- Trees can be bought "bare root," and then planted directly into
There must be some disadvantages!
- More root mass. Bare root trees can have up to 200% more roots
than B&B or container trees, depending on the soil and transplanting
history at the nursery.
- Lower cost. Without extra labor and materials, bare root
trees cost seller and buyer less.
- Easier planting. A young tree without soil weighs little,
so it easy to move and plant.
What are the best techniques to follow for such tree
- Less work time. Once they leave the nursery, bare root trees
need to get in the ground within a week at the longest. With no soil, the
roots can dry out and die if left exposed for any time.
- Narrower planting window. Bare root trees need good soil
moisture, so mid spring (before budbreak) and mid fall (after leaf fall)
are the only two possible planting times.
- Restricted availability. Some species may not be available
bare root, and some nurseries may not have trees available for bare root
retail sale at all.
- Use any technique you can to reduce the time the tree roots are
- Order 1.5-2" trees to be dug within 24 hrs of your arrival, otherwise
be sure they are stored in a cool place.
- Have fall trees dug mid-Oct to late Nov, spring trees late Mar to
- If possible, dip tree roots in a slurry of a hydrogel (a
synthetic water-absorbing compound, many brands available) or muddy water,
then store them in large, pleated plastic bags until planting.
- If no hydrogel is used, soak the tree roots in water for 12-24
hrs before planting.
- Keep trees covered, shaded, and moist until actually put in the
Checking depth on a
bare root planting
Can all tree species be planted in this way?
ash (Fraxinus spp.)
crabapples (Malus spp.)
English oak (Quercus robur)
hybrid Freeman maple (Acer x fremanii)
honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)
linden (Tilia spp.)
Shantung maple (Acer truncatum)
sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
red oak (Quercus rubra)
Not recommended for bare root planting:
hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
hornbeam (Carpinus spp.)
hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria)
hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
Where can I get more information?
- In theory, yes--but some species work better than others, and some
- Best bets for bare root planting:
Nina Bassuk. 2000. "Creating
the urban forest: the bare root method." Ithaca, NY:Cornell University.
For other information, advice and help on this topic, call offices
of your State Urban Forestry Coordinator or University Extension service,
or visit urban forestry web sites.