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What is a Bare Root Tree?

what is a bare root tree
by Alison North Alison North

A bare root tree is one that has been lifted out of the ground during its dormant (non-growing) season and is sent to you without a pot. We call them bare root because there isn’t any soil or compost around the roots and they often don't have any leaves.

Are potted trees better?

You’d think so to look at them, but professional growers prefer bare root. They might seem less attractive at first, but they are quicker to establish once they’re planted and less vulnerable to disease and pests. Potted trees allow you to plant them during the spring and summer months when bare root trees aren’t available, but that’s really the only advantage. There’s always a much wider selection of bare root trees available too, with hundreds of varieties of fruit and ornamental trees in various rootstocks and forms to choose from so you can pick the best for your garden.

potted tree

What time of year can I plant bare root trees?

Bare root trees can only be planted in their dormant period, between autumn and spring when they’re freshly lifted. Because bare root trees are dormant, they don’t tend to suffer from shock when they’re replanted and of course the wetter weather in these months means that when you do plant your tree, you won’t have to worry about it getting enough water!

Do I need to plant bare root trees straight away?

It’s best to plant your bare root tree as soon as you get it, but we know that’s not always possible as the ground can be frozen over or waterlogged in winter. Your tree will be fine for up to a week kept in a cold shed or garage but make sure the frost doesn’t get to it (once they’re in the ground, frost isn’t a problem).

If you still can’t plant your tree after a week, stand the roots in a bucket of water overnight so that they don’t dry out. You can also temporarily plant it in a large bucket of compost or soil and keep it in a sheltered place outdoors until it can be moved to its final position.

bare root tree in water

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