Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees

Source(s): Jule-Lynn Macie


Your tree is a bare root tree. It will not survive if the roots dry out. If you cannot plant it immediately, the best alternative is to plant it in a pot or temporary plant it by covering the root with moist soil or mulch. This temporary planting is called ‘healing-in’. Do NOT put your tree in a bucket of water. This cuts off all essential oxygen to the roots. Do NOT put the unplanted tree in hot sun. This makes the roots dry out even faster.


Fruit trees require a location that is in full sun and well-drained. Fruit trees do not thrive in shade.


Dig a hole at least twice the diameter of the roots spread. The hole should be deep enough to accommodate the full length of the roots, without bending them. Look at the trunk of your tree to determine how deeply it was planted in the nursery. There will be a slight color change on the trunk where it transitions from the soil to the surface. Plant the tree no deeper than it was in the nursery.Screen shot 2011-02-17 at 12.23.02 PM_0

It is not necessary to add soil amendments. In fact, research shows that your tree will do just fine in our native soil, provided the soil clots are broken up with before backfilling the hole. If you choose to add a soil amendment, mix no more than 1/3 amendment to 2/3’s native soil.

Spread the roots out, slowly backfill the hole around the roots. Tamp down the soil around the roots to remove any oxygen pockets. Water the tree deeply. Do NOT add granular fertilizer to the hole or you will damage the new roots.

Mulch 2 to 4” deep. Spread the mulch out at least as far as the tree’s drip line. Do NOT prune the tree at planting. Generally bare root trees are small and will not need staking. If it does need staking to keep it from repositioning itself, stop by the Cooperative Extension Office for information on proper staking techniques.



Your fruit tree will not need any fertilizer the 1st year it is planted. In the absence of rain, water it deeply every 10 to 14 days. Continue watering threw the summer. Many potential problems can be avoided by proper planting and watering, but inspect the tree regularly, noting any pests (diseases and/or insects). Contact your Cooperative Extension office for help if pests are noted.

Planting a bare root tree

For more information call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.


  • Jule-Lynn Macie
  • Ellen Bauske

Center Publication Number: 257

Jule-Lynn Macie
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