Bare Root Bonanza – Planting Techniques For Dormant Trees and Shrubs

From February through mid-March, nurseries offer many bare-root trees and shrubs for sale without soil binding their roots.

Gardeners appreciate bare root plants for their lower prices and greater variety. Their sturdy roots thrive quickly in the soil without experiencing transplant shock as they transition directly from potted nursery stock into native soil conditions.


From February through March, nurseries offer a vast array of ornamental trees and shrubs, fruit, roses, conifers and even bulbs at significantly reduced prices to clear out their stock for winter. It is a fantastic time to plant these plants!

Bare-root trees offer several distinct advantages when planted in the garden, most notably their faster start off the ground as their roots don’t feel constrained in a potted form. Furthermore, these trees are cheaper and take up far less space when shipping from nurseries.

Before planting bare-root plants, ensure the soil is moistened by thoroughly watering bare-root plants before setting out on your journey. After you plant, continue watering the planting site regularly – you need to keep the soil moist but not saturated: too much moisture could suffocate it by cutting off oxygen flow, leading to root rot and girdling. At the same time, too little may inhibit root development.

Watering should target the area surrounding the root zone and at least several feet in all directions. Use a screwdriver to test moisture levels in the soil; if pushing in is difficult, that means too little moisture exists and more needs to be added through irrigation.

After planting trees and shrubs, provide periodic irrigation throughout the growing season until their roots take entire root. However, do not water bare-root plants after they have taken hold.

An adequate water reservoir can be created by creating a three to four-inch high mound of earth around the edge of the planting hole at the base of the root ball, then slowly watering this mound with an intermittent trickle to allow soil from backfill to slowly penetrate and water the tree’s root system, helping conserve moisture levels.

At the bottom of each hole, it is wise to spread a thin layer of compost, worm castings or food scraps as a foundation layer to build the soil and provide nutrients as the tree develops. Shredded leaves or bark may be added for protection, drainage, and improvement.


Trees and shrubs add value and environmental benefits to any landscape and increase its sale value by 7-19% when properly maintained. To promote healthy growth and ensure continued beauty, it’s essential that pruning occurs during dormancy season and fertilization occurs regularly.

General recommendations suggest applying a granular fertilizer containing high percentages of slow-release nitrogen once every spring and fall to allow roots time to absorb its benefits over an extended period. Selecting non-water soluble fertilizers is also wise because dissolved nutrients could otherwise escape into the environment.

Fertilizers can be the most beneficial when applied to correct an identified deficiency in the soil. However, it can also help sustain older plant growth or promote flowering/fruiting among certain varieties such as blueberries/figs/pawpaws.

When applying fertilizer, follow the label directions carefully and do not use an excess amount that could harm plants and create an unhealthy environment for soil microbes and other organisms.

Bare-root plants typically only need a light coat of granular fertilizer applied regularly, with roots receiving coverage by spreading out granules across their area of origin. Woody species typically benefit from spreading fertilizer evenly over their root zone area – however, its amount will depend on how big your root zone is; to maintain optimal results, it is wise to limit fertilizing only to regions covered by branches’ drip lines (ends).

Before applying any granular fertilizer, compacted soil should be aerated first. Cluttered conditions lead to poor drainage; by aerating compacted areas, you improve their ability to absorb and hold moisture. If you need more clarification on your soil condition, conduct a soil test to ascertain acidity or nutrient levels.

Before planting, select an area with full sunlight and well-draining soil while avoiding areas prone to wind or flooding. Do not plant bare-root trees or shrubs in sandy or clay soil that won’t provide sufficient anchorage and support for their roots as the plants develop.


Pruning is essential in helping newly planted trees establish strong roots quickly. Pruning too early, though, will reduce its ability to flourish while draining vital energy from its leaves and stems – the latter effect can significantly reduce plant health and vitality. Pruning during winter, when plants are dormant, allows you to shape them without altering their health or vigour.

When purchasing a bare-root tree, its natural bare roots will be treated with hydrating gel before shipping, and they will be ready to absorb moisture upon planting. Because their roots haven’t had time to adapt to living in containers yet, bare-root plants tend to develop more robust and deeper roots more quickly compared to container-grown plants – giving your landscape something beautiful that’s sure to bring out its best side!

Pruning is integral to woody ornamental gardens and landscapes but must be carried out correctly for best results. Pruning helps a plant maintain its beauty, increase flower and fruit production, decrease risk during snow and ice storms and promote longevity.

Deciduous trees should be pruned during their dormant stage in fall or winter to allow any new growth time to harden before harsh summer temperatures set in, as this will enable plants to produce stronger roots and sprout new buds with ease come springtime. Pruning can also rejuvenate certain shrubs such as yew, arborvitae and privet.

When pruning, make cuts just below where each branch joins another. This will prevent crossing or rubbing branches that might later break off and cause harm to people, property, or structures. Pruning can also be an invaluable way of controlling tree or shrub sizes and creating hedges, espaliers, topiaries or other designs.


Planting bare-root trees and shrubs might seem easy as temperatures change, but adequately caring is critical for their successful establishment and flourishing in your garden. By following these tips, your bare-root plants will quickly establish themselves in their new environments – soon, your garden will bloom with delicious homegrown fruit!

Though dormancy may appear lifeless, it indicates that plants are preparing to store energy and nutrients for winter by withdrawing water and nutrients to their leaves, which then turn various colours before eventually shrinking and falling to the ground.

At this stage, a tree’s root system expands and gathers energy for use in springtime. Therefore, soil moisture levels must remain constant, and you water your bare-root plants deeply every few days or more often during hot and dry conditions until you start seeing new buds appear with spring’s arrival.

Step one of planting bare roots involves selecting an ideal location. Choose an open and sunny space when planting in sunny spots with well-drained soil. It is also essential that a hole be dug wide enough for roots yet deep enough for future expansion; remove grass or any plants from the planting area to prevent competition between the nutrients these roots take and those belonging to grasses or plants within it.

Some larger nurseries harvest bare-root plants using machine digging techniques using a tree spade equipped with hydraulic blades that extract a cone of soil and roots from the ground – similar to how balled and burlapped plants are harvested.

Store packaged bare roots in a cool place away from direct sunlight until they’re planted, such as covered by mulch, shredded newspaper or another organic material such as mulch. Transport them using a cooler so their temperature doesn’t become too warm during transit.

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