How To Plant Bare Root Fruit Tree [ Full Guide ]

Planting a bare root fruit tree is a rewarding experience that can yield delicious fruits for years to come. It is an economical and efficient way to establish fruit trees in your garden. Proper planting and care are essential for the successful growth of bare root fruit trees. This article will guide you through the step-by-step process of planting a bare root fruit tree, from selecting the right tree for your landscape to preparing the planting site and ensuring the tree’s healthy growth.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Bare Root Fruit Tree

Before delving into the detailed steps, here’s a quick overview of how to plant a bare root fruit tree:

  1. Choosing the right tree: Select a variety of fruit tree that suits your climate and gardening space.
  2. Preparing the planting site: Ensure the chosen area has good drainage, adequate sunlight, and enough space for the tree to grow.
  3. Soaking the roots: Before planting, soak the bare roots in water for a few hours to rehydrate them.
  4. Digging the planting hole: Dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the tree’s roots without bending or crowding.
  5. Planting the tree: Place the bare root tree in the hole, spread the roots, and backfill with soil, ensuring the graft union is above the soil line.
  6. Caring for the tree: Water the tree thoroughly after planting and apply mulch to conserve moisture and control weed growth.

Following these steps carefully will help ensure the successful establishment and growth of your bare root fruit tree.

Choosing The Right Tree For Your Landscape

Selecting the right fruit tree for your landscape is the first crucial step in the process of planting a bare root fruit tree. When choosing a fruit tree, consider the climate in your area, the available space in your garden, and the type of fruits you wish to harvest. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a fruit tree:

Climate And Hardiness Zone

Before choosing a fruit tree, it’s important to understand the climate and hardiness zone of your location. Different fruit tree varieties thrive in specific climate conditions and hardiness zones. Consult local gardening experts or use the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to determine which fruit tree varieties are best suited for your area.

Fruit Varieties

Consider the types of fruits you want to grow. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries are popular options for home gardens. Consider the taste, size, and texture of the fruits, as well as the tree’s pollination needs, as some fruit trees require cross-pollination for fruit production.

Size Of The Tree

Consider the mature size of the fruit tree and ensure that it fits within the available space in your garden. Dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties are suitable for small gardens, while standard-sized trees need more space to grow and spread.


Many fruit trees are grafted onto rootstocks that influence the tree’s size, disease resistance, and adaptability to different soil types. Be sure to select a rootstock that suits your gardening conditions and space limitations.

Researching and selecting the right fruit tree that aligns with your climate, space, and fruit preferences is essential for a successful and bountiful harvest in the future.

Preparing The Planting Site

Once you have chosen the right fruit tree for your landscape, it’s time to prepare the planting site. Proper site preparation sets the stage for the healthy growth and development of the bare root fruit tree.

Soil Conditions

Before planting, assess the soil conditions in the chosen area. The soil should have good drainage to prevent waterlogging, as fruit trees do not thrive in waterlogged or compacted soil. If the soil is heavy clay or poorly drained, consider amending it with organic matter to improve its structure and drainage.


Ensure that the planting site receives an adequate amount of sunlight. Most fruit trees require full sun, typically defined as at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, to thrive and produce quality fruits.


Consider the spacing requirements for the chosen fruit tree variety. Different fruit trees have specific spacing recommendations based on their mature size. Providing adequate space for the tree to grow will prevent overcrowding and competition for resources as the tree matures.

Clearing The Area

Clear the planting area of any weeds, debris, or competing vegetation. Weeds can negatively impact the growth of the young fruit tree, so it’s essential to remove them before planting.

By ensuring proper soil conditions, adequate sunlight, and appropriate spacing, you can create an optimal environment for the bare root fruit tree to establish itself and thrive in the years to come.

Soaking The Roots Prior To Planting

Before planting the bare root fruit tree, it’s important to prepare the roots by soaking them in water. Soaking the roots rehydrates them and helps prepare the tree for the planting process.

Soaking Method

Pour water into a container large enough to accommodate the roots of the bare root tree. Submerge the roots in the water and allow them to soak for 6 to 12 hours or as recommended by the tree supplier. This rehydration process is particularly important if the roots appear dry or have been in storage for an extended period.

Rehydration And Vigor

Soaking the roots prior to planting helps rehydrate the tree and restore its vigor. Rehydrated roots are more likely to establish quickly and effectively after planting, reducing the stress on the tree and promoting healthy growth.

By thoroughly rehydrating the roots before planting, you can set the stage for the bare root fruit tree to adapt to its new environment and maximize its chances of successful establishment.

Digging The Planting Hole

Properly digging the planting hole is critical to the successful establishment of a bare root fruit tree. The hole should be wide and deep enough to accommodate the tree’s roots and provide sufficient space for them to spread out without being cramped or bent.

Hole Dimensions

The dimensions of the planting hole are crucial for the tree’s root development. A wide planting hole encourages the roots to spread out, promoting stability and efficient nutrient absorption. The depth of the hole should be such that the graft union, if present, is positioned a few inches above the soil line when the hole is backfilled.

Hole Preparation

Dig the planting hole to a depth that allows the roots to be spread out and not cramped at the bottom of the hole. The width of the hole should be at least two to three times wider than the spread of the roots. This wide hole provides the roots with loose soil for easier penetration and expansion.

Soil Amendment

Although it is important to use the existing soil to backfill the planting hole, you can incorporate some organic matter or compost into the soil to promote root development and provide necessary nutrients for the tree.

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Properly digging the planting hole sets the stage for the successful establishment of the bare root fruit tree and promotes healthy root growth in the new environment.

Planting The Tree

Now that you have prepared the planting site, soaked the roots, and dug the planting hole, it’s time to plant the bare root fruit tree.

Placing The Tree

Gently place the bare root fruit tree in the center of the planting hole, ensuring that the roots are spread out evenly in all directions. Avoid bending or folding the roots, as this can hinder the tree’s ability to establish itself in the ground.

Adjusting The Position

Position the tree to ensure that the graft union, if visible, is a few inches above the soil line. The graft union is the point where the fruit tree variety is grafted onto the rootstock. Keeping this union above the soil line prevents the scion (upper part of the graft) from rooting and promotes the growth of the desired fruit variety.

Backfilling The Hole

Gradually backfill the hole with the soil that was removed during the digging process. Gently tamp the soil down to remove any air pockets and ensure good soil-to-root contact. As you backfill, periodically water the soil to promote settling and eliminate air gaps around the roots.


Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the tree, leaving a small gap near the trunk to prevent moisture buildup against the bark. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth, all of which contribute to the tree’s overall health and vigor.

By carefully planting the bare root fruit tree and taking steps to ensure proper positioning, backfilling, and mulching, you can promote the tree’s successful establishment and healthy growth in its new environment.

Caring For The Tree

After planting the bare root fruit tree, it’s important to provide the necessary care to support its growth and establishment. Here are some essential care practices for newly planted bare root fruit trees:


Water the newly planted fruit tree thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots and provide essential moisture. Provide regular watering during the tree’s first growing season, especially during dry periods, to promote root establishment and growth.


Avoid fertilizing the newly planted bare root fruit tree immediately after planting. Allow the tree to acclimate to its new environment before introducing fertilizer. Once the tree has started to grow and establish, consider applying a balanced fertilizer according to the specific needs of the fruit tree variety.


Prune the fruit tree to remove any damaged or crossing branches, as well as any competing shoots that may hinder the tree’s growth. Proper pruning promotes a strong and balanced framework for the tree and encourages healthy fruit production.

Pest And Disease Control

Monitor the tree for any signs of pests or diseases and take appropriate action to control any issues that may arise. Applying dormant oil spray in early spring can help control overwintering pests and their eggs.

Support And Protection

If the tree is in an area prone to strong winds or potential damage, consider installing a tree support system to provide stability and protection. Protect young trees from grazing animals and rodent damage by using tree guards or fencing.

By providing proper care and attention, you can support the healthy growth and development of the newly planted bare root fruit tree, setting the stage for bountiful harvests in the future.

Planting a bare root fruit tree is a gratifying experience that can yield a bounty of delicious fruits for years to come. By selecting the right tree for your landscape, preparing the planting site, soaking the roots, digging the planting hole, and providing proper care, you can establish a healthy and productive fruit tree in your garden. Following the steps outlined in this guide will set you on the path to successful fruit tree establishment and a thriving garden filled with delectable fruits.

Proper Tree Orientation And Positioning

Planting bare root fruit trees is an excellent way to establish a healthy and thriving orchard. Bare root trees are more affordable and easier to handle than potted or container-grown tree varieties. However, it is crucial to follow the proper techniques to ensure the success of your fruit tree planting project.

Before you start planting your bare root fruit tree, it is essential to determine the correct orientation and position for optimal growth. Take into consideration the natural shape of the tree and its root system.

  1. Evaluate the root system: Inspect the roots, making sure they are in good condition. Check for any damaged or broken roots and remove them. Trim any excessively long or tangled roots to encourage healthy growth.

  2. Prepare the planting site: Choose a suitable location in your garden or orchard for planting the fruit tree. Ensure that the tree will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily and is away from structures or other trees that might shade it. Also, consider the soil type and drainage requirements of the specific fruit tree variety you intend to plant.

  3. Dig the planting hole: Dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the spread of the roots comfortably. The hole should be slightly larger than the root system of the bare root tree. If the roots are dry, soak them in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting.

  4. Check the bud union: For grafted fruit trees, identify the bud union, which is the swollen area where the rootstock and scion were joined. Ensure that the bud union is above the soil line when planted, as burying it can result in rootstock growth overtaking the scion.

  5. Positioning in the hole: Place the bare root fruit tree into the planting hole, spreading out the roots carefully. Position the tree so that it is straight and upright. Have someone hold the tree in position while you continue with the next steps.

Backfilling The Hole And Soil Amendment

Once you have the tree properly positioned in the planting hole, it’s time to backfill the hole and amend the soil to provide a healthy growing environment for the fruit tree.

  1. Backfill the hole: Begin filling the hole with the soil you removed while digging. Gently pack the soil around the roots, using your hands to eliminate any air pockets. Take care not to over-pack the soil, as it can lead to poor drainage and hinder root growth.

  2. Soil amendment: If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, it is beneficial to amend it with organic matter to improve the soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability. Incorporate well-rotted compost or aged manure into the backfill soil in a ratio of 3 parts soil to 1 part organic matter. Mix the soil amendment thoroughly before backfilling the hole.

  3. Tamping the soil: As you backfill the hole, lightly tamp down the soil using your hands or a garden tool to ensure that the tree is firmly supported. However, avoid compacting the soil too tightly, as it can restrict root growth.

  4. Create a water basin: After backfilling the hole, shape the soil around the base of the tree to form a slight ridge or rim. This will facilitate water retention during irrigation, allowing the water to penetrate deeply into the root zone.

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Watering And Mulching Techniques

Proper watering is essential after planting a bare root fruit tree to ensure its survival and encourage root establishment. Mulching helps conserve moisture, suppresses weed growth, and insulates the soil against extreme temperature fluctuations. Follow these steps for effective watering and mulching:

  1. Initial watering: Immediately after planting, give the bare root fruit tree a deep watering to settle the soil around the roots. Use a slow drip or a gentle stream of water, allowing it to absorb into the root zone. This initial watering helps eliminate air pockets around the roots and promote root-to-soil contact.

  2. Subsequent watering: After the initial watering, continue to water the fruit tree regularly, especially during the first growing season. Aim to provide around 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Deep watering encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the tree more resilient in drought conditions.

  3. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree, extending it to the drip line. Use materials such as wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves. The mulch should be 2-4 inches deep, but keep it a few inches away from the trunk to avoid creating a moist environment that could promote rot.

  4. Mulch maintenance: Regularly check the mulch layer, ensuring that it is not too compacted. If the mulch begins to break down and becomes compacted, remove the old mulch and replace it with a fresh layer. This will maintain optimal moisture retention and weed suppression.

Staking And Support Methods

Staking the newly planted bare root fruit tree provides essential support until it establishes a strong root system and can withstand wind or other environmental stressors. Here’s how to stake and support your fruit tree correctly:

  1. Choose the right staking method: Depending on the size and condition of your bare root tree, there are several staking options to consider. For smaller trees with weak or delicate trunks, a single wooden stake placed firmly into the ground next to the tree may be sufficient. For larger trees, or if you are in a windy area, consider using two or three stakes arranged in a triangle formation.

  2. Proper staking technique: Drive the stakes into the ground on the outer edges of the planting hole, about 1-2 feet deep. Make sure the stakes are firmly anchored and do not wobble. Use soft, wide tree ties or a flexible material to attach the tree to the stakes. Avoid tightly tying the tree to the stakes, as this can restrict trunk movement, impede root development, and potentially damage the tree.

  3. Regular monitoring: As the tree grows, periodically check the ties and stakes to ensure they are not constricting the tree or causing any damage. Loosen or adjust the ties if necessary to accommodate the tree’s growth. Once the tree has established a robust root system and can stand on its own, you can remove the stakes and ties.

Planting bare root fruit trees requires attention to detail and adherence to proper techniques to ensure their successful establishment and long-term growth. By correctly orienting and positioning the tree, backfilling the hole with amended soil, providing adequate water and mulch, and using appropriate staking and support methods, you can give your fruit trees the best start possible. Remember to choose the right fruit tree varieties for your climate and soil conditions, and follow the recommended care and maintenance practices to enjoy a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Pruning And Shaping The Young Tree

Planting bare root fruit trees offers several advantages over planting potted or container-grown trees. Bare root trees are typically less expensive, easier to handle, and have a higher chance of establishing healthy root systems when planted correctly. However, proper planting techniques are crucial to ensure the success and long-term health of these fruit trees.

Pruning plays a vital role in shaping the young tree and promoting its overall health and productivity. Before planting your bare root fruit tree, it’s important to prune away any damaged, broken, or crossing branches. Follow these steps for proper pruning and shaping:

  1. Prepare your pruning tools: Ensure that you have clean and sharp pruning shears, loppers, and a pruning saw if necessary. Cleaning your tools with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol helps prevent the spread of diseases.

  2. Identify damaged branches: Inspect the bare root tree and remove any damaged or broken branches. These branches can hinder healthy growth and potentially introduce diseases or pests into the tree.

  3. Remove crossing branches: Crossing branches can rub against each other, causing damage and creating entry points for pests and diseases. Carefully remove any crossing branches, choosing the one that has better growth potential and a more appropriate angle.

  4. Select the central leader: Many fruit trees benefit from having a central leader, which is the main upright trunk. Choose a strong, vertical branch to serve as the central leader and remove any competing branches that are growing close by.

  5. Prune to shape: Depending on the type of fruit tree, you may need to prune to a specific shape, such as an open center or a central leader. Consult a pruning guide for your specific fruit tree variety to determine the best shape and pruning technique.

Pest And Disease Prevention Strategies

Preventing pests and diseases is essential for the long-term health and productivity of your bare root fruit tree. Here are some effective strategies to implement:

  1. Site selection: Choose a planting location that provides adequate sunlight, good air circulation, and well-drained soil. Avoid planting near areas with known pest or disease issues, such as fungal-infected trees or insect-prone areas.

  2. Clean planting site: Before planting your bare root tree, remove any weeds, debris, or previous plant material from the planting site. This helps eliminate potential sources of pests and diseases.

  3. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Mulch also acts as a barrier against certain pests and diseases. However, avoid piling mulch against the trunk as it can lead to moisture retention and bark decay.

  4. Regular inspection: Regularly inspect your fruit tree for signs of pests or diseases. Look for insect activity, unusual leaf discoloration, wilting, or any abnormal growth. Early detection allows for prompt treatment and minimizes the risk of long-term damage.

  5. Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Implement an integrated approach to pest management by combining cultural, biological, and chemical control methods. This includes practices such as promoting beneficial insects, using pheromone traps, and only resorting to chemical treatments when necessary.

  6. Pruning for airflow: Prune your fruit tree to improve airflow and reduce moisture levels, which can help prevent the onset of fungal diseases. Thinning the canopy and removing crowded branches allows sunlight to reach all parts of the tree and helps to maintain a dry environment.

  7. Regular sanitation: Prune and remove any dead or diseased branches promptly. Dispose of infected plant material away from your tree, either by burning or placing in sealed plastic bags for disposal.

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Fertilization And Care For Healthy Growth

Proper fertilization and care are vital for stimulating healthy growth and maximizing fruit production. Here are important steps to consider:

  1. Soil testing: Before applying any fertilizers, perform a soil test to determine nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Testing kits are often available at garden centers or through local agricultural extension offices. The results will guide you in selecting the appropriate fertilizer and amendments.

  2. Organic matter: Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the planting hole. Organic matter improves soil structure, adds nutrients, and enhances moisture retention.

  3. Slow-release fertilizer: Apply a slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for fruit trees according to the package instructions. Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of nutrients over an extended period and reduce the risk of nutrient burn.

  4. Watering: Adequate watering is essential for the establishment and growth of bare root fruit trees. Water the tree thoroughly immediately after planting and continue to provide regular deep watering throughout the first growing season. Consider using drip irrigation or a soaker hose to ensure efficient water delivery.

  5. Mulch maintenance: Maintain a consistent layer of mulch around the base of the tree, replenishing it as needed. Mulch helps conserve moisture, suppresses weeds, and moderates soil temperature. However, be mindful not to create a mulch "volcano" around the trunk, as this can lead to rot or pest infestation.

  6. Monitoring and adjustment: Regularly monitor your fruit tree for signs of nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Symptoms such as yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or wilting may indicate a need for adjustments in fertilization or pH levels.

  7. Pruning for growth control: As your fruit tree grows, it may require pruning to maintain an appropriate size and shape. Pruning can also help redirect energy to fruit production and remove dead or diseased wood.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees

Avoiding these common mistakes will help ensure the successful establishment and long-term health of your bare root fruit trees:

  1. Planting too deep: Avoid planting the tree too deep, as it can suffocate the roots and lead to poor growth. Plant the tree at the same depth as it was previously grown, indicated by the soil line on the trunk or the graft union.

  2. Neglecting root soaking: Before planting the bare root tree, soak its roots in a bucket of water or a water-dampened burlap sack for several hours. This rehydrates the roots and ensures they are ready to absorb water and nutrients once planted.

  3. Allowing roots to dry out: Do not let the tree’s roots dry out during the planting process. Keep them covered with a damp cloth or burlap sack when transporting or temporarily storing the tree.

  4. Not properly backfilling the hole: When backfilling the planting hole, ensure that the soil is firmly packed around the roots, eliminating any air pockets. Adequate soil contact is crucial for the roots to establish and absorb water and nutrients effectively.

  5. Over-fertilizing: Applying excessive amounts of fertilizer can burn the roots and cause damage to the tree. Follow the recommended dosage provided by the fertilizer manufacturer and consider performing a soil test to assess nutrient needs.

  6. Neglecting regular watering: Proper watering is essential, especially during the first growing season. Avoid underwatering or overwatering the tree, as these conditions may lead to stress, disease, or root rot. Maintain consistent soil moisture, particularly during hot and dry periods.

  7. Pruning too heavily: While pruning is important for shaping the tree and removing damaged branches, avoid excessive pruning that can weaken the tree and delay fruit production. Follow established pruning guidelines for your specific fruit tree variety.


Planting bare root fruit trees can be a rewarding experience, providing you follow the proper techniques and care for your trees. Remember to prune and shape the young tree, implement pest and disease prevention strategies, fertilize appropriately, and avoid common mistakes. By following these guidelines, you will give your fruit trees the best chance to flourish and bear abundant, healthy fruit for years to come.


What Is A Bare Root Fruit Tree?

A bare root fruit tree is a tree that is sold without soil around its roots. This allows for easier transportation and planting, as well as the ability to inspect the roots for any damage or disease.

When Is The Best Time To Plant A Bare Root Fruit Tree?

The best time to plant a bare root fruit tree is during the dormant season, which is typically between late fall and early spring, depending on your climate. This allows the tree to establish its roots before the growing season begins.

How Do I Prepare The Planting Spot For A Bare Root Fruit Tree?

Before planting, make sure the area is free of weeds and grass. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches and mix in some compost or organic matter to provide the tree with rich, well-draining soil.

How Deep Should I Plant A Bare Root Fruit Tree?

The depth of planting depends on the size of the tree’s roots. The graft or crown of the tree should be right above the soil line, with the roots spread out evenly in the hole. The top of the roots should be just below the soil surface.

How Often Should I Water A Newly Planted Bare Root Fruit Tree?

It is important to water a newly planted bare root fruit tree at least once a week, providing enough water to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. During hot and dry weather, you may need to water more frequently. As the tree establishes, you can gradually reduce the frequency of watering.