Bare Root Planting Season is Here!

The following is a list of some of the benefits of planting bare root trees as opposed to container-grown or balled-and-burlapped stock.

  • The root system is visible and girdling roots (circling roots near the trunk) are not common (Figure 1).
    • Girdling roots, which are very common in containerized stock, can prevent adequate anchorage and lead to trunk breakage and/or low tree vigor (Figures 4-6).
  • The root system can be inspected and spread out during planting (Figure 2).
    • This can speed establishment and root anchorage.
  • There is no container medium, which simplifies irrigation management.
    • There is no need to consider the irrigation needs of container media (which dry out more quickly than native soils and therefore needs to be irrigated more frequently) separately from the native soil during establishment.
  • Bare root trees often have sturdier trunks and do not require staking for support (Figure 3).
    • However, they may require staking low on the trunk to anchor the roots until established.
  • You can generally buy larger trees for the money.
    • While bare root trees of up to 2 inches are commonly available, larger trees (up to 5” diameter) are being harvested and transplanted bare root using a new methods including 1) the Missouri Gravel Bed (MGB) method where trees are planted into a pea gravel and sand matrix, and 2) pneumatically excavated trees in which the roots are exposed and sprayed with a hydro gel (Urban, 2011).
  • Bare root trees are light and easier to transport.
  • Producing bare root trees uses less energy and costs less compared with containerized tree production.

There are some limitations associated with the use of bare root stock which include:

  • The number of species/varieties of trees available in nurseries is limited.
  • Typically, bare root trees are only available during the dormant season.
    • However, hydro gel dips have been used to slightly extend the planting season.
    • The MGB method described above allows trees to be moved in mid-summer.
  • Bare root trees need to planted right away or heeled in (roots covered with soil or other medium and kept moist).
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About John Lichter/Tree Associates

Owner, Tree Associates Professional Consulting Arborists ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist #375 ISA Board Certified Master Arborist #863B Call us if you need a tree expert!
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2 Responses to Bare Root Planting Season is Here!

  1. Thank you to Nina Bassuk, Professor from Cornell University who provided a link to their site on bare root planting: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/uhi/outreach/index.htm#transplant.

  2. walt fujii says:

    Hi John,
    I agree with the bare root approach. As you mentioned timing is a limiting factor. Containers have allowed us to plant in a rather undisciplined manner. Planting bare root requires more care but not that much more. The pay off is in the survival rate.

    I look forward to hearing more from advocates of bare root trees.

    Thanks for preparing these very informative newsletters.
    –walt fujii

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