Planting Bare Root Tree Seedlings

  • 01 of 03

    Choose the Right Time to Plant Your Bare Root Tree Seedling

    Walnut tree seedlings planted in the beginnings of a walnut orchard
    Walnut tree seedlings planted in the beginnings of a walnut orchard. Photo © Flickr user KidMoxie

    Whether you started the tree from seed yourself, picked one up at an event like Arbor Day, or ordered it from a catalog, it's important to make sure you give your bare root tree seedling the right start in life.

    If at all possible, plant the seedling as soon as you get it. Don't let the tree roots dry out.

    Timing

    One of the most critical steps in planting your bare root tree seedling is to make sure you are doing it at the right time of year. The best time to plant is while the seedling is dormant.

    • Warmer zones can plant almost all year except summer - heat will stress and dry out the seedlings.
    • In cooler zones, plant in late winter/early spring once the ground has thawed.

    The best day for planting is one that is cool and cloudy.

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Plant the Tree Seedling at the Correct Depth

    Make sure you are planting your tree seedlings at the correct depth to ensure a good start.
    Make sure you are planting your tree seedlings at the correct depth to ensure a good start. Photo : US Forest Service

    Make sure you plant your bare root tree seedling at the correct depth.

    If you plant it too deep, the roots may not get enough oxygen and the tree will be more exposed to potential diseases from the soil.

    If you plant it too shallow, the roots may dry out. It is also less stable and has a greater chance of falling over.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Plant Your Bare Root Tree Seedling and Care For It Wisely

    This illustration lists 6 steps you should take to plant your bare root tree seedlings correctly
    Follow these 6 steps to plant your bare root tree seedlings correctly. Photo : US Forest Service

    After you've used the steps from the illustration to correctly plant your bare root tree seedling, you want to make sure it will flourish.

    Watering

    You don't need to water as much as you may believe necessary. When you water too often, the roots grow shallowly and the tree won't do as well in times of drought. The tree will also not be as sturdy and able to resist strong winds.

    When you water deeply every 7-10 days and let the ground dry out before the next watering, the roots will grow farther down and will later have an easier time finding water if needed.

    Protection From Animals

    Animals such as deer and rabbits may think your new seedling is a tasty snack. You may want to put a mesh tube around the tree or use repellents.

    Watch For Signs of Disease, Pests or Poor Nutrition

    The first few years are especially critical for establishing a healthy tree. Watch for signs of poor health such as:

    • Yellow leaves
    • Wilting foliage
    • Holes in bark, branches, or leaves
    • Oozing sap

    If you see these or any other indications of poor health, take steps to remedy the problem (if possible) as soon as you can. You can contact your local extension office if you need help in diagnosing what is wrong.