Bare root tree season is an exciting time of year. For many gardeners, months of planning and preparation come to a climax as long anticipated specimens of deciduous trees and shrubs arrive.
To give your new acquisition the best chance of success, here are some useful tips and guidelines.
Note: this guide is for planting out bare-root trees. In case you need it, we have a separate Bagged Tree Planting Guide.
Our trees have quality assurance
Bare root trees are grown specifically to be transported and sold to the public throughout Australia. Our reputable suppliers ensure all trees are top quality specimens before being harvested from their growing soil. Roots are trimmed then the trees are washed and dipped to prevent the transportation of diseases or pests. Transport is quick and efficient, with the trees maintained in cool conditions with damp roots. Once at the nursery, trees are ‘heeled-in’ to loose soil to maintain root moisture and temperature. Here they are sorted and tagged, then customers are contacted to collect orders and check out the range.
Collecting and transporting your bare root plants
Remember that although dormant, once removed from soil, bare root trees are susceptible to drying out. If it is only a short trip home, we will just put a bag around the roots to prevent loose soil making your car dirty. For longer trips, we will wrap the roots gently in damp newspaper and place the root ball in a plastic bag. Always avoid transporting the trees uncovered in the tray of a ute or trailer. Even dormant, bare root plants can dry out in high winds experienced when driving.
Pruning your bare root tree is essential to ensure quick establishment and healthy growth. The roots have been pruned during harvesting. This dramatically affects the trees’ ability to absorb moisture and nutrients, as well as support and anchor itself. The roots and canopy are no longer in proportion and the canopy must be pruned. Pruning back by two-thirds will reduce the number of buds requiring energy and allow the limited root network to supply the remaining buds effectively. Pruning also encourages new, compact growth which can be trained if you want to shape your new tree.
We will prune all bare root trees before they leave the nursery. If you refuse this free service all guarantees will be void. For more information, please see our Tree Guarantee and Replacement Policy.
Bare root trees should be planted as soon as possible to prevent their roots drying out. If the tree is going to be out of the soil for a short time, make sure the roots remain moist (not wet) by covering with damp soil (potting mix is fine as a temporary means) or even moist, shredded newspaper. If there is going to be a substantial delay in planting, enquire about our bagging services to ensure your tree remains healthy.
Perth has very nutrient deficient soils with little to no organic matter. It is essential to improve the soil prior to planting with soil improvers, composts, manures and mulches.
As a general rule for sandy soils, plant into equal parts of existing soil and a good quality compost, such as The Green Life Soil Co General Concentrate. This ratio can be reduced for heavier clay soils or soils, which have been recently improved. We also recommend that Soil Solver is added to sandy soils. This clay based product assists greatly with water and nutrient retention as well as reducing soil water repellence.
For heavier gravely soils in the Perth hills, a mixture of 1/3 compost and 2/3 existing soil is usually adequate. Build the improved soil up into a mound to increase drainage.
Step 1: Prepare the hole
Dig a hole approx. twice the depth and width of the root ball. Use the soil that you dug out to mix in with your soil improver, cow manure etc.This is most easily done in a wheelbarrow.
Step 2: Place your tree
Place some of this mixture back in your planting hole in a small mound.Then rest the roots of the tree so that the trunk sits at the correct level. There should be a difference in colour between when the trunk ends and roots begin which indicates the final soil level.Ensure you do not plant the tree any higher or any lower than this.
Step 3: Place roots over mound and backfill
Once your tree is at the correct height, use the rest of your soil mixture to back fill. If fragile new roots have begun to form, you will need to be particularly careful. Have a hose trickling into the hole while you back fill. This will give the tree a really good deep watering to start with and get rid of any air pockets in the soil.
Create a shallow basin in the soil around your tree to hold water – this is particularly important in heavier soils (such as the hills) where water may take more time to penetrate into the soil.
Step 4: Stake your tree
If in an exposed position (or there are dogs, children or other factors likely to topple your tree) staking may be necessary. Trees with heavily pruned roots may need some extra support until established. Rather than using a single stake, train your tree to grow stronger more quickly by using supportive staking techniques, such as the figure eight. To do this, use two or three stakes evenly spaced around the tree, about 30cm from the trunk. From each stake, use suitably flexible fabric to make a figure eight around the trunk. The trunk should be stable but not rigid.
Step 5: Mulch well
Apply a layer of mulch to smother weeds, aid water retention and give nutrients. We recommend a premium mulch such as Lupin Mulch. Remember to leave a gap around the base of the tree trunk to prevent collar rot.
Remove the tag and store for reference. If you leave the tag on you run the risk of strangling your tree as it grows and potentially forgetting the tree type as the print deteriorates.
Planting in winter during bare root season definitely has the benefit of reduced manual watering. Heavy rains keep soil moist and cool which is perfect for plants undergoing the stressful event of transplanting.
Monitor soil moisture levels and water as needed to keep soil moist, but not wet. Push your fingers into the soil around the tree. If your fingertips touch moist soil, the tree doesn’t need watering.
As the dry spells increase, you will need to introduce a watering plan. Bare root trees need extra care to make up for a smaller root system, but remember that overwatering can also cause problems.
If planted correctly in improved soil, bare root trees will not need to be fertilised until they begin to grow and leaves start to develop. At this time, apply a good quality slow release fertiliser such as Troforte to provide nutrients. Add a diluted Seasol solution fortnightly to stimulate healthy root growth.
If something’s not quite right
We appreciate your custom and want your garden to be beautiful. If you have trouble with your plants, please contact us immediately so that we can help to identify problems and stop them getting any worse. See our guarantee for more information.
Please note that this is intended as general information only. Please ask one of our qualified horticulturists for more specific advice for your situation.
Why not plant out some bare-rooted trees yourself?