The Perfect Bare Root Trees For Your Garden

Oak TreeBare root trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter. Because of this dormancy, growers are able to dig up and transport these trees without containers, saving time and money, especially on the gardener’s end. Bare root trees come in a variety of species, from trees that bear fruit to flowering, to give shade and nut trees.

bare root treeThere are over 350 species of bare root trees available, and the optimal time to plant them is in the spring, while they are still dormant. March is the very end of the prime time for getting started with bare root fruit trees.

Bare root fruit trees are about as basic as you can get. They may look like sticks with roots, but don’t be fooled. These less-than-lively looking trees have a lot going for them. They readily adapt to their new homes and take off quickly once warm weather arrives. Once planted, their roots will grow, and the extra few months of root growth gives bare root trees a leg-up on container trees planted in spring.

They are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to plant trees in your yard. If you have ever admired the beautiful, fragrant flowering trees in other people’s yards and wanted one or two for yourself, early spring is the time to begin planting.

Here are some trees to consider if you are thinking about planting a bare root tree.

Bare root fruit trees

Apple Trees

One of the easiest fruit trees to grow is the apple tree. There are several varieties of this tree, with fruit ranging in flavor from the very sweet to the very sour. Some of the most common apple trees include the Granny Smith, Macintosh and the Fuji. It is important to note that some apple trees are self-pollinating, which means they need no outside help for pollination, but some varieties need neighboring apple trees to complete the task.

apple treePlum Trees

A good choice for beginning fruit tree growers, the plum tree is widely adaptable, smaller and requires less care than most fruit trees. The fruit produced from these trees are delicious, and the trees themselves are beautiful in any garden. There are three types of plum trees: the European, the Japanese, and the Damson. The European variety is the hardiest and grows well in most areas of the United States. The plum tree requires neighboring trees for pollination to produce fruit.

Peach Trees

Another easy to care for a tree for beginning tree enthusiasts is the peach tree. This tree requires little care as long as it has plenty of hours each day to soak up the sun. There are almost as many varieties of peach trees as there are apple trees, so make sure to do your research to get one you prefer. Peach trees are self-pollinating, with the exception of the J.H. Hale variety.

Pear Trees

Another sun-loving fruit tree, the pear tree needs all day sunshine to be happy. Pear trees are one of the most common fruit trees found in the United States and one of the hardiest, too. They can withstand temperatures of up to 20 degrees below zero! Pear trees need a different variety of pear tree in order to pollinate, but some varieties will not pollinate with certain kinds.

Nectarine Trees

Nectarines are actually peaches without the fuzzy skin. They carry a recessive gene that makes them grow without the fuzz and are not really a different fruit. The nectarine tree needs lots of sunshine during the day and well-draining soil. Nectarines are a good source of vitamin A and C, fiber and potassium. These trees are self-pollinating, as well.

Ornamental bare root trees

Crabapple Trees

Crabapple trees, closely related to apple trees, are popular ornamental trees in many gardens. Their fruit is small and edible, and they are fairly drought tolerant with more than one season of interest. Crabapple trees bloom from April to May with single flowers (5 petals), semi-double (6-10 petals) or double (more than 10 petals) depending on the variety of the tree. Actual dates of bloom can vary from year to year depending on weather conditions.

Dogwood Trees

Dogwood trees are by far one of the most popular ornamental trees. Native to the eastern United States, they are best known for their unique branch structure and exotic spring blooms. Dogwood trees can grow in height of 33 feet or more with leaves oval in shape. Spring blossoms are usually white or yellow, but trees that produce pink or red blossoms are also readily available.

dogwood treeHorse Chestnut Trees

The horse chestnut tree is unique in appearance with a compound leaf that contains seven leaflets up to 10 inches long radiating from a large stem. This tree produces a nut-like fruit that is beautiful, but inedible. The horse chestnut tree grows well in most any soil but prefers a sandier soil with good drainage. In the spring, it blossoms with large cone-shaped white flowers. Reaching heights of 25 to 75 feet, the horse chestnut tree is versatile in any landscape and adds a unique touch.

Lilac Trees

Native to Japan, the lilac tree is an attractive tree with ornamental bark and showy white flowers that appear in late spring. This tree is tolerant of almost any soil condition and can withstand a wide variety of pests and diseases. At maturity, the lilac tree becomes a large shrub or small tree with a singular trunk and a rounded canopy. This tree can reach heights of up to 30 feet and be as much as 25 feet wide.

lilac tree
Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer

Magnolia Trees

The magnolia tree is highly prized as an ornamental tree, especially in the deep South. Native to the eastern half of the nation, it produces large, beautiful, fragrant flowers. Magnolia trees vary in height, with some reaching up to 90 feet. There are many varieties of the magnolia tree: cucumbertree, sweetbay, umbrella magnolia, Fraser magnolia and bigleaf magnolia.

magnolia tree
Photo by Aaron Burden

Bare root shade trees

With over 350 varieties of bare root trees, it is easy to find something that suits your purpose. Whether you desire fruit trees or flowering trees or shade trees, bare root planting in January is the way to go. Shade trees provide beauty and energy efficiency in any garden. With large canopies, they keep the sun out and provide a nice cool cover underneath. Shade trees planted in just the right place can keep your house nice and cool in the summer, lessening the need for air conditioning.

There are many different kinds of bare root shade trees available in nurseries and gardening centers during the winter, and the following list includes several of the most popular.

Maple Trees

There are over 200 species of tree in the maple family. Best known for their sap used to make maple syrup and their thick, widespread foliage, maple trees are a good choice for shade coverage in large areas. In autumn, the maple tree leaves transform from their typical summer green into rich, striking yellow, orange, and red colors. This tree grows well throughout the United States.

Oak Trees

Oak trees are native to the northern hemisphere and include both deciduous and evergreen varieties. In spring, they produce flowers called catskins and bear an edible fruit called acorns later in the season. Oak trees are large, making them perfect trees for providing shade in large areas. The most common species are the pin oak and the red oak.

Willow Trees

The willow tree is a beautiful addition to any yard. Growing to heights of 50 feet or more and just as wide, it provides a good source of shade in large areas. With lance-like leaves that grow up to six inches long and a half-inch wide, the willow tree boasts small yellow flowers from late winter to late spring, with small light-brown fruit appearing after that. Willow trees grow well all over the United States as long as there is plenty water to keep them moist.

willow treeBirch Trees

Birch trees are found all over the United States, but more so in regions that have temperate climates. They are most notable for their bark, which has horizontal and long lenticels on the surface and comes in black, white, red, yellow and silver. These trees are small to medium in size with simple, pointed leaves that are alternate with feather veins. As a shade tree, the birch tree is suitable for smaller areas.

birch treesAspen Trees

Aspen trees are part of the willow family with the quaking aspen being the most widely distributed in North America. They make interesting additions to any landscape because of their visual and audio effects. They are attractive with three-inch long leaves that flutter in the wind, creating a peaceful, rustling sound. The Aspen tree can grow to heights of 40 to 50 feet and as much as 30 feet wide, making them excellent shade trees.

Bare root nut trees

The colder months are the perfect time to plant bare root nut trees. These trees need a certain amount of cold weather for proper growing, planting them early in the year gives them a head start in getting established before warmer weather hits. If you have ever considered planting a nut tree, but thought it to be too difficult, think again. Nut trees are relatively care-free once planted and produce their edible nuts rather quickly when planted bare root.

Walnut Trees

The English walnut tree, native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe, is a majestic beauty with a broad crown. Often planted as a shade tree, this tree yields nutrient-rich walnuts used in all types of recipes or just eaten raw. The walnut tree can live up to 150 years and grow to heights of more than 50 feet tall. The trunk is a smooth silver-gray, and its green leaves turn a brilliant bronze in fall. Walnut trees grow fast if planted in full sun or partial shade, in well-draining soil. You can expect to see about 36 inches of growth per season in young trees.

black walnut treeChestnut Trees

While sometimes confused with the horse chestnut tree or water chestnut tree, the chestnut tree is in a class all its own. Massive in size, these trees may not be suitable for the average to small backyard, but the tree’s fruit is extremely popular with nut lovers all over the world. Often planted as a shade tree in parks, the chestnut tree’s leaves are ovate with sharp, spear-like points. This tree flowers in late spring, producing its chestnuts after that. The bark of the chestnut tree is distinct: when young, the bark is smooth and red-brown to gray in color, and as it matures, the bark gets thick and deeply furrowed. The chestnut tree can be found throughout the world, but the United States has the largest number of burgeoning trees.

Hazelnut Trees

If attracting wildlife to your garden is your game, planting a hazelnut tree will certainly help because the animals love the nuts just as much as we do. Hazelnut trees are found throughout North America and produce delicious nuts called hazelnuts, filberts or cobnuts. Hazelnuts can be eaten right out of the shell or used in many recipes from desserts to main dishes.

The hazelnut tree is a small tree, reaching heights of up to 6 feet. While not very well suited as a shade tree, the hazelnut tree makes up by producing sought-after delicious nuts. The compact size is almost bush-like, and in the fall, it produces attractive orange-red foliage.

Tips for planting and growing bare root trees

  1. Although easy to plant, fruit trees take work, so if you are new to the game, ease into it with just one or two trees to start. Peaches, plums, and apples are the easiest fruits to grow. Research the different varieties and find out if the trees you want to plant need a companion tree for pollination. Some bare root fruit trees are self-pollinators. Check cold chill requirements, too. Bare root trees need a certain amount of the natural cold period to do well.
  2. Make sure the roots are evenly distributed and that there are not a lot of the main roots broken. Prune the top of the tree to match the root base. Good form is key to a strong tree.
  3. Plant your bare root trees quickly. Gardening professionals suggest digging the holes before purchasing the trees to get them in the ground as quickly as possible. The hole should be no deeper than the root system, but at least twice as wide. Do not add enhancements to the soil.
  4. Snip off any broken roots and plant the tree at ground level or slightly higher. Mound the dirt up around the trunk. After filling the hole, tap the surface with the back of a shovel, but do not compact the soil around the roots.
  5. Dig a basin around the tree to fill with water. Soak the tree once a week. The water should sink in slowly, reaching the depth of the roots. Cover the basin with mulch to control weeds and help keep it moist.
  6. Once you begin to see fruit on your young tree, remove it as soon as possible. Heavy fruit can permanently bend or break young, thin branches for the first few years. The goal at first is to grow a strong tree, not fruit.

To help you with planting the bare root trees, watch the explanatory video of the Utah State University Extension: