Winter months are the best for planting trees and woody shrubs if you live where the ground doesn’t freeze hard. Bare root trees are just what their name says; trees that are not planted in soil when you buy them. Whether you purchase them in a retail store or have them shipped from a mail order catalog you are likely to find the roots kept moist with a medium like sawdust, peat or other light shipping material. Because in winter these trees are dormant they do not require the root protection they would need during the growth season. As a result, they are easily shipped and stored so garden centers can carry a greater selection of different varieties than you would find at any other time of the year. A wide selection, combined with lightweight packaging and ease of handling make bare root plants the best way to find and plant trees in the winter garden.
Since trees are dormant when they are planted, they suffer less shock than they would when in active growth. Bare root trees are light enough for anyone to carry to any location in the landscape, so there is less chance of damage to either tree or gardener.
As with potted, boxed or burlap-wrapped trees, always dig a hole so the roots can spread out comfortably, fill in all air pockets with soil and water the tree thoroughly after planting. Creating a surface moat in the soil around the outside of the root area under the newly planted tree will help trap water so irrigation will penetrate down to the base of the root system. Prune back branches for shape and stake for stability if your tree is in a location where winds can be a problem.
Along with all the other advantages of purchasing bare root trees, you can add a high rate of transplant success, and the fact that this is the least expensive way to buy trees. Bare root trees and shrubs sell for considerably less than their heavily potted counterparts. Most bare root trees are shipped and sold during the winter. Since a tree is a major investment in the design of your landscape, why not take advantage of this great way of buying one – or more bare root trees -- this winter?