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Bareroot, Balled and Burlapped and Container Grown Plants

posted Dec 24, 2010, 12:40 PM by Bob Whitney   [ updated Feb 21, 2011, 6:44 AM ]

Winter is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. It is highly recommended that you put any tree or shrub out well before hot weather to give plants a time to grow some roots before they have to face hot temperatures. Now this winter is a little different than most since we haven’t had rain so planting any plant
may take some pre-watering to even be able to dig a hole!

Container plants have the advantage of having all of their roots intact and ready to grow if the pot was properly cared for. Container grown plants are great but be careful! Nurseries grow plants in pots so that they can be sold easily but trees continue to grow even in a pot. This growing means that pots can become too small for the tree as it grows and so the plant becomes root-bound (stunted). To check and see if a plant is root-bound just hold the pot and lift the tree out of the pot. If the roots are just to the pot sides and no roots are circling then the tree should be okay. When planting a container grown plant dig a hole bigger than the plant by double the width but no deeper. Remove the container and plant into the hole as quickly as possible. Air kills the little white hair roots very fast if not put into the ground. Once the hole is back filled with soil water thoroughly to remove air spaces.

B&B or Balled and Burlapped plants are not container grown and you need to understand that before ordering them. These plants may have been grown in a nursery but they were dug out of the ground so that many of the roots have been cut off but the soil ball is still intact and very heavy. In fact there should be about 10-12 inches of ball for every inch of tree trunk diameter. When you get a B&B plant remove all plastic including any string or twine. You can leave the burlap only if it is not plastic. If there is a wire basket you can leave it as the roots will grow right through. The biggest problem with B&B trees is that the hole is usually dug with the same tree spade that dug the tree. Tree spades leave the hole sides very slick and hard for roots to penetrate. The best hole is wider but not deeper than the ball.

Bareroot trees are just trees that have been dug very carefully in the nursery so that the roots are pretty much intact but there is no soil. As you can imagine these trees are much more fragile but without the soil they are easier to handle both for the nurseryman and you. Most bareroot trees are dug and then “healed in” at the nursery till you purchase them. To plant them be very sure you keep the roots moist at all times while you’re planting. Dig the hole as deep as the roots go and just as wide. Put the tree in the hole and back fill slowly adding dirt while you pack it. Once the hole is full you need to water well to take out air pockets. Bareroot trees need to be planted now and most fruit and nut trees are sold this way.