Here's Why Healthy Fruit Trees Shouldn't Start Life in a Pot


Transplanting potted fruit trees from their pots to your backyard can be a delicate affair. Sure, some hardy, drought-tolerant trees will make the transition quite smoothly. Others can struggle to thrive in their new surroundings, and may not survive without attention—or at least will be sickly for some time, and the growth of any fruit will be delayed. How can you ensure that fruit trees purchased from a garden centre have the highest possible chance of survival? 

Potted Trees

What's the best way to avoid spending money on potted fruit trees that may not survive? Don't buy potted fruit trees. It's really that simple. It might seem counterintuitive, but un-potted trees have a head start. These are known as bare root fruit trees. 

Bare Root Trees

Instead of actively growing in soil, bare root fruit trees are sold with their root system wrapped in plastic. The tree has grown in a nursery (often for a number of years, allowing the plant to mature). During the winter, or when the fruit tree is dormant (producing neither blossoms nor fruit), it's dug up. The dirt is shaken off its root system, which may be lightly trimmed for ease of transport. The roots are then packed in damp sawdust to prevent them from drying out. Protective plastic is then wrapped around the root system and its sawdust hydration system, and the tree is ready for sale. A bare root fruit tree can be less expensive than a potted tree (as you're not paying for the pot itself or the labour required to pot the tree). 

Likelihood of Success

Although planting a bare root fruit tree is simple enough, you must have realistic expectations about the results. There are a wide variety of exotic fruit trees available in bare root form, but their likelihood of success depends on the conditions in your garden, so choose a variety that suits the local environment. Remember that some fruit trees need a second tree to act as co-pollinator if you want to actually grow fruit, so be sure to enquire. It's also important to get the timing right.

Preparing for Planting

For the best chance of success, you should have the tree's new location already determined (and even excavated as needed) before purchasing the tree. The tree should immediately be planted. It will also need hydration, but this may not be so urgent—when planting the tree, check how much moisture the sawdust is still holding. As it was harvested during a dormant period, the tree needs less assistance to survive. Its roots don't need to transition from potted soil to ground soil, and so the root system will immediately begin to establish itself. 

It's not as though all potted fruit trees will struggle when transplanted to your backyard, but selecting bare root fruit trees can result in a far less stressful transition period for the tree, which involves less effort for you.


10 June 2022

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