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Planting Bare-Root Trees and Shrubs

Martha Stewart Living, September 1995

Shrubs, roses, and young trees are often sold bare root, especially by mail order. (Sometimes, mail-order perennials arrive bare root, and these can usually be planted like bare-root shrubs and trees.) Shipped when dormant, these plants arrive without any soil around their roots and should be planted soon after they arrive in late winter to early spring. If you cannot plant right away, remove the plant from the shipping carton, and move it to a cool, dark place, making sure the roots are protected and kept moist.

1. Before preparing the planting hole, gently remove packing material and prune away dead or damaged roots. Soak the roots in a bucket of cool water for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.

2. To plant, dig a hole about twice as wide as the root system and deep enough to accommodate the roots.

3. Mound some soil in the center of the planting hole, forming a cone almost to the top of the hole. Set the plant on the cone so the crown is just below the soil line. Spread the roots around the cone, and refill the hole with the soil, gently pressing out any air pockets.

4. Mound more soil around the planting hole to form a 2-inch-high ridge around the perimeter of the hole to act as a catchbasin. Water thoroughly, filling the basin and allowing the water to settle several times. Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant.

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