Bare Root & Potted Trees: Terms & Information

Planting & Care Instructions

Can't plant your tree right away? "Heel in" your tree until you can!

When your Bare Root stock arrives, open the plastic bags immediately. It is best to plant right away, within a week of delivery. If you cannot plant right away, you may “heel in” the plants to protect them and keep them alive (but still dormant) until planting in the permanent spot. To heel in Bare Root plants outside, pick a location that is shielded from wind. Dig a trench about twice as deep as the roots are long, with one side of the trench sloping at a 45 degree angle. Place the plants, roots side down, so that the trunks/stems are supported by the sloping side. Cover the roots with soil or sand and gently tamp down to avoid air pockets. Periodically check the root area, keeping the soil moist.

To heel in Bare Root plants inside due to snow or frozen ground outside, you can store them in a cool place like a root cellar, basement, or garage. It’s important to choose a place where the temperature stays between 38 and 45 degrees F. This ensures that the tree roots neither freeze, nor the tree break dormancy. Place the roots in a container with soil or sand and be sure to keep the root area moist.

If you don't have a permanent location for your tree or are just not ready to plant it in the ground, you can plant it in a pot as a short-term solution. We recommend using at least a 10 gallon pot. Nut trees have very large root systems and should only be planted in the ground. We do not recommend planting nut trees in pots.

How to Plant Bare Root Trees

When you receive your trees, they will be boxed securely with their roots wrapped in plastic and their limbs and roots trimmed back (not fully pruned) to fit inside the box. First, inspect the bag and make sure that the media around the roots is still moist. In the event that the media requires additional moisture, use a clean spray bottle to moisten it evenly.

The day before you plant, inspect the roots. Any roots that are not firm and plump should be trimmed back to healthy tissue, above any damage or withering. We also recommend soaking the roots overnight in a bucket of water.

It is not recommended that you fertilize your bare root tree with high levels of major nutrients at the time of planting, especially not Nitrogen. This is why we specifically formulated our PrimeStart Bare Root Booster Blend, which is intended to be mixed with your soil while planting your tree. It includes small amounts of many slow release minerals and nutrients that your tree will benefit from while establishing itself, in combination with humates and mycorrhizae.

Dig a hole the same depth as the root system and two to three times as wide as the root system. Current research indicates that a saucer shaped hole with sides that slope gently upward, the same depth and three times the width of the root system stimulates the most root growth. Do not plant your trees too deeply. It is usually best to plant the tree to the same level it was planted in the nursery. The large perennial roots should be between one and three inches below the surface of the soil. In the case of a single grafted tree, the graft union is normally between two and five inches above the soil line.

Provide a solid, compressed “soil cone” at the bottom of the hole that will support the root system and prevent it from being crushed and broken while backfilling the soil. Make sure that the sides of the hole have not been “glazed” while digging. If this has occurred, break through the “glaze,” roughing up the soil with a trowel or hand-held cultivating fork. If gophers are a problem in your area, a wire gopher basket should be placed in the hole with its bottom modified to accommodate the soil cone you have provided to support the root system. Gophers are less of a threat to mature trees, but this protection could mean the difference between life and death for a young bare-root specimen.

Two more factors must be considered before planting: wind and sun. If high winds will be a factor in your planting location, then the tree should be tilted slightly towards the wind’s prevailing direction. Do not overdo it, a slight tilt will suffice. To prevent sun damage to your new tree, orient the outward curve of the graft union toward the direction of the afternoon sun. The graft union’s inner surface is highly susceptible to sunburn. A trunk wrap or painting the trunk with white latex paint is recommended. Place your tree on the soil cone at the bottom of the hole, orienting it towards the direction of the wind and sun. Backfill with the same soil.

Lightly compact the backfill with your hand, adjusting the tree gently so that the backfill covers the dark trunk color line that represents the bare root tree's original planting depth. Water the tree thoroughly and watch for settling. If undue settling occurs, elevate the tree very slightly to raise its height and release any subsoil air pockets.

Tips for Planting Finicky Trees

Almonds are subject to desiccation, especially the buds, and should be protected from the wind and from drying out. Use diluted, white, water-based, latex paint and paint the tree to protect it from heat and sun damage.

Persimmons - When planting Persimmons, it is important to remember that persimmons are not water loving plants. After the tree is planted, it should be watered with a good soaking to remove air pockets in the soil, and then it should be left alone. The plant shouldn’t be watered again until the buds start to break. Excessive watering is the primary cause of failure in bare root Persimmons.

Mulberries are prone to desiccation and frost damage when planted from bare root. To reduce the risk of plant loss, it is a good idea to thoroughly hydrate the plant and prune back its lateral growth to reduce the amount of surface area exposure.

Multi-Grafts: To increase survival rate of grafts, it is important not to let one graft overtake the tree. If the different fruit varieties (the limbs) are not well-spread on your trees, use a spreader to separate them. Always plant the smallest limb (the “weakest” bud) to the south/southwest to ensure that it gets plenty of sun. Prune back the strongest growing varieties by 2/3. Prune back the weakest variety by 1/2 — or not at all. During the summer, watch the growth-rate of the smaller limbs to determine if pruning is necessary at that time. If the weakest variety is 1/2 the size of the others, it’s best not to cut it back. In that case, only prune back the more aggressive limbs. Summer-prune when necessary in order to let sunlight get to all of the developing varieties. Keep even sunlight available to all of the developing selections. After the third season, maintain the multi-budded tree so that each fruit-type grows in balance with the others.

Tree Fertility

Nitrogen fertilizers should be applied only after the first year. It should be applied in early spring, mixed into the the top 6” of the soil in a broad ring that is approximately the diameter of the trees' canopy (the “drip line” of the tree). In the long-term, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, along with sufficient nitrogen, will significantly enhance tree health and fruit quality. High quality composts are also recommended as they contain a naturally balanced blend of nutrients, minerals, and probiotics. Natural kelp compounds are a great addition to fertilization regimes, whether added to irrigation water or used as a foliar spray between bud coloration and 1” fruit size. Avoid synthetic fertilizers as these can destroy many of the naturally occurring beneficial soil organisms that nurture healthy root systems. Synthetic fertilizers also tend to produce overly lush and unnatural top growth that attracts common insect pests and micro-pathogens. We recommend planting with our PrimeStart Bare Root Booster Blend (Item #F2000). This all organic blend provides just what your plants need. It has small amounts of all the major nutrients and many micronutrients, made more available by the humates in the mix. In combination with the diverse species of Endo and Ecto-mycorrhizal inoculant that are in PrimeStart, your plant's roots will have the ideal environment in which to grow and multiply.

Ongoing Tree Care

Staking may be necessary but should be done carefully. A young tree that struggles a little against the wind, without being blown over, develops tissue in its trunk that will strengthen the tree as it matures. Tightly staked trees that do not develop this tissue are at greater risk of wind damage as they grow older. Staking should provide emergency assistance to a young tree, but should not interfere with its natural capacity to resist wind. To properly stake your tree, drive two sturdy poles deeply into the ground on opposite sides of the tree from each other. The two poles and the tree should demarcate a straight line directly into the prevailing wind. Using a plastic tie or cord attached securely to each pole, create a loose harness that will allow the tree sufficient movement in the wind at least a few inches in all directions. If rain is not timely, then occasional watering will be necessary.

Over-watering can kill young trees. Moist, workable soil is sufficient; soggy soil is dangerous and often fatal. As the tree matures, you will want to water deeply but infrequently; commercial orchardists water for more than 12 hours at a time, but sometimes only two or three times during a season. As your tree matures, pruning will become the most critical factor for proper growth and development.

Spraying fruit trees during the dormant season is an important preventative to many diseases and pest problems. Traditionally, fruit trees are sprayed three times a year: at leaf drop (Thanksgiving), during full dormancy (New Year’s) and at bud swell (Valentine’s Day).

Disease Prevention

For Disease Prevention –There are many organic fungicides, insecticides and miticides available to control pests on fruit trees, nut crops, citrus, vegetables, and ornamentals. Download our Solution Chart for Pest Control to find helpful information on specific disease and pests.

Shipping Information

Cannot ship to the following states: HI, AK, PR, GU, VI

Bare Root Trees

We ship our bare root trees on a first-come, first-served basis beginning in mid-December. We are unable to delay shipping of dormant trees or plants.  Due to limited storage and our warm, California weather, bare root trees/plants will often break dormancy much sooner than in colder areas.  If you are unable to plant your tree(s) right away, read our instructions on heeling in trees.

All of our bare root trees come with free, professional pruning, which will put the tree's stored energy into root growth rather than leaf production. Our bare root trees ship in special boxes with their roots bagged in moist sawdust to help ensure their survival during transit. Up to 8 trees can fit in a box (due to their size, nut and multi-graft trees count as 2 trees). 

The average cost to ship a single tree is $35, excluding pruning, handling and packaging materials.  Help us reduce our carbon footprint while you save money on shipping charges by adding more trees to the box. 

  • 1 Tree - $34.99 via FedEx Home Delivery
  • 2 or 3 Trees - $24.99 via FedEx Home Delivery
  • 4 or More Trees – FREE via FedEx Home Delivery, Ground or Freight

Bare root trees cannot ship via USPS and cannot be shipped to P.O. boxes. We are unable to ship our bare root trees to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Bare root tree shipments cannot be combined with potted trees or with most other products.

Potted Trees & Vines - Ship 4 Trees/Vines for FREE!

Our potted tree/vine varieties include almonds, figs, pomegranates, olives, kiwis, goji berries and other potted fruit trees shipped from GrowOrganic. 4 potted trees/vines will ship together in one master box for FREE. If you are ordering less than 4 potted trees/vines, boxes ship for $14.99 to the lower 48 states via FedEx Ground (or FedEx Home Delivery). Potted trees/vines cannot ship via USPS and cannot be shipped to P.O. boxes. We are unable to ship our potted trees/vines to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Potted trees/vines cannot be combined with bare root trees or with most other products.

Some potted fruit trees (including citrus and avocado varieties) are drop-shipped directly from the grower and are excluded from the offer.

Limited Dormant Tree & Plant Guarantee

* Claim deadline is June 15th.

We guarantee that your dormant tree or plant will arrive in good, viable condition. If your tree arrives in substandard condition, notify us within 3 days of delivery. Please email pictures of the box, inside packaging, the tree and its roots to  We will investigate your claim and process a request to refund the damaged product.

If your dormant tree or plant has not grown new leaves by June 15th, you may be eligible for our Limited Dormant Tree & Plant Guarantee. This guarantee provides for a store credit for the purchase price of the tree, excluding shipping. Please see the instructions below.

Important Dates:

  • April 1st Dormant trees/plants must be planted in the ground
  • May 15th Perform scratch test, if no new leaves have grown
  • June 15th Deadline to apply for a dormant tree/plant credit

All required documentation must be received by June 15th for your claim to be considered. Claims or documentation received after June 15th will be denied, without exception. Instructions listed below.

Terms and Conditions

We cannot guarantee that your tree or plant will remain alive and healthy after it is received, or bear fruit as there are too many variables in your environment that are beyond our control (i.e. soil preparation, weed and pest control, proper irrigation, chill hours, compatible hardiness for your growing zone, proper choice of pollinator, extreme weather, rodent damage, disease, etc.). 

If we determine that the tree you purchased directly from us is not viable, we will issue you a store credit (not a refund) for the purchase price of the affected dormant tree or plant. Shipping is not included in the dormant tree/plant guarantee. Store credits can be used to purchase any product we sell and are valid for use only until July 1st of the following year.

Historically, 98-99% of our dormant trees and plants grow and thrive when they have been cared for and planted using our growing guides. Dormant trees and plants must be planted in the ground by April 1st in order to be eligible for credit. If the ground in your area is still frozen solid, you may temporarily plant your tree or plant in a pot. 

Potted, non-dormant trees or plants are excluded from this guarantee as they are not dormant at the time of shipment. Evergreen trees such as citrus, avocado and olive trees are not available for credit under the Dormant Tree and Plant Guarantee. 


We guarantee that your dormant fruit tree or plant will leaf out, if you care for it according to our growing guides. In the unlikely event that your dormant tree or plant does not have leaves by May 15th, follow these simple steps to apply for a store credit:

Before you call or email, please perform a “scratch test” to determine if the tree or plant is still alive. This video shows how to check for live tissue under the bark. Scratch tests need to be done a few inches above and below the graft. 

Green Cambium Layer / Living Trees

If the cambium layer under the bark is green, give your tree a little more time. It is still alive, but hasn’t come out of dormancy yet. Check to make sure that it is getting the right amount of deep root water, enough sunlight and that the weather is warm enough for that type of tree/plant to come out of dormancy. Every tree has its own personality and will come out of dormancy at different times. Be sure to submit the required documentation listed below by June 15th, if it doesn’t grow leaves. Claims made after this date will be denied. 

Brown Cambium Layer / Dead Trees

If the scratch test shows a brown cambium layer or if your dormant tree/plant doesn’t have leaves by June 1st, please email us at All required documentation listed below must be received by June 15th for your claim to be considered. To be considered for the guarantee claim, all required documentation must be received by June 15th.  Incomplete submissions will be denied.

Required Documentation

  1. Order number
  2. Name of dormant tree/plant and the quantity affected
  3. Photos of each tree or plant showing: 
  • The roots (tree or plant must be pulled out of the ground)
  • The scratch test areas
  • The entire tree/plant

    We reserve the right to not issue credit for items that have already been replaced. We also reserve the right to require photographic evidence that the tree/plant was not killed by root rot, rodent or mechanical damage.