Bare root trees are one- to three-year-old seedlings that are shipped without soil or potting mix covering their roots. This keeps the price low for those who need to plant many conservation seedlings for erosion control, windbreaks, wildlife or to replace dead or invasive plants. They do however, require special care to assure survival. We dip tree roots in a synthetic, non-toxic hydrogel/water mix. Hydrogels are polymers that look like table sugar when dry, and absorb several times their weight in water. It’s critical that the roots be kept moist and protected from sun and air, and this thick gravy-like gel clings to the roots and root hairs to protect them from desiccation until they’re transplanted. Hydrogel is biodegradable, and should be left on when planting.

Proper planting guidelines:

  1. Call the Ohio Utilities Protection Service, OUPS, at 8-1-1 before digging!
  2. Plant the “right tree in the right place.” If your tree requires shade it will not live planted in the middle of your lawn, and if a tree needs sun, it will grow very slowly and not thrive planted under strong shade.
  3. Plant as soon as possible.
  4. Do not leave trees inside your car or trunk. Even on a moderately warm day you can overheat your trees.
  5. Do not expose roots to the air before planting. A spring wind can quickly dry out the roots.
  6. Make a hole large enough so that the tree roots can be placed in the soil as they have already grown. It is very important that you do not “j-root” the seedlings–plant them in too shallow a hole so the roots cannot hang straight. If you have one overly long root, cut it with a pair of sharp scissors. Tearing it will strip root hairs off the remaining root.
  7. Gently compress soil to remove large air pockets and water thoroughly.
  8. Seedlings will need supplemental watering their first year in your yard, especially in the hot and dry late summer.
  9. Make a party of it! Give clear planting instructions to your friends, have plenty to eat and drink and send photos to us to post on our Facebook page!

Bare root tree planting instructions from NRCS.