BARE ROOT TREES: Lose the pot, and save a bundle.

  • Written by Molbak’s

If you don’t mind throwing on the fleece and spending an exhilarating afternoon in your winter garden, a great bargain awaits you: Bare root planting.

The selection of bare root offerings is at its peak right now in Northwest nurseries, making it a perfect and affordable time to get your garden off to a wonderfully healthy start.

The Pros & Cons

Let’s start with the cons. Bare root trees and shrubs are only available for a limited time and need to be planted before they break dormancy—which means planting in chilly January or February. Also, bare root trees aren’t much to look at when you plant them (think hairless cat). Just remember, it’s what’s on the inside that counts – and they’ll be beautiful soon.

And that leads us to the pros:

Quicker to adapt: Because there is no soil around the root ball, bare root trees and shrubs have no trouble adjusting to the soil in your garden.

Faster to establish: Often, bare root offerings are larger and more mature than the potted options available later in the season. And since they’re planted well before spring-planted container trees, bare root plants benefit from several extra weeks of root growth.

More cost-efficient: Bare root trees typically cost 30-50 percent less than their containerized counterparts. Without the container and soil they cost less to ship and transport.

Easier to handle: Bare root trees are lighter and less cumbersome, so they’re easier to load into your car and maneuver into place in your garden.

Environmentally friendly: Without a plastic pot or soil, bare root plants don’t create waste.

Tips for bare root planting

If temperatures are above freezing, January and February are ideal times for planting bare root trees and shrubs, and local nurseries typically carry a good selection. Matt Porter, Molbak’s manager, explains. “Right now, Molbak’s bare root offerings include some great additions to your edible garden: a wide selection of fruit trees, plus raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb and asparagus, just to name a few. We also have flowering cherry trees, crabapple trees, lilacs, hydrangeas, and red twig dogwoods that will soon be spectacular.”

In terms of planting, the most important thing to remember is to keep the roots damp and plant before the tree or shrub breaks dormancy. “If you’re not ready to plant immediately, just make sure the roots are well protected,” Porter advises. “You can temporarily cover the roots with bark, soil or sawdust to keep them fresh. That’s what we do here at the nursery.”

Then when you’re ready to plant, just dig a hole, add compost, surround the roots with soil, and stake the tree so that it’s supported but is still allowed some movement.

Once your bare root tree or shrub is safely in the ground, warm up with a cup of cocoa and savor the fact that you just incorporated a wonderfully healthy plant into your landscape, and saved a bundle in the process.

February 1-28
25% off bare root trees & shrubs at Molbak’s (includes balled and burlapped)*
* Early bird roses are excluded. See store for details.

Fruit Trees
February 2, 12pm-1pm
Featuring Larry Davis, Seattle Tree Fruit Society
Want to ensure a bountiful harvest? Join us and Larry and gather expert tips for selecting, planting, pruning and staking fruit trees.  Details at

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