Bare-root or container-grown?

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Autumn is the traditional time of year to plant fruit trees. Apples are always a popular choice.  With more than 2000 cultivars to choose from in the UK, there is a tree to suit every garden and every palate. Once established, a tree will produce fruit year after year and provide an important source of food and shelter for birds and insects.

Buying a fruit tree is a long term investment, so it is important to purchase them from a reputable tree nursery that can advise on the right tree for your orchard or garden.  Trees are sold as bare-root or container-grown.  Most experts would advise buying trees bare-root, but what is the difference?

Bare Root 

  • Bare-root trees are more economical.  They can be 30% – 50% cheaper than container grown trees.
  • They have a limited season. Bare-root trees are only available between November and March when the tree is dormant.
  • They must be planted as soon as possible after purchase.
  •  If it is not possible to plant the tree straight away, it should be heeled in [planted temporarily in a shallow trench] to prevent the roots drying out.
  • Tree nurseries tend to stock a larger selection of bare-root fruit trees.  If your heart is set on a specific cultivar, bare-root may be the only option.
  • They are usually sold as one year old trees, referred to as maidens. They will have had very little pruning, if any. If you are planning to grow a specialised form, such as an espalier or fan, bare-root is the best option.
  • Bare-rooted trees have had unrestricted growth and often establish better than those grown in containers.

Container Grown Trees

  • Pot grown trees are propagated in the container in which they are sold.
  • They can be purchased all year round.
  • Container grown trees have a longer planting season between September and May.
  • With correct care, the trees can be kept in the container until they are ready to be planted.
  • Pot-grown trees can be 2 or 3 years old and will have received some initial formative pruning.
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