How to plant a fruit tree or bush

How to plant a fruit tree or bush

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

71 guides

There's nothing better than picking and eating fruit that you've grown yourself. Whether you purchase a bare root or potted tree or bush, you'll have to stick to a few rules to give it the best chance of healthy growth and a long life. Read on to find out how to plant a fruit tree or bush.

Important features

  • Preparing bare root trees
  • Root dip
  • Planting
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Preparing the soil to plant a fruit tree

  • First of all, choose the right spot for your tree bearing in mind that the tree is going to grow considerably.
  • One month before you plant, dig a much deeper hole than the volume that will be taken up by the roots of the young tree. This work should be carried out when the soil isn't too wet, usually around the start of autumn. The hole must measure at least 50 cm in length and depth. The most mature shrubs (those that are several years old) will need a hole of up to one metre by one metre and 70 cm in depth.
  • Separate the top soil from the sub soil (they are different colours) and make the most of this time to remove any stones.
  • Fill a wheelbarrow with mature or semi-mature compost and add this to the hole. Next, mix the compost up with the soil at the bottom of the hole and add one or two handfuls of hoof and horn fertiliser.

Planting a bare root tree


Bare root trees offer two major advantages over potted trees: they are easier to grow and they are less expensive.

These trees should be planted during the dormant period, meaning from the start of November to the end of February. However, the best time to plant is between mid-November to mid-December as the roots will have enough time to settle in before the frost hits.

Preparing your bare root tree or bush 

Bare root trees and bushes need to be prepared before they go in the ground. This involves removing any broken or damaged roots and cutting a few centimetres off the ends of the roots using secateurs.

This will help the roots to divide and form a healthy root system. That said, do not cut too much off the roots and never cut more than a third of their overall length. Usually, it's enough just to make the roots all equal in length after trimming any broken roots.

Homemade root dip 

Using a root dip helps to prevent your tree from drying out and encourages it to settle in its new spot. You can make your own mud-based root tip by mixing clay soil with water to form a sticky paste that is thick enough to stick to the roots. You can also add cow dung to the mixture (about a third of the mix) if you have any! It is also possible to purchase a root dip.

Leave the roots submerged in this mixture for at least half an hour.

How to put your fruit tree or bush in the ground

  • Spread the roots out in the hole following their natural position. They mustn't be flattened down at the bottom of the hole. Ideally, you should get someone to help you: one of you can hold the bush or tree straight while the other fills in the hole with soil.
  • You can also place the roots on a small mound of soil in the hole if this suits the shape of the roots. The graft union – the lumpy, raised scar where the scion and rootstock were united – must not be buried. It is essential that it sticks out of the soil by around 3 or 4 cm.
  • If your tree measures over 80 cm, you'll have to insert a stake into the hole before filling it with soil. The stake should be placed about 10 cm away from the tree; ideally it should be inserted on the dominant wind side.
  • Fill in the hole using fine top soil mixed with compost; the gaps between the roots must be filled in properly. Lightly tamp down the soil, making sure that the graft union is above the soil.
  • Use a fork hoe to cut a small depression of around 40 cm around the trunk to make watering more efficient.
  • You can then water copiously even if the soil is already moist or it is raining. The water will help the soil to surround the roots better.
  • Attach the top of the tree to the stake but make sure it is held loosely. To do so, you can tie a string in a horizontal figure-of-eight position. To prevent the trunk from rubbing against the stake, you can place a cloth, rubber or foam pad between the two.
  • Remember to mulch the soil around the tree using dry leaves, grass or cardboard.

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Plant stakes

How to plant a potted tree

How to plant a potted tree
  • Potted fruit trees or shrubs can be planted pretty much all year long. While the best time to do so is in the autumn, you can still put a tree in the ground in the spring! These trees must be well-watered on a regular basis in the first few months after planting.
  • Do not touch the roots of potted trees and do not ever break the root ball.
  • You should soak the root ball in water for 20 minutes before planting as dry roots will be difficult to hydrate once they are in the ground. It's important to ensure that the root ball does not come apart; if necessary, cut or break the pot if you have trouble removing the plant. At this point, you can follow the same instructions for planting a bare root tree.

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Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton, 71 guides

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical works. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about but are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!

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