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Bare rooted fruit and nut trees

Red apple growing on tree

Traditionally, nearly all trees were sold bare-rooted. It’s only our relatively new desire to plant all year round that has led to the surge of container-grown varieties. Bare-rooted trees are grown in the ground and dug up whilst dormant. Delivered between November and March, they arrive in specially designed boxes with no soil around the roots and no plastic container. Often more cost-effective than pot-grown alternatives, bare roots should be planted as soon as possible. Here are some tips on buying bare root fruit and nut trees.

In the meantime, browse our full range of fruit trees for inspiration or try a nut tree for an ornamental edible that’s a bit different.

How to choose the best rootstock for fruit and nut trees

Most fruit and nut trees are grafted onto a “rootstock” chosen for its size, vigour and disease resistance. Suttons rootstocks are all certified virus-free and have been chosen for their ability to produce healthy crops on manageable sized trees. 

Most of our smaller nut trees like Almond ‘Ingrid’ are grafted onto St Julian ‘A’; a semi-vigorous rootstock that grows to a maximum height of 4.5-5m tall. This size can of course be further controlled through pruning. For bigger gardens, nut trees like Walnut Lara® are grafted onto Juglans regia rootstock and reach a mature height of about 12m. 

Our fruit trees are grafted onto several different rootstocks so it’s important to choose the right variety for your garden. The following table should help:

Fruit rootstockRootstock nameRootstock typeUltimate height
AppleM27 (Similar to: P9)Extreme dwarf1.2m
M9 (Similar to: Pajam2, Pajam 9, P2)Dwarfing1.8-2.4m
M6Semi Dwarfing3m
M106Semi Dwarfing3-4m
CherryGisella 5Semi Dwarfing2.4-3m
Gisella 6Semi Vigorous3-4m
ColtSemi Vigorous5m
Plum, Peach, Apricot and NectarineSt. JulianSemi Vigorous4.5m
VVA 1Semi Dwarfing2.5m
Torrinel 24Semi Dwarfing2.4-3m
MyrobalanSemi Vigorous5m
FerlenainSemi Dwarfing3m
Mont ClareSemi Dwarfing3m
PearQuince ASemi Vigorous3-4m
Quince CSemi Dwarfing2.4-3m
Quince AdamsSemi Dwarfing2.4-3m
WalnutJuglans regiaVigorousOver 6m

You’ll also need to consider pollination groups when choosing bare root trees. All fruit trees benefit from having another tree of the same pollination group close by, even those that are self-fertile. The pollination partners could be in a neighbour’s garden if you don’t have room for more than one. 

Pollination groups are based on how early or how late the tree flowers, with 1 being very early and 7 being the latest. When selecting your trees, look for varieties that are within one group of each other. So, a group 3 tree should be grown close to a group 2,3 or 4 partner.

Which fruit trees can you buy bare root?

Three plums on tree
Plum ‘Czar’ is a superb variety producing large, dark purple-black fruits
Image: Plum ‘Czar’ from Suttons

Bare root fruit trees are a great investment that give you many years of delicious crops. Here are some of the most popular bare root fruit tree options: 

Which nut trees can you buy bare root?

Walnut growing out of shell
Walnut ‘Europa’ is a naturally dwarf variety, ideal for smaller gardens
Image: Walnut ‘Europa’ from Suttons

Nut trees make an excellent addition to any garden, and you can choose beautiful dwarf varieties if you don’t have much space. These nut trees are all available as bare roots: 

Planting bare root fruit and nut trees: video guide

Bare root trees are not lifted from the ground until they become dormant. Milder weather means that, although we used to deliver trees in October, we now need to wait until November. 

Planting is best done as soon as possible after delivery but, if this isn’t possible, the trees will be fine in a cool but frost-free place for a few days. Perhaps an unheated shed or garage. If you need to wait longer, ‘heel’ your trees in somewhere convenient until you have time to plant them properly. When you do come to plant, soak the roots in a bucket of water for about 2 hours first.

The planting hole needs to be wide enough to allow the roots to spread out and deep enough for the old soil mark to be at ground level or just slightly below. Make sure that the union on grafted trees remains about 15cm (6″) above the ground. If you’re adding a stake, do it before you refill the hole to avoid damaging the roots. Then refill the hole and gently tread down the surface before watering well. 

Problems with fungal infections

If you’ve lost a fruit tree to a fungal infection in your garden, it’s not advisable to grow another in the same area soon after. Fungus lives in the soil and stretches for a long way. Although it usually affects older or sick wood, it would be a big risk to plant a young fruit tree like a plum or gage again straight away. Our horticultural team recommends waiting several years before planting another fruit tree in the same spot. 

We hope this has given you plenty of food for thought and you’ll give bare root fruit and nut trees a try. Visit our article on how to grow nut trees for more timely tips. And if you’re interested in how to grow fruit trees, our expert guide provides a wealth of helpful advice.

Lead image: Apple tree ‘Queen Cox’ from Suttons

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2 thoughts on “Bare rooted fruit and nut trees”

  1. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Helen, thank you for your comment. It is not advisable to plant new trees if the old trees have been killed off by a fungus. Fungus lives in the soil and stretches for a long way. Although usually the manifest on older or sick wood, it would be a big risk planting young plum or gage trees so soon. I would wait a number of years before planting again. We hope this is helpful to you.

  2. helen warnock says:

    We have had several plum and gage trees suffer from a cushion fungus – Phellinus pornaceus. We have felled the affected trees. The fungus appeared on old Cambridgeshire gages and crossed our 70 metre garden to infect much younger trees on the other side.
    Would it be alright to replant plum trees in our garden which is large – 70 metres wide and 200 metres long.

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