Fruit Tree Planting Tips

Tim Hensley shares information on planting bare-root fruit trees, including differences between standard and semidwarf trees, site selection, how deep to plant the tree and air flow.

| October/November 1996

Fruit tree planting tips for types of trees, site selection, depth for planting and more. 

Fruit Tree Planting Tips

WHEN TO PLANT. Bare-root trees can be planted spring or fall. Many people prefer fall planting as it allows a tree to get its roots established before putting out top growth. Years ago, tree salesmen claimed you could gain half a year's growth on a fall-planted tree.

STANDARD VS. SEMIDWARF. Most southern varieties available today are propagated on standard or semidwarf rootstock. Standard trees are long-lived, 50 to 75 years, but harder to maintain. They should be spaced 30 to 40 feet apart. Semidwarf trees are easier to maintain but have a life span of only 25 or 30 years. Semidwarf trees should be spaced 15 to 25 feet apart.  

SITE SELECTION. Apple trees should be planted in full sun, where possible. Six hours of sunshine is the minimum. Full sun encourages vigorous growth and full-bodied fruit. It inhibits fungal diseases. At the same time, apples should not be planted on harsh western or southern exposures. In contrast to peaches and plums, apples prefer the cooler northern and eastern slopes.

AIR FLOW. Apples should be planted where there is good (but not excessive) air flow. Upland slopes running perpendicular to prevailing winds are the ideal. Valleys and ridge tops are the places to avoid. If you have no option but to plant in a valley, try a late-blooming variety like Bramley's Seedling, Court-Pendu Plat, Mother, Cox's Orange Pippin, Mollies Delicious, Ralls Janet, or Sweet Sixteen. If a peak is your only option, go with something tough like Smokehouse or Ben Davis.

BE CAREFUL. Protect bare-root trees from exposure to sun and wind prior to planting. If unable to plant quickly, heel the trees in. A good way to transport trees just prior to planting is to set the roots in a five-gallon bucket of water.

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