When is a bare root tree not a bare root tree?

When is a bare root tree not a bare root?

When it has no root of course. I ordered two 5 foot redbud trees from NatureHills.com for $39 each.

Pick up the box from the porch and we’re off to the races. It was the longest box I’ve gotten from a nursery by far. I only ordered two 5 foot whips (basically) The box was crushed on one end. Not their fault. I have already opened it here

Second clue, no packaging to speak of, and a TINY amount of newspaper that was damp. That’s all for two trees Sorry crummy picture taken into the house. Hand for comparison.

As I looked at the baggie and started to open it I couldn’t find a root.

Check out the one on the right compared to it’s root (not plural)

I’m sorry but this really makes me mad. I would never send either of those to a customer. I would be embarrassed to send the one on the right under my company’s name They should have respectfully cancelled my order if that’s the best they’ve got.

I’ll let you know their response to my email with pics attached.


I thought redbud trees were not able to tolerate heavy root pruning. Maybe they have experience that says they can?


The reviews of the garden watchdog on NatureHill is more negatives than positives.


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When I want to order from a nursery, I google “ the scoop on + the nursery name”. Most will show up on Dave’s Garden, a nursery watchdog site.

Clearly I didn’t do my homework.

I got a bare root regent serviceberry, warren that was supposed to be on standard size rootstock and Comice that was on standard size rootstock from them. My bare root regent serviceberry did not ever come out of dormancy so they clearly sent me a dead plant, I bought a warren from them because they claimed it was on standard rootstock but they sent it on OHXF 333 which is a tree I could have gotten for 30 something dollars. We will see how the Comice on standard rootstock is as this will be my first spring with it. I can say my other pears are already coming out and it already looks very behind the other trees.

I had an apple tree come in looking like that. It’s growing as well as the ones with more roots. And just as much as I’d expect or hope for.

The only proof will be how well they grow, or don’t.


Sorry that happened, those trees look so sad. I would be flabbergasted if those trees were sent to me.

I once was sent a pear tree with root that had most of its living root tissue scrapped off. I complained to ACN, and they were willing to replace it. The original tree with hack job root system that I complained about did survive but is severely stunted. It’s basically the same size after one season in ground.

I only planted two redbuds and both died. One even never leafed out! They seem very finicky so I’m inclined to agree with @JohannsGarden

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Thanks for the encouragement. I soaked it and got it in the ground. Well see what happens. :thinking:

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Earlier this week, I was this close to order Rising Sun redbud from Nature Hills. Then I saw Dave’s garden reviews. I ended up ordering Flame Thrower redbuds from Jung Seed. They still have eastern redbud for $34 (2-4 ft whip).

JungSeed is good but small when ordering from them I expect quality but I expect it to be a few years for them to catch up to other nursery like a Raintree, Burnt Ridge or One Green World. If you don’t mind the size it is great though. I remember I got a few blueberry from them years ago and they looked really good.

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I got this apple tree from ACN this year, and like expected it isn’t leafing out. The tree is huge yet there are hardly any roots.

That was a trend I noticed this year with bare root plants. Many trees were very thick and looked wonderful on the top but had very few roots on the bottom. We will see how mine fair. Quite a few seem to be waking up despite the lack of roots. The euro pears, nuts and apricots seem to be the exception of what has not seemed to be somewhat awake so far.


Unfortunately another sad looking root system. Try emailing ACN.

Here is their response

As a kind reminder, bare root plants are shipped dormant, without soil on the roots. They are dug in the Fall after they have been exposed to frost and the plants have gone dormant. This is very normal and your plants are perfectly healthy no matter what stage of dormancy they are delivered in.

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Canned response that doesn’t address the issue.


I previously did and they told me to wait until July.

Thanks!!! I placed an order with them just now and got a discount on a climbing rose too!! I have zero faith in the nature hills trees. I basically threw $100 out the window.

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Does this sound right? Should they have been dug in the fall when they weren’t shipped until late April? Could this be part of the problem?

  • From my understanding, this is common practice. For efficiency, nurseries need to dig up everything they wish to sell that year, so they can grade, label and bundle all in bulk giving them a higher efficiency of scale. Some nurseries like Dave Wilson then sell these trees to other retailers. It would be extremely expensive if nurseries had to personally dig individual trees for each person’s order.

  • The bare root trees are kept in temperature controlled areas to enforce dormancy. Keeping trees dormant outside planted in the dirt for the whole shipping season is another challenge. It is not generally possible in most places.

  • Third reason why nurseries would dig up everything at once is so space for planting the proceeding year’s trees can be reclaimed.

What is abnormal is the quality of the root you and @Palmy_Oceans got. Those are very low grade trees that will stunt the first year in my limited experience.