Types of Nursery Stock

Updated February 21, 2017

When planning landscaping it helps to know not only the best type of trees and shrubs for your property but the best type of nursery stock to purchase. The size, health, planting season, cost and successful transplantion of your new trees and shrubs all depend on the type of stock you buy.

Bare-root Stock

Bare-root stock is shipped and sold without soil. The trees and shrubs are grown in the ground and dug up in late fall. They stay in cold storage over the winter and are shipped to nurseries and mail-order customers in early spring. Because there is no soil on the roots, it is cheaper to store, ship and purchase bare-root stock but it does have a smaller window for planting than other shrubs, trees and evergreens. It has to be in the ground before growing season starts or you risk losing the plant. Another limitation is size. Bare-root deciduous trees top out at about six to eight feet when shipped. Seedling evergreens are two feet tall or less. This is a drawback if your landscaping calls for mature planting. But, if you can wait for the trees and shrubs to grow, bare-root stock will save you money.

Container-grown Stock and Potted Plants

Container-grown stock and potted plants are two different types of nursery stock. Both come in containers but container-grown trees and shrubs have been seeded and nurtured in their containers for up to two seasons and have well-developed root systems. They can be replanted in the garden from early spring until early summer and from late summer into mid-fall. The roots are healthy enough to survive the transplant, and the containerised plant can just keep growing in its container until it can be planted. Container stock is a bit more expensive than bare-root stock but is small, like bare-root, because the container limits its growth.

Potted plants are bare-root stock that have been recently potted for sale. They do not have vigorous root systems and should be treated, and planted, like bare-root. This type of stock can fail more easily than container stock so check to see which one you are buying before you take it home.

Balled and Burlapped Stock

Balled and burlapped stock is the most expensive and the strongest and largest type of nursery stock. It is exactly what its name implies: the roots of the tree are wrapped in a ball of soil contained by a burlap sack which is fastened to the tree or shrub. Very large trees will also have a wire basket around the burlap sack to hold the soil, roots and material together. These full-grown trees and shrubs are ideal for mature plantings on your property. Balled and burlapped stock can be safely planted from early spring to early summer and from late summer to early fall. You can plant in midsummer but it is safer to let the roots develop in their new location before risking a summer drought.

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .