How to Plant Bareroot Trees & Shrubs in the Fall (Yes, there’s still time!)

*This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As always, all opinions are my own.*

Fall is a great time to plant trees & shrubs. The cool weather puts less stress on the plants & it allows for their roots to get a head start on winter. Plus, the best plant clearance sales are in autumn. You can get trees & shrubs at more than 50% off this time of year. You know how much I love a good plant sale! Don’t want to head out to a garden center? Amazon has you covered. Here’s a link to all of their bareroot trees, there’s some great deals here! & hello beautiful, here’s a link to their bareroot shrubs. As a general rule, as long as you can dig a hole, you can plant trees & shrubs. Basically, you’re in the clear as long as the ground isn’t frozen. All you need is to know how to plant in the fall & I’ve got you covered with this tutorial.

But first, I just want to mention a fantastic organization, the Arbor Day Foundation. They are the largest nonprofit that is dedicated to planting trees. I became a member of the Arbor Day Foundation a few months ago & in turn, they sent me 10 Norway Spruce Trees & 2 Lilacs. How great is that? I just received them a few days ago which is what spurred me to write this article. I also wanted to mention the Arbor Day Foundation because they are running a phenomenal campaign right now called #teamtrees. They have the goal of planting 20 million trees worldwide by 2020. Please get involved if you are able to. Ok, now here’s your planting trees & shrubs in the fall tutorial:

norway spruce tree in the fall
You know you want this tree adorableness in your yard too.

Materials (Trees)

  • Trees (I have Norway Spruce trees)
  • Bucket
  • Shovel
  • Water

Method (Trees)

  1. Soak the tree’s roots in a bucket for 3 – 6 hours.
  2. Dig a hole two feet wide & deep enough to accommodate the roots of the tree.
  3. Till the soil around the hole to give the roots room to grow.
  4. Plant the tree until the top layer of roots are completely covered. Pat the soil down firmly.
  5. Water thoroughly.
  6. Mulch around the tree while making sure the mulch does not touch the tree trunk.
how to plant trees and shrubs in the fall infographic
Infographic is my own, made on

Materials (Shrubs)

  • Shrubs (I have Lilacs)
  • Bucket
  • Shovel
  • Starter Fertilizer
  • Water

Method (Shrubs)

  1. Soak the roots of the shrub in a bucket for 3 – 6 hours.
  2. Dig a hole three feet wide & deep enough to accommodate the roots of the shrub. Sprinkle in starter fertilizer.
  3. Plant the tree until the top layer of roots are completely covered. Pat the soil down firmly.
  4. Water thoroughly.
  5. Mulch around the shrub while making sure the mulch does not touch the bark of the shrub.
planting lilacs in the fall
Pay no attention to the dug up root in the forefront! Look at that tiny lilac instead.


  • Do not soak the roots overnight.
  • Plant shrubs closer together if you want to create a hedge.
  • There’s still time to plant tulips & garlic too. Plus, now’s the time to buy them too since they are also on clearance. Check out my tulip planting tips & my garlic planting tutorial.
  • Need to get your trees/shrubs in the ground fast? You can plant them now in easy to dig areas of your garden & then transplant them in the spring or fall to their permanent locations.
bareroot trees & shrubs soaking in a bucket
It’s like a plant hot tub in there.

I am pretty pumped to watch these trees & lilacs grow. I think you can never have enough evergreens, especially this time of year when everything else starts to lose their leaves & their luster. It’s a good time to walk around you garden & see what areas need some winter interest. I am working on making sure my garden has four-season interest with plants that shine all year round & evergreens fit that bill. I am also really excited to receive 2 new lilac bushes considering I only had one lilac prior. Nothing says spring is here like the scent of lilacs! I am thinking about training one of them into a tree, which I’ve never done before. But that’s gardening for you, right? You always want to try out something new.

hole in the dirt
Yes, I did take a picture of a dug up hole, only to realize that you can’t really capture a hole in the dirt all that creatively.
norway spruce trees from the arbor day foundation
The trees are in their temporary spots. I love these little guys.

So, go out & plant your trees & shrubs while the ground will still allow you to do so! Head out & find some on sale too! (I just might do the same, some of those shrubs are calling my name!)

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