Planting Fruit Trees, Bushes & Vines


Bare-rooted plants should be planted out from late autumn to early spring whilst they are dormant. It is best to plant trees before new root growth starts (usually in early March) and certainly before spring growth begins. Container-grown plants may be planted at any time of year except during very dry weather or when the ground is water-logged or frozen.

After buying your trees, you should always endeavour to plant them in their permanent position as soon as possible. However, if you are unable to plant them immediately, for example because of frosty or very wet weather, you can keep them for a few days in a cold but frost-free shed or garage; preferably in their original packaging. If planting is delayed for more than four days, then you will need to heel them into a moist, frost-free temporary position in the garden. Our section on planting trees has more information on how to store trees.

Planting Tree Fruits

  1. Dig a hole that will accommodate the roots comfortably; this should be at least one third wider than the tree's root system. Fruit trees that are to be planted against a wall or fence should be positioned 15-22 cm (6-9 in) away from the support to allow for future expansion of the trunk.
  2. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with a spade or fork.
  3. Drive in a stake (or stakes) to a depth of 45 cm (18 in) about 7 cm (3 in) from the centre of the hole. Use a single 1.8 m (6 ft) stake for dwarf apple and pear trees being trained as dwarf pyramids or spindle bushes, and two short stakes for trees being trained as bush, half standard or standards. These stakes should come to a height of 60-90 cm (2-3 ft) above the ground, with the tree tied in between. Very-dwarfing rootstocks will need support throughout their lives, whilst other trees may have their support removed after 3 or 4 years.
  4. If the plant roots are very dry, cut the tips off and place the roots in water for two hours before planting. Prune back any roots that are excessively long.
  5. Slightly mound the soil at the base of the hole and place the tree in the centre, making sure that it is at the same depth as it was before being lifted. Check this using a cane to make sure that the soil mark on the stem is level with the soil surface; the mark should be fairly easy to see, and should be no more than 5 cm (2 in) above the highest roots.
  6. Make sure that the union between the rootstock and scion is above soil level, otherwise the scion may begin to root and you will lose the influence of the rootstock.
  7. Spread out the tree's roots, then backfill the hole in stages, shaking the tree periodically to ensure that the soil settles in between the roots.
  8. Continue filling the hole, and then when finished, tread in well to ensure that the tree is well anchored and that there are no air pockets between the roots.
  9. Attach a buckle-and-spacer tie so that the cushion lies between the tree and stake to prevent chafing.
  10. Protect the tree from rabbits and other animals using a wire mesh fencing tied in a loose cylinder around the tree. Avoid using forestry type plastic tubes, as these are not suitable for fruit trees.

When planting a fruit tree, always make sure that the graft union between the rootstock and scion is above soil level. The union should be clearly visible as a kink in the stem 10-30 cm (4-12 in) above the soil mark.

Planting Soft Fruits

Plant cane and bush fruits such as blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries and blueberries in the same way as tree fruits, making sure that the soil mark is at ground level. Planting too deeply will inhibit the plants' growth. Cane fruits should be supported using a system of horizontal wires attached to a wall, fence or series of sturdy posts.

Planting Vines

Vine fruits such as grapes, kiwi fruits and passion fruits should be planted in a hole or trench that is wide enough to allow the roots to be fully extended. The vines will then need to be supported using a wire trellis or a series of horizontal wires.

Planting Cordons

  1. If you are planting more than one cordon, space them so that they are 75 cm (30 in) apart.
  2. Fix a series of horizontal wires either between sturdy posts or to a solid support such as a fence or wall. If fixing to a solid support, make sure that the wires are set 10-15 cm (4-6 in) away from the wall or fence to allow a good circulation of air.
  3. Plant the trees 15-22 cm (6-9 in) away from a solid support.
  4. Secure a cane at an angle of 45 to the horizontal wires.
  5. Tie each tree securely to a cane.