Contact Us800.325.4180

What To Do If You Can’t Plant When Your Order Arrives

by Stark Bro's on 11/09/2012
EZ Start Potted Trees

In fall or spring, planting trees and plants can be an invigorating adventure. When your Stark Bro’s order arrives, it’s best to be prepared to plant your new additions within a day or so. We understand, however, that sometimes you’re simply not ready to put them in the ground right away. In this article, we focus on some tips on how to delay planting different trees and plants.

If the weather is unfavorable, or you don’t have time or help to plant right away, still be sure to open the box containing your order.

Bare-Root Plants and Trees

When you open the package, you will see strips of damp paper around the bare-root plants and trees’ roots. Make sure the paper remains damp, but avoid drenching it.

Wrap the bare-root plants and trees in the shipping plastic and store in a cool, dark place, like an unheated basement, cellar, garage or shed. It is ideal to store the tree at a temperature of 40ºF, but anything under 60ºF should work for a short period of time. This method will help keep your bare-root plants and trees dormant so you can safely delay planting for up to a week.

how to heel in trees and plantsIf planting must be delayed for more than 10 days, “heel in” your trees outdoors. To do this, start by digging a sloping trench long and wide enough to hold the roots. Lay the tree in this trench, with the roots against the steep side. Then, cover the roots with soil, and soak with water. As soon as possible, plant trees in their permanent location as you normally would.

Small Bare-Root Plants

Bare-Root Tree Roots

Some small bare-root berries and other plants can be stored in the lower section of your refrigerator or in the “crisper” drawer. Do not store them with produce unless your plants are completely sealed in plastic (in gallon-sized re-sealable bags, for example). To be extra cautious, you can double-bag your plants in the airtight plastic. Doing so will help avoid exposing your plants to the often lethal (to living plants) gases that are naturally given off by produce in your refrigerator.

Potted Plants and Trees

Plants and trees that arrive in temporary containers, like our exclusive EZ Start® Pots, should be treated like houseplants until the outdoor soil warms. Water them occasionally, when the soil appears dry, and keep them in a cool, dark place to encourage dormancy, especially in the fall. When planting time comes, these potted trees and plants will need to be gradually acclimated (“hardened off” or slowly reintroduced) to outdoor temperatures prior to planting in the ground. Doing so will help you to avoid shock and help to ensure the transplanting will be more successful. Learn how to acclimate your new potted plants and trees here.

Tips for Planting in Winter Weather

If snowfall arrives or freezing temperatures set in when your order arrives, don’t panic! Just follow these simple suggestions:

  • Scoop snow away from the planting site; you may find the ground is not frozen yet.
  • Remember that snow makes an excellent insulator; the extra moisture is good for plants.
  • Keep any frozen topsoil from falling into the planting hole around the root system.
  • Do not expose roots to below-freezing temperatures while planting.

If your order arrives in the spring, you might find that your soil may be frozen or otherwise unworkable. If this is the case, you should keep your tree or plant in the package until the daily temperatures are above freezing and the ground thaws. Please note: you may plant, even if the low temperatures are in the high teens, as long as the daytime temperatures are above 40ºF. You can delay planting for up to two or three weeks if you are able to keep the roots from drying out. However, in cases where the delayed period is longer than a week, you should consider applying additional damp paper to bare-root tree roots to provide sufficient enough moisture for longer storage.

If you have any order-related questions or concerns, our Customer Support Team (800.325.4180) will be able to work with you.

Now that you know how to delay planting, there’s no need to worry if you’re not ready to plant right away. If you are facing inclement weather or other unforeseen problems, you can feel confident in your ability to safely store trees and plants for a short period of time until you’re ready to put them in the ground.

Ready to plant? Browse these articles »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips

62 Comments

  1. Gary Rummerfield permalink

    Thanks I will be ready to plant my trees. Monday 11/12/2012

    Thanks again Gary

  2. priscilla permalink

    I should be ready to plant when they arrive. I have a question though. I just moved and plan on transplanting the 2 apple, 1 pear, and 1 peach tree that I got from you last fall. Do I need to wait until all of the leaves to fall of for a safe time?

    • For the best chance at the least amount of shock to your trees, we recommend doing any necessary transplanting while the trees are completely dormant. Usually, once all the leaves have fallen, you can start preparing to move them to their new location. Another thing you will want to do is avoid breaking up the fine feeder roots when you move the trees. Try to keep as much of the root system intact as possible.

  3. Doug Saunders permalink

    Thanks for the tips, we are planting this fall as soon as the tree arrives

    • That sounds great, Doug. :) What kind of tree are you going to be planting this fall?

  4. roger isringhausen permalink

    i am ready to plant my cherry tree any time roger

    • Great, Roger! Did you choose a sweet cherry (great for fresh-eating but also cooking) or a pie cherry (ideal for making pies, sauces, and other tasty treats)?

  5. Michael Nader permalink

    No problem here. Ground is still warm When plants arrive we will be in the 70′s. Ground is ready for the plants. I will be able to plant the day of arrival

    • That sounds like ideal planting weather for you, Michael! Glad to hear it. When do your colder, winter temperatures start settling in for you there?

  6. Rich permalink

    I got all my trees in the ground the night they arrived…had the holes pre-dug and planted them in the dark…I’m so excited for spring to see how they’ve taken. Is there some obvious markers to look for if I screwed up and my tree is dead versus it’s taken to growing and I’m doing OK? I was nervous putting them in the ground in November…but you guys are the experts!

    • You sound like you were really prepared for planting this fall, Rich! Even if it happened in November. Your trees were dormant when they arrived, so you won’t see any obvious signs of life until the spring — when their buds start swelling and when they push new growth next year, you’ll see how well everything is doing for you! :)

      • Rich permalink

        I planted just after dark(as soon as I got home) but it was still above freezing when I did this. I’ve watered them a bit the last few days as it hasn’t rained since then. Hopefully I didn’t goof it up! :-D Thanks for the info! Stark Bros provided the trees my great frandfather planted the family orchard with 90 years ago so I’m pleased to have been able to order from you again! You’re support via email, articles, etc. has been great!

        • It sounds like you’re on the right track for having some healthy trees this spring. :) Just keep in mind, dormant trees don’t require as much watering as they would if they were growing during the spring and summer.

          We are delighted to be here to help you carry on your family’s tradition of growing your own fruit trees. Thank you so much!

          • Rich permalink

            Trees did well this year. Only the blackberries gave me trouble and you guys replaced them and the new ones are going nuts! I’ve got five more trees coming any day now and I’m anxious to get them in the ground. I’m a little worried about doing a night planting again as they could be exposed to freezing temperatures for up to a minute or two while I get them into the water bucket and then from the water to the ground. I hate to wait to plant them and planting at night is the only option because of when I get home from work.

            Thoughts?

          • Glad to hear everything is growing well so far, Rich!

            In your case, the minute or two of exposure to (potentially) freezing temperatures won’t harm the new trees. They will have the protection of the water on their roots, and then they will go straight into the ground. Just be sure to have the holes dug and ready so that the time between soaking in water and being planted is minimal.

            There is also the possibility that the night and time you choose to plant won’t actually be freezing. I think you’ll be fine to plant at night!

  7. patrick permalink

    Sarah,
    I have my fingers crossed here. I prepared for apple trees and dug my holes in advance with the old addage of ” dig a 40 dollar hole for a 20 dollar tree”. So my holes are more than large enough. In clay soil,so I mixed in alittle peatmoss and compost and manure when trees were planted. But the soil was pretty saturated form rain and became a pretty muddy mess by the time we were finished. Will this be ok? If so should i put the reccomended 2″ of mulch orver the distrubed ground?

    • As long as the rain has let up since planting and the excess water is draining, your trees should be alright, Patrick. I would suggest leaving the mulch off until you can tell that the excess water has drained (it won’t be quite so muddy), because mulch helps to keep moisture in.

      If the planting sites for your new trees are holding water for several hours, even with your amendments, you might want to find a different spot to plant; one that has better drainage. If this is the case, you can pre-dig the holes like you did before and (before planting your trees in them) try filling them with water to see how long it takes it to drain again. Cornell University has a nice resource on testing soil drainage here: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/misc/soilbasics.html

      If everything looks good, go ahead an apply that mulch layer to keep those roots insulated for the winter! :)

  8. Summer Wintemberg permalink

    What would be the date range for planting fruit trees in Zone 7B – is mid-April too late?

    • Good question, Summer! We start shipping to your zone the last week in February this year — mid-April is getting to be a bit warm there but, as long as you’re planting before the end of May, you should be fine. :)

      • Summer Wintemberg permalink

        Great, thanks! I’ll just pray for a slightly cooler-than-usual spring until then.

  9. Tomellini permalink

    I think it is too cold to plant the trees I just received today.
    Can I plant them in pots for a few weeks before planting in the ground.
    I plan on keeping them in the garage at night and outside during the day.
    Will that hurt the plants? (I am planting cherry and peach trees)

    • The cherry and peach trees should be dormant when they arrive, since they’re bare-root trees. “Cold” temperatures don’t bother dormant trees, so it should be safe for you to plant them in the ground (as long as your ground isn’t frozen so that you can’t even dig a planting hole). The biggest concern would be with the roots being exposed to freezing temperatures — but if you plant at the warmest time of day when the temperatures are above freezing, your trees’ roots won’t be in danger.

      The trees will wake up when the temperatures trigger the end of their dormancy. If you feel better about planting in pots, though, that won’t hurt the trees. Just be sure not to overwater the trees or allow the soil to become too dry. :)

  10. Tonya permalink

    Hi I recieved some grape plants in pots and they were already leafing a ton so I put them in a cool dark place and they still continued to leaf. I pulled them out of the cool dark place because I didn’t want to confuse the plants. Now they are sitting in pots in the house. When and how should I plant them outdoors?

    • If you delayed planting your grapes because of the weather, as long as your temperatures aren’t going to drop to freezing, you should be able to plant. Since your grape vine arrived leafed-out and in a pot, it was grown in our greenhouse, and we have conveniently provided a few steps about how to acclimate (harden off) these plants and trees here.

      I hope you find it useful!

      • Tonya permalink

        Thanks so much. That is what I thought I would have to do. Actually the last few days I have been putting them out in the shade. So far so good. I am doing the same thing for the blueberry plants I bought they did the same thing. Thanks again.

  11. GMan Z5 MT permalink

    Wow, fast delivery & thanks!… Ordered 3 pear, 2 peach & a 2N1 cherry, got them today, 04/30. I read all instructions prior to ordering. We are in the grips of the roller-coaster temps. 70′s 2 days ago, now killing frost tonight w/lows of high 20′s/highs of mid 40′s now – mid 60′s after Thursday. Could get 3/4 ” snow anytime. Can I just hold off for a couple of days before I plant w/out too much trama to my new trees? I will check to make sure the roots are moist. My biggest concern is deer, turkeys and rabbits. I have the trunk wrap, stakes for wind, Tre-Pep, some compost to mix w/existing soil and 4′ high mesh(keeps critters out – I live with the wild things) ready for the plant. Anything else?

    • The only thing I can think to suggest, since you mention the critters being a possible problem, is constructing a fence or cage around your new trees until they’re taller and more established (at least a year or two). This might be what you have in mind for the 4′ high mesh, though, so if it is — good job! It sounds like you’re all set to plant (at least, once your weather settles down)! :)

  12. carol permalink

    I planted two apple trees, two peach trees, and one redbud from Starks last week (in NJ). The peach trees are starting to put out little green leaves, but the apple trees and redbud show no signs of life at all. When should I expect some growth to know they are OK? Thanks!

    • Typically, we recommend waiting several weeks before worrying about the progress of your trees. Since they are shipped to you dormant, they will wake up when they are ready and this depends on the individual variety, type of tree, and environment.

      If you would like, you may go out to where the trees are planted, take your thumb nail and scratch away a layer of bark in a small spot on the tree, about halfway up the trunk, to check for signs of life. The trees should have wet wood beneath your scratch. This is most likely what you will find, signalling that they are still living and have not yet woken up.

      If, by chance, the wood beneath that layer of bark you scratch away is dry and brittle, give our customer support team a call [800.325.4180] and we can see about replacing or refunding you for the trees that are certain not to be living.

      • carol permalink

        Thanks for the reply. It is now 10 days since I planted the trees and ALL of them are showing growth. Wow! You have a very satisfied customer.

  13. Erin black permalink

    Just received my almond tree… Planting it tomorrow…. Since it’s 50-60 in the days and 30-40 at night … Any thing I should do after planting

    • You should be set, Erin! For additional protection through the winter, you should put a couple of inches of mulch down (keeping the mulch from piling up against the trunk). Those temperatures, and colder ones as winter comes, will keep your almond tree dormant until it gets warmer in the spring – signalling the tree to wake up and leaf out!

  14. David C permalink

    Just received a dozen raspberry plants in Nebraska yesterday, and planted them this morning in their holes by filling around the root with peat moss to reduce compacting them. They are in one row running east to west. Thinking twice about this, should I replant them in a row running north to south in order to get a full day’s worth of sun?

    • It’s more common, with an average slope and in the northern hemisphere, to plant in rows running north-to-south. Since they’re all raspberry plants in one row, issues with plants shading one another won’t be as great as they could be if you had them in several rows side by side.

      You may want to watch the sun on your new plantings. Granted, it will be slightly different during the summer than it is during the fall/winter in Nebraska, but this may help you determine if you’d rather leave the plants in an east-to-west row or rearrange them.

  15. David permalink

    I am expecting a variety of plants and trees to be shipped out to me tomorrow; Brown Turkey Fig, sweet life goji berry, the all summer long blueberry package, and Arbequina Olive potted kit. However, in all my excitement, I did not consider what would be the best way to prepare the ground for each individual plant/tree. I live in South Carolina 7B and I have some pretty thick clay in my yard. I am not opposed to getting dirty and reworking the areas in which I intend to plant, but do you have any recommendations for me? I also bought a meyer lemon even though the zone is not recommended because I would love to keep it in my house for the fragrance. Thanks for any advice!

    • Sorry for the delayed response David! Preparing the soil, especially if it’s heavy clay, may require more than just digging the holes. As long as the site you have selected receives full sun (6-8 hours), has necessary soil nutrients and proper pH (most plants prefer a neutral soil pH: 6.0-7.0 — but blueberries need an acidic soil pH: 4.5-5.5), and proper drainage, you should be ok to plant.

      The drainage and the soil pH are highly important to the success of your new plants and trees. If the heavy clay in your planting site tends to flood in heavy rains and doesn’t drain well, your plants and trees may end up with fungal issues like root rot. If you break up the soil in the planting holes, it will help new roots break through the heavy clay.

      If the pH isn’t within the range of the plants you’re planting in that spot, they will have issues with nutrient deficiencies. You can use soil acidifier to amend the planting site for blueberries, but it does take some time to alter your soil pH. Planting blueberries in containers with soil medium for “acid-loving plants” (you may find something like this at your local garden supply store) may be a good option, at least in the short term while you prepare the ground the plants are going into.

      I hope this helps you get started while your plants are still new! :)

      • David permalink

        Thank you so much for the advice! There was a delay with my order so I just got my trees today but I already have 2 lemons on the little baby, I am so excited! I dug a fairly wide hole and set in my fig tree as directed and gave it some Stark tree pep. I will definitely look into the acidifier. I will be back soon with some updates.

  16. kamal permalink

    do you carry lemon trees

    • We do offer lemon trees but they are only available to ship in spring. You can find the information and request to be notified when the product becomes available here:
      Meyer Lemon Tree

  17. Alexandra permalink

    I have five holes ready for my coming Almond tree and four Plumb trees. Could not wait till they arrive. I have a question Should I ammend the soil, put come garden soil mixture in the holes when I am planting new trees?
    My other question is about high density planting. I just read an article about it and they are suggesting to cut new planted trees near 18-25 inches (knee high) from the ground to help developing low brunches to control tree height. Would you recommend it?
    Thank you.

    • I share in your excitement, Alexandra! If your native soil is lacking nutrients, has drainage issues, or if there are any other reasons to amend the soil it’s a good idea prior to planting. Generally, the garden soil mixture will not do any harm, but avoid fertilizing at planting time in the fall. If your soil is heavy clay or has drainage issues, break up the inner edges of the planting holes and consider amending with some coco-fiber medium that helps retain and/or distribute water in problematic soils.

      The high-density, multiple-tree planting is an interesting method – that’s for sure. A few trees sharing one, extra-large planting hole and are cared for as one unit. We haven’t tried the “multiple trees in one hole” method, and don’t speak expertly on it, but it does make sense. We’d recommend following the tips included in what you read, or read about what the experts at Dave Wilson Nursery are doing. They have great info and even depict several examples here.

      We have a hedge-row style high-density test plot growing at our nursery, but this is mostly intended for orchard-sized plantings of many trees. You can see photos of our high-density apple orchard here on Pinterest.

  18. Gerakd Vanim permalink

    Thank you Stark. I left the western NY prior to the arrival of my replacement fruit trees. I notified you late that I was not available for planting and they had already been shipped. However, in checking the shipping notification – FedEx was notified and the delivery was intercepted and the trees returned to Stark.
    THANK YOU for the great service.
    I will contact you when I am ready to return from MX and add to the existing order.
    Have super holidays on the farm!

    • I’m glad you contacted us about your availability and that we were able to intercept the order! Happy holidays to you and happy planting :)

  19. Patti permalink

    I so appreciate your information contained in the packaging with my pecan, apple and peach trees, and the berry bushes that were delivered this past Wednesday. I knew I would not be able to plant them until the weekend and the information was very helpful. Got everything planted on Saturday. Looking forward to Spring!

    • Glad to hear you were able to successfully plant everything, Patti! We hope you keep us posted with photos of your plants and trees as they grow. You can either email them to us or share with us on facebook.

      If you have a blog where you document your gardening adventures, we’d love to bookmark it! :)

  20. Dave permalink

    I received my order and planted it the next day, the 3 apple trees were dormant but the walnut and pawpaw trees had green leaves. The green leaves died over the first night, there was a heavy frost in the morning.

    Will the non-dormant trees be alright and come back in the spring?

    • Often, when planting leafed-out plants and trees in cool fall weather or cool springs, we recommend hardening off the plants and trees prior to planting. This gets them used to the cooler temperatures and eases them into their new environment. Time will be the best way to tell how they’ll do, but things should be alright. Plants and trees are tougher than we think! :)

  21. Maria permalink

    Of course you are not the vendor or professional nursery involved in my situation, but you are very capable of advice based on excellent replies here on your site.
    I received a rabbiteye blueberry bush from Fast Growing Trees.com (never heard of it) via FedEx in a box, bare rooted.
    It won’t grow in my Zone3/4 PLUS I have 20* high, 5″snow. How do these businesses get away with this? I am disappointed my relative was “Sold” such a transaction, with their advertised “expert” advice. What recourse do I have w/ this 3 foot shrub? bury it under soil and snow, see if it makes it through 1 summer to “enjoy” the thought… I hate to just compost it, but what a lot of effort for unprofessional business practices. Never heard of the company till now either. Thanks

    • I’m sorry to hear you ended up with a product not recommended for your growing zone. In your position, I would try planting and growing the rabbiteye blueberry plant in a container so that it can be brought indoors for protection over winter (as soon as the temperatures are expected to drop, threatening frost). The container should be big enough to accommodate the current plant’s current root system with some room to grow, and you can increase the pot size as needed (as the roots fill the current container it’s in).

      If you go this route, be sure that the potting medium you use has a low pH, since blueberries thrive in acidic soil. You might find a special blueberry mixture in your local garden supply store. If not, a potting mix suitable for azaleas or rhododendrons would be close enough. Keep an eye on your watering when you grow plants in containers – you probably don’t need to water every day, but when the soil is dry to the touch, water enough to dampen the soil around the roots without over-saturating them.

      Then, in spring when the last frost date in your area has passed, you can move your potted blueberry outdoors for the wind, sun, and rain it enjoys – and pollination from bees and other beneficials once it’s mature enough to bloom! That’s another thing – most rabbiteye blueberries require another variety for cross-pollination, so I hope the one you have is actually self-pollinating if they didn’t recommend a pollinator for it to be fruitful. I hope this helps!

  22. Ven permalink

    I ordered 10 different trees and out of that 4 of them (3 grape and 1 Paw Paw) have green leaves on them upon delivery. I have the holes dug up and ready to plant. I am wondering if I have to wait until leaves fall off completely before planting in zone-7B?

    • It depends on how the weather is in your zone around planting time. If it’s been cool at night but mostly in the 50s or higher during the day, you should be able to plant the plants and trees that have not yet dropped their leaves and they will lose them as the weather continues to cool and light changes. If your temperatures are already dropping and remain cool during the day, you may need to harden off your leafed-out plants and trees prior to planting.

      Here are steps we recommend to harding off tender, leafed-out plants and trees:
      http://www.starkbros.com/blog/acclimating-new-plants-and-trees/

  23. Jake permalink

    We have found out we will be moving in the summer and I want to put the trees I ordered (that will be arriving tomorrow) into pots so that I can take them with me instead of leaving for the new owners.

    I’m in zone 8A. Can I plant peach/fig/ trees in 5 gallon pots and put them outside or do I need to winter them in the garage?

    • Good thinking planting in containers so you can take your new trees with you when you move, Jake! Since fig and peach trees tend to be hardy to zone 8, even being planted in the ground, you should have no issue leaving them outdoors when they’re planted in pots. You may still want to mulch over the soil surface in the pots and make sure the soil around the roots doesn’t become dry, since frost injury can still occur. The occasional watering and mulch will help protect the roots through winter! :)

  24. Jake permalink

    Thanks for the response Sarah. Makes me feel better about saving my trees for my next home.

    One more question. For dwarf fruit trees – how big of a pot would I need if I decided to just raise them in a pot in case I ever move again ? Maybe this is the best solution – to just keep them in permanent pots

    My apologies Sarah – I just found the blog on “planting fruit trees in containers” tonight. Please excuse my failure to use the search button first

    Jake

    • Not a problem, Jake! I’m glad you found the information you were looking for :)

  25. Karen permalink

    My daughter bought me an early white giant peach in the standard supreme for a Christmas present. She noted on the website when ordering that the next ideal time for planting would be 12/5/14 in zone 6a. I received them today 12/3/14 with no instructions, and looked on the website to see that the ideal time has changed to 3/9/14. I prefer not to wait til spring to plant, am I still ok to plant 12/5?

    • You should plant as soon as possible, so the 12/5 plan still works! The planting time on our website changes once the previous date closes in, and it shifts with our shipping season. Since we are no longer shipping for fall, the next best time in your area is that date in March.

      If you are looking for how to plant your trees, you will have received paperwork in your order (our “Read this First” manual) and you can also find information on planting and more in our Growing Guide here:
      http://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/plant-manuals/fruit-trees/peach-trees/stark-early-white-giant-peach

      • Karen permalink

        Thank you! … Gonna plant this weekend… Wish me luck!

  26. Jay permalink

    Hi…I received 16 apple trees that have done well in the large pots I planted them in. I was already to plant them in the orchard area when the early November cold snap hit and my newly dug holes are now filled with water indicating I have a serious drainage problem

    I’ve placed the dormant trees against my barn wall and plan on planting in March. Any suggestions on how to improve the drainage on those holes or should I just find a new spot to plant ?

    Thanks
    Jay in SE Ohio Zone 5b

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

What is 13 + 12 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the above simple math (so we know that you are a human).