Bare root trees are dug up from the ground and stored in a soil-less medium until sold. The trees often have larger roots than container trees, but need a little special care before planting. Zone 5 gardeners need to wait until the last frost date has passed to plant a bare root tree to avoid causing the tree transplant shock. The best time to plant is spring, as fall-planted trees won't have time to adapt and can suffer in zone 5's chilly winters.
Wait until frost danger has passed for zone 5 and the ground is warm enough to be worked, typically sometime in April. Unpack your bare root tree and place it in a bucket of lukewarm water for three to six hours prior to planting.
Locate a good site for your tree. Most trees prefer full sun, and all trees need to be located where they will have enough room to grow properly. Let the mature size of your tree dictate your choice of a site.
Dig up the grass in a 3-foot circle where you plan to plant your tree; you'll mulch this area later. Once you've removed all the grass, dig your hole using a shovel. Make the hole twice as wide as the tree's root ball and as deep as the root ball. Remove any rocks or weeds from the hole.
Remove bare root tree from the bucket of water and place the tree in the hole. Check to ensure the tree is vertically straight. Fill the bottom of the hole with soil with your hands to avoid damaging the roots. Once the roots are covered, fill in the rest of the soil by shovel.
Water the newly planted tree until the ground becomes saturated and the soil compresses around the base of the tree naturally.
Scatter mulch over the 3-foot area with no grass. This helps keep moisture near the tree's roots and cuts down on the frequency of future watering.