by Leeann Barton — originally published February 2007
Ask questions and do a little research concerning bloom time, ultimate tree size and what type of rootstock supports the graft. All of these will help you determine the correct placement and care of the tree.
When selecting a tree, look for any obvious wounds to the main trunk. Scarring may be due to rough handling but may also be a sign of disease. Check that wounds have healed properly by seeing if the wood below and around the scar is soft or hard. If you can easily push your finger nail into it be wary.
Look for a graft that has sealed firmly on all sides. An angled graft is ideal as it sheds water and debris easily.
Finally, check the branching. This is the least important as it is the easiest to work with after planting. Keep in mind (especially with fruit trees) if you want to maintain a smaller tree, look for strong, low branches. Bareroot shade trees often come in “whips”—one main trunk with no branches. Do not be discouraged, whips catch up and often surpass a branched bareroot tree within two years. Stake a whip to insure the tree gets off to a straight start.
Above all, protect your purchase by not letting the roots dry out! Wrap the roots in plastic to transport the tree home, but plant the tree when you get it home!
For instructions on planting your tree see Planting Your Backyard Orchard.