Soaking a bare-root tree

How to plant an apple tree

Follow our step-by-step guide to planting an apple tree.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Time to act
Time to act

Do Time to act in January

Do Time to act in February

Do Time to act in March

Do not Time to act in April

Do not Time to act in May

Do not Time to act in June

Do not Time to act in July

Do not Time to act in August

Do not Time to act in September

Do not Time to act in October

Do Time to act in November

Do Time to act in December

Apples are easy to grow, but they need the right conditions if you want to have years of bountiful harvests.

The best time to plant apples is from late autumn to early spring, while they lie dormant. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot and give the soil a boost by forking in plenty of compost or well-rotted farmyard manure over a wide area around the planting hole – this will encourage the roots to explore outwards into the surrounding soil.

Once it has been planted, water the tree carefully and feed regularly with a liquid seaweed throughout the growing season.

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Follow these easy steps to planting your apple tree.


You Will Need

  • Spade
  • Fork
  • Mycorrhizal fungi
  • Bamboo cane
  • Tree stake and tie
  • Secateurs

Step 1

Dig a hole no deeper than the roots and just larger than their spread. Break up the soil at the bottom of the planting hole with a fork.

Dig your planting hole
Dig your planting hole

Step 2

Bare-root trees should be soaked in water before planting. If the tree is potted, make sure it’s watered well before planting. Just before placing in the hole, dip the roots in mycorrhizal fungi, or for potted trees, sprinkle a handful over the rootball and in the planting hole.

Soaking a bare-root tree
Soaking a bare-root tree

Step 3

Lay a cane across the hole at ground level, then lower the tree into the hole so the darker ‘soil line’ on the trunk is alongside the cane.

Lower the tree into the planting hole
Lower the tree into the planting hole

Step 4

Back-fill with soil, holding the tree at the right height and gently jiggle it to work the soil in around the roots. Firm gently as you go.

Backfill the planting hole
Backfill the planting hole

Step 5

Drive in a stake at a 45º angle, pointing into the prevailing wind. Secure the stem to the stake one third of the way up the trunk.

Staking the apple tree
Staking the apple tree

Step 6

New trees need early pruning to encourage the right branching form you’re training them into. Start straight after planting.

Start pruning after planting
Start pruning after planting

Planting tips for best results

  • Stand bare-root trees in a bucket of water for an hour before planting to rehydrate roots
  • Tease out the roots of container-grown trees from the rootballs before planting
  • Keep a 1m-diameter area clear of weeds around young trees to reduce competition
  • Water new trees weekly throughout their first two summers and subsequent dry ones
  • Protect saplings against rabbits and deer with a spiral tree guard
  • Winter prune (Nov-Feb) and then in summer (Jul-Sep). The aim is to encourage fruiting spurs