When you start shopping around for pecan trees you will quickly notice that most of them are sold bare-rooted, but you can also get them in pots. Let's take a quick look at some pros and cons of these two options. (If you need help with pecan tree spacing, planting, irrigating, selecting your pecan variety, or pruning, check out these blog posts)
When you go the potted plant route, you have the advantage of planting at your convenience. A potted pecan tree has soil packed around its roots, and as long as you keep it moist, you aren’t pressed for time. You can leave potted trees on your porch or beside the barn until it's convenient for you to get them in the dirt.
If you go with bare root trees you definitely give up the convenience of planting on your schedule. Nurseries will only distribute bare root trees during the dormant season, which is December through March, and when you get those trees you need to make every effort to get them back in the soil, as soon as possible. The nurseries will have damp saw dust or shredded paper wrapped around the roots to try and keep them moist, but you are operating on borrowed time and you need to get those trees planted ASAP. If the roots dry out, the tree is probably useless.
It’s important to keep in mind that the convenience of potted trees comes at a cost. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe I have ever seen potted trees that are cheaper than bare root trees. Also, some say that it's risky to plant potted trees because they may not develop a good root system.
When you look at the two root systems side by side you can definitely see a difference. Watch the video at the top of this post to see for yourself. The bare root trees typically have a nice straight tap root growing and requires very little trimming at planting. Potted trees, on the other hand, are often inbound and requires some work before planting. You often need to fluff out the root ball and trim back the taproot. If the root ball doesn’t get un-bound or tap roots aren’t headed down in the right direction, it may result in an inferior tree that is easily blown over once it matures and begins bearing heavy loads of pecans.
So with all that being said, what is the best way to go? The answer is, whatever works best for you.
Me personally, I like to save money so in my orchard I went with bare root trees. I will say however, i’ve replaced several of the bare-root trees that didn’t survive, with potted trees. I think that all the trees I’ve planted around our Bag-A-Nut shop or in friends' yards have been potted. It’s hard to pass on the convenience of a potted pecan tree.