Bare Root Dormant Sassafras Tree – Branches Dead Or Bare

sassafras leaf

Q: I planted a bare root dormant sassafras tree in early May. When it arrived I immediately put it in water and the next day planted it in excellent garden soil. I have watered appropriately. Some of the branches have died and some never leafed out. I have been told that these trees may remain dormant all summer and leaf out the next spring. 

A: I have unsuccessfully transplanted four sassafras seedlings. All of them behaved like yours even though they had good root systems when planted. Native plant expert William Cullina says that failure in transplanting sassafras may come from attempting to transplant suckers with inadequate root systems. This was not the case for you or me. He reports excellent success with growing them from seed. It’s easy to find sassafras seed online so I suggest you try that and report what happens.

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