Mid-August to Mid-October is a great time to plant many trees, shrubs and even some perennials. The advantage to late season planting is the weather. Fall has cooler air temperatures that promote less above ground growth but warm soil temperatures to promote abundant root growth which is very important to establishing a long-lived, healthy tree. Keep these tips in mind when you do your fall planting.
Timing is Important. The soil needs to be at least 55°F. The earlier in the fall season you can plant, the better it will be. Plants need as much time as possible to get established before a harsh winter.
The Planting Procedure is Still the Same. Just like when planting in spring, dig the hole wider, not deeper. Water in well after planting. And don’t forget the mulch!
Water Carefully. This is true no matter what season you plant in, but the spring tends to be wetter than the fall. Be sure the newly planted trees, shrubs or perennials are getting at least 1” of water a week – provided by you or Mother Nature. Continue to provide water until the ground freezes – even after leaves fall from woody plants.
Smaller is Better. Avoid planting large balled & burlapped plants in fall. They will not have enough time to establish before winter.
Avoid Planting Bare-Root Plants. These plants are best planted in late-winter or early spring while they are still dormant.
Take Advantage of Good Deals. Many nurseries liquidate stock in the fall and you can get some great deals if you’re willing to try planting in the fall.
Watch for Heaving. Some plants, especially many perennials, can heave out easily during the freeze-thaw cycles of winter just after planting since they are not fully established. Cover these plants late in the season, after the ground freezes with 2-4” of extra mulch to keep them in the ground.
Not All Plants Do Best with Fall Planting. Those plants that are slow to establish or marginally hardy should be planted in spring. Both transplanting and winter are stressful. If a plant does not have time to recover from transplanting before winter those two stresses together can be lethal! Plants best saved for spring planting include: magnolia, dogwood, tuliptree, sweet gum, red maple, birch, hawthorn, poplars, cherries, plum, many oaks, roses, coral bells, mums, Shasta daisy, gaura, seathrift, pig squeak, coreopsis, pincushion flower, blanket flower and most evergreens, especially the broadleaf types such as boxwood or rhododendrons.
— Aaron Steil, Assistant Director – photo caption: Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus)