Top 5 Reasons to Plant in Fall

Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials in fall for healthy growth next spring

bench at garden centerOur garden centers are freshly stocked with trees, shrubs, and perennials, ready for fall planting. Photos: Suzanne DeJohn

We often think of spring as the ideal time to plant, and in many cases it is. However, autumn provides a second — and sometimes better — opportunity to get trees, shrubs, and perennials in the ground. Here's why:

  1. Air temperatures are cooling. Extreme heat and harsh sunlight force plants to take up abundant water to stay hydrated. In extreme cases, plants can't take in enough water and can wilt from the stress, even if soil is moist. In contrast, the cooler temperatures and less intense sun in autumn makes it a lower-stress time for new plants to get established.
  2. Soil stays warm. Air temperatures may cool down to freezing or below, but the soil remains warm for weeks. This warmth encourages root to grow out into the surrounding soil so they're established and ready for a new flush of growth in spring.
  3. The weather is rainier. In many regions, autumn brings cloudy, rainy weather. Regular, gentle rains soak deeply into the soil, keeping plant roots moist. (If nature doesn't provide, you'll need to take on that task.)
  4. Plants can focus on roots. Because top growth is slowing and entering a dormant phase, plants are able to direct their energy toward growing robust roots.
  5. Spring is a busy time for gardeners! Fall offers more time to research plant options, select varieties, and get plants in the ground. Garden centers are usually well-stocked with fresh, healthy trees, shrubs, and perennials, and plants ordered via mail won't be stressed by hot temperatures while in transit.
potted evergreens at garden centerMany trees and shrubs are available either potted or with their root balls wrapped with burlap.

balled-and-burlapped yew at garden centerA wire basket holds the fabric in place on this balled-and-burlapped yew.

Tips for Successful Fall Planting

  • Aim to get plants in the ground at least six weeks before the ground freezes. In all but the coldest regions, you can plant up until early November.
  • Apply a 2-3" layer of organic mulch (e.g. shredded leaves, pine straw, or bark chips) around plants, keeping it several inches from the stems or trunk. This conserves moisture and helps prevent winter freeze-thaw cycles that can stress plants.
  • Water plants as needed to keep the soil moist to the depth of the root ball, continuing to water until the ground freezes.
  • Be patient. You won't see much, if any, growth in fall, and growth may be somewhat slow to start in spring compared to more established plants.
  • How you plant is as important as when you plant. Learn proper planting techniques for trees and shrubs.
potted roses at garden centerPotted roses like these do well when planted in autumn.

coralbells at garden centerCoralbells are hardy perennials available in an astonishing range of foliage colors.
evergreens at garden centerAdd winter interest to your landscape with evergreens in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Last updated: 12/12/2022