Fall Is the Right Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

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Written by Jim Janke, Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteer in Haywood County

Contrary to popular opinion, fall is the best time to plant (or move) trees, shrubs, and perennials. Why?

  • Transplant shock is less than if planted in spring or summer.
  • Watering requirements after planting are minimal, because cool weather slows growth and deciduous plants lose their leaves.
  • Root systems continue to grow during late fall and winter, giving plants a head start next spring.

Here are some thoughts on fall planting, and some other gardening tasks to complete before the snow flies.

Choose plants that will thrive in each site’s specific conditions. Consider sun vs. shade, wet vs. dry, protected vs. windy, and pH. Soak bare-root plants well before planting, but don’t drown them in a full bucket of water overnight. Dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep, then break up the soil in the bottom of the hole with a garden fork. Add organic matter like compost or pine bark to the soil from the hole, and mix in a handful or two of rock phosphate or superphosphate. Do not add any other fertilizer at planting time. Place the plant in the hole so that it will be at the same level as it was in the nursery container. Water immediately after planting and again after a few days if the weather is dry. Then in spring water deeply on a regular basis until the roots get established. Staking large trees is necessary to prevent wind from blowing them over. Here is an article from the University of Florida that describes the preferred method for staking trees into the ground.

Newly planted tree

The preferred method for staking newly planted trees. From the University of Florida Extension.

To learn more from our ‘Learn to Grow’ video series, click here to watch a demonstration on how to plant blueberries.