Plant in Fall? Oh Yes!

Why Plant In Fall?
You may have heard that fall is a great time for planting shrubs and perennials, which is absolutely true. Read below for all the tips and tricks that will help you make the most of plants sales and fall’s pleasant outdoor temperatures.

You would be surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, but it’s true. Fall’s cool temperatures, frequent rainfall, and short, bright days help plants make an easy transition from their temporary pots to your home garden. Despite winter being on the way, (down the road a bit, of course) the first half of autumn (and then some) provides plenty of time for plants to grow roots and get established before daylight hours shorten. We have some great sales going this month, but before you go too crazy with buying, there are a few things to know first about successful fall planting.

You can plant up to 6 weeks before the ground freezes. Nantucket usually doesn’t see frozen ground until beginning of December.  Once the ground is frozen, root growth of your plants will basically go on hold entirely until spring, so giving your plants that six week window is essential for them to establish themselves enough to withstand the cold and snow. The date that the ground actually freezes varies from year to year, of course, and some areas won’t have frozen ground at all. If you’re unsure, mid-November is a safe planting deadline for nearly everyone.

No, your plants will not be happy in their nursery pots over the winter! If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. They can always be moved in the springtime if you change your mind.

New plantings need extra water. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but don’t rely solely on Mother Nature to water your new plants.  Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.

Mulch! Just as you pile on blankets when temperatures drop, mulch acts as insulation for new plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. All plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, but newly planted ones will take especially benefit from the protection it offers from the harsh climes of winter.

Don’t expect tons of growth.  Just because you don’t see a lot of top growth on fall-planted shrubs, doesn’t mean that your plants aren’t growing! Most perennial plants put much of their energy into bolstering their root systems, ensuring their survival through the winter.  So, don’t pay attention to the leaves of your plants; autumn planting is all about giving the plant a chance to put on root growth.  Plantings will be raring to go come spring thanks to the roots they create in fall.

Some tips and a few things to avoid:

Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, evergreens are more susceptible to drying out when the ground is frozen and the winds are blowing. Having several months (rather than several weeks,) to develop a sizeable root system better prepares them to face the winter months. Planting earlier is especially important for broad-leaf evergreens like holly, rhododendron, and boxwood, as their large leaves are far more likely to get windburned and drought-stressed than conifers with needles.

Avoid planting anything that’s not a guaranteed zone-hardy. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, so you can definitely experiment as many gardeners do, but if you want to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s probably better to wait until spring so it gets the benefit of a whole season of growth to establish itself versus just a few weeks. The healthier the root system it has, the better-equipped it will be to survive the long winter.

Bonus tip: All of these guidelines apply to transplanting as well as new plantings, so if you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it.



Sources: Proven Winners.