Fall Is For Planting has been a nursery industry slogan for decades, and it’s based on sound horticultural science. It’s all about giving plants a head start on getting established in their new home. For you, it means less maintenance work than planting in the spring requires.
Granted, fall doesn’t officially start until later in September, but Labor Day is its unofficial beginning. The beginnIng of September is also when the weather starts becoming more autumn-like. Nighttime temperatures moderate while daytime temperatures stay warm. Cool nights and warm days help plants get used to cold temperatures gradually. When winter arrives, they’ll be established and ready for dormancy.
The nursery industry recommends planting most deciduous trees and shrubs in fall. Deciduous plants are those that lose their leaves in winter. Fall is also the best time to plant or split herbaceous perennials. And spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips need to be planted this fall if you want them to bloom next spring.
In spring, trees and shrubs planted in the fall will break dormancy and begin growing several weeks before spring planting can get underway. Because of their earlier start, last fall’s plants require less care during the summer than spring plants. That means less watering and, possibly, less fertilizing, saving you both time and money.
Evergreens are a different story. Wait until spring to plant these trees and shrubs. Evergreens retain their leaves or needles and don’t go completely dormant. Thus, the name – evergreen. If planted in fall, they can be subject to unsightly winter burn, unless you apply anti desiccant. Also, wait until spring to plant perennials that flower on new wood like butterfly bush and big leaf hydrangeas. Otherwise, you’ll have to prune the old wood away in the spring to allow new wood, and flowers, to grow.
Contrary to the belief of some cynics, Fall is for Planting isn’t just a way for garden centers to get rid of their leftover nursery stock. Most buy fresh stock for the fall. If plants look like they are leftovers, don’t buy them. If they look fresh, go ahead. Nurseries aren’t going to invest in stock that they’ll have to overwinter.
Homeowners who want to enjoy the results of fall planted trees and shrubs without the work, turn the whole job over to our landscape professionals. Then they can be sure they have winter hardy plants and that the right plants are planted in the right places. Then all you have to do is sit back and enjoy their new plants this fall, next spring and for years to come.