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Fall Planting

February 8, 2022 Jill Raver
Filed in: Fall Planting Guides

Why is fall a great time to plant? Autumn offers cool temperatures, short bright days, and dependable rainfall. Because plant growth begins to slow, plants are primed to focus on root establishment. Root growth is important before going into winter. When you plant in fall, you get a head start on spring growth. In other words, your new plants will be established in time for spring, so you won’t miss out on any spring blooms or growth like you can when planting in spring. With this Fall Planting Guide, you’ll learn how to plant in the fall, what to plant in the fall, and more.

Fall Planting - How to Plant in Fall

You can plant most evergreen trees and evergreen shrubs in fall as long as the ground isn't frozen. You can even plant dormant trees and plants. Just use a little common sense. If the plant isn’t very cold hardy, and if you are right on the line of the recommended zone, it may be best to wait until spring to give your plant the best chance. However, say you are in a zone 7 and the tree you want can grow into a zone 5, you are fine to plant anytime in fall or winter. If you can dig, you can plant.

When Should You Plant in Fall?

The main difference with fall planting versus planting at other times of the year is that you should consider the 6 week rule. It’s ideal for most plants to be planted about 6 weeks prior to the ground freezing so they have time to establish. The fall planting time frame is quite different depending on your growing zone. Most people assume the ground freezes after a day of freezing temps, but this is not true. The ground does not freeze until you have consistent daytime temps under 32 degrees Fahrenheit. There are large portions of the country that never even experience continuous low temperatures. So plant away!

In late summer, make a plan. Clear out weeds and debris to protect your plants from disease. Also, clear out plants that are spent. Choose your fall plants by creating a landscape plan that accounts for what will bloom or change color in fall and what will go dormant.

Fall Plant Care

You will still need to water your plants in fall. However, you won’t have to water as much as other times of year. Newly planted trees still need deep watering that encourages proper root development. Even dormant plants and trees still need watering when planted, though less, which definitely makes your life easier!

Mulching is a great way to keep moisture in while protecting the roots. A layer of mulch, laid generously, insulates plant roots from the more aggressive freezing and thawing cycles. Lay a deep blanket of mulch around plants in late fall or early winter.

The ideal soil conditions for fall planting depend on what you’d like to plant. In general, though, fall soil is naturally perfect for planting. The soil tends to stay warm while the days get chillier, which stimulates roots to dig deeper while the plants remain smaller. If you want to further increase the health of your plants and encourage strong root development, feed your plants slow release fertilizer. Fertilizer will help stimulate strong root growth, helping plants get hardier for the next season.

watering plants

What to Plant in the Fall

So, why plant in fall vs. spring? Fall is a perfect time to get heat sensitive plants in the ground. This ensures these plants are fully established before summer rolls in. Fall planting is ideal for planting traditional evergreens. But it’s also ideal for planting deciduous trees, such as shade trees and flowering trees. Many people don’t realize they might miss the blooms of their flowering trees when planting in spring. Planning ahead and planting in fall is the best way to see an amazing display of blossoms in the first year.

Your options are endless for fall planting when planning your landscape with common varieties of shade trees, perennials, shrubs, and grass. Most people think of planting grass seed for thick, lush lawns that thrive in the spring. But there are also gorgeous ornamental grasses that produce feather-like flowers in the autumn that are perfect to add to your landscape. Red Maples and Autumn Blaze Maples that dawn colorful leaves in autumn are beautiful shade tree additions. Oakleaf Hydrangea are colorful perennials for your fall landscape along with Brilliance Autumn Ferns. Browse our selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, and grass seed in our online plant nursery.

Some plants will do just fine outside during fall and winter. However, other plants will thrive better if they’re started in pots indoors then transplanted once they’ve established. If you are in an area that freezes early, you can always use fall as an opportunity to start your plants in pots.

You can also get started on your fall vegetable garden in late summer. Start brassicas, such as broccoli and brussel sprouts, inside in late summer for early autumn planting. At the same time, you can start vegetables like kale and swiss chard outdoors in late summer, preparing for a harvest during autumn.

Buying Plants in Fall

When buying plants in fall, keep in mind that plants and trees will look different than in spring. Many plants are starting to slow down their metabolic processes to conserve energy for dormancy. Therefore, you should expect to see leaf color changes and drop. The trunks and branches of trees should still look healthy and feel supple and never brittle. Many people are concerned with buying plants in this state, but it can definitely be worth it when your plants are established and ready for spring. They'll put on a full growing season’s growth versus waiting until spring and losing a month or more of above ground growth to root establishment. Look for companies like PlantingTree that offer a dormancy warranty.

Check out the review from HonestBrandReviews.com about PlantingTree.

What to Do in Winter After Fall Planting

Winter is a time to clean up and make plans. A few things to keep in mind if you’re wondering what to do in winter after you plant in the fall:

  • Clean up your garden. Rake up leftover leaves, twigs, fruit, and flowers. Leftovers from last season could become breeding grounds for diseases, but if you rake them up, they can become next season’s layer of mulch.
  • Start your compost.
  • Keep watering your plants as needed.
  • Take inventory of your tools and seeds. It’s good to be prepared.
  • See if there are any seeds you should start indoors for next season.

Just because it’s colder and the days are shorter doesn’t mean you need to forget about gardening for a few months. There’s plenty of stuff to do in the winter after fall planting.

Get going, you confident fall planter!

Now that you have read our Fall Planting Guide, fall into planting and get a jump start on spring. After all, autumn isn't just for Halloween, changing leaves, and pumpkin spice everything!

Basic Planting Instructions

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