Can I plant trees in winter? That's a big question with different answers depending on the type of tree and your climate. We'll answer which trees to plant in winter, determine if your zone is plantable based on where you live, and give you winter planting tips.
Trees To Plant In Winter
For the most part, if the ground is diggable in your area, you can still plant trees, but you don’t want to plant trees that aren’t cold hardy if your ground will freeze soon thereafter. Most plants and trees should have 6 to 8 weeks to establish their roots before a hard freeze. For subtropical and tropical climates, winter is a great time to plant because the ground doesn’t freeze in these areas.
Avoid planting evergreen trees in winter unless you live in a climate where the ground does not freeze. They do need time to establish their roots before the ground is frozen. It is also important to note that soil does not freeze as soon as temperatures start hitting 32 degrees. The daytime and nighttime temperatures must be consistently freezing or below freezing for the soil to freeze solid. If your climate allows winter planting, you can get a nice jumpstart for spring. Even dormant trees can start to establish their roots as long as soil temperatures are above freezing.
Planting Trees in Winter By USDA Growing Zone
You'll need to know your growing zone to know whether you can plant trees in winter. Find your growing zone here.
Growing Zones 3, 4, 5, 6
These are cooler climates. Even if you can technically plant a cold hardy tree without it being detrimental, the ground will be frozen so you won’t be able to dig to plant in winter in these zones.
Growing Zone 7
7 is an in-between growing zone. For the most part 7a can be lumped in with the above growing zones whereas 7b can be lumped in with the below growing zones.
Growing Zone 8
Zone 8 is pretty warm throughout the year. The ground may not freeze at all or for only a short period of time. You can definitely get away with planting dormant shade trees and many flowering trees when the ground is diggable. I would say as long as the zone recommendation is 6 and up, you can consider the tree cold hardy for these purposes. 5 is even safer. Always mulch your trees when planting in fall in winter in this zone to add extra protection.
Growing Zones 9, 10, and 11
For these subtropical regions winter is a perfect time to plant. In fact it may even be the best time to plant for many of the areas in these zones. Growing zones 9, 10, and 11 rarely reach freezing temperatures and the ground doesn’t freeze in these areas because freezing temperatures don’t tend to hang around long enough. Gardeners in these zones can even plant evergreen trees in winter.
Winter Planting Pro Tips
- Trees still need to be watered when planting in winter! Yes, even dormant deciduous trees. Water deeply once or twice per week for at least one month.
- Add a thick layer of mulch to protect your newly planted tree. This is much more important for zones 7 and 8 than it is for zones 9 and up. This is also important for fall planting in zones 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
- If your area is predicted to get unusually low temperatures shortly after you plant you a tree in winter don’t panic. Water deeply prior to severe temperatures, and you can keep the roots safely at freezing. Most trees and their roots are just fine at 32 degrees fahrenheit. It is temperatures below 20 that can cause some problems especially for newly planted trees.
Our Top Trees to Plant in Winter
These trees are chosen for cold hardiness as well as heat tolerance. Always check the recommended growing zones. Many of these trees are not recommended for 11 or even zone 10, but planting them in fall or winter will give them the very best chance to thrive in these hot regions.
Shade Trees to Plant in Winter
Flowering Trees to Plant in Winter
Cold Hardy Trees & Evergreen Plants
As you can see, depending on your location, you may or may not have options for winter planting. There are many trees that tolerate winter planting well as long as the ground isn’t frozen. If you are in a warmer growing zone, happy winter planting!
For those in colder climates, consider a house plant or a live holiday plant to brighten the dreary winter months! Fruit trees are great to start indoors. Try a naval orange tree or Meyer lemon tree indoors, and then plant it outside once it warms up. Happy planting!
You might also like: