Many people think that fall is the end of the growing season, and in many parts of the country, it is quite the contrary. Depending on your planting zone, fall can be an ideal season for planting trees, shrubs, and other ornamentals. The key is encouraging good root growth. Planting trees and shrubs in fall enables the root systems to grow before the hot summer returns.
There are several benefits to fall planting. Trees planted in the fall are better equipped to deal with summer heat and drought. Another great reason to plant your shrubs in the fall is because you can pick your trees and shrubs by the fall color they produce! Smaller plants will be established before winter sets in, and get a head start over shrubs in the spring. Larger plants will also get a head start in becoming established during the winter and early spring months.
Fall officially begins with the autumnal equinox in late September. The ideal time to begin planting trees and shrubs is six weeks before the first sign of hard frost. September through November is the ideal time for tree planting because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes and winter sets in – and in the south, the planting season can extend for several months beyond November.
Cooler, wetter weather is the perfect time for tree planting. Your tree will require the same care no matter what time of year you plant. Always mulch a two to three-inch ring of mulch around the base of your tree—but don’t pile it against the trunk. Water your tree right after planting, even if it is cold outside. With an increase in rainfall and cooler temperatures in the fall, less watering is required, but pay attention to rainfall levels and water as needed. As tree shoot growth halts, the trees require less water because the days are cooler and shorter and the rate of photosynthesis decreases. Stable air temperatures also promote rapid root development. Soils stay warm well after the air temperature cools, also encouraging root growth. During shoot dormancy, trees grow to establish roots in new locations before warm weather stimulates top growth.
Your local county cooperative extension service can provide you with recommended trees to suit your planting zone, sun, shade, and soil requirements.