Fall Planting Tips

When it comes to autumn, follow these tips for trees, shrubs, perennials and berries.
By: Marie Hofer
Beautiful Leaves

Beautiful Leaves

Maple leaves turning red and yellow

Fall is a great time to plant perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs. Container plants and balled-and-burlapped specimens usually have well-developed root systems. Because roots don't have to supply nutrients and water to growing stems and new leaves, they can concentrate on getting established. Roots grow — although slowly — even when soil temperature is as low as 40 degrees. 

Before you plant, make sure to allow enough time for the roots to get settled in and acclimated before cold weather sets in. If it's well into fall where you live, plant the species that are most easily established - deciduous shrubs and maple, hackberry, ash, thornless honey locust, linden, crabapple, sycamore, hawthorn and horse chestnut trees. Wait until spring to plant the trees that are slow to establish — oak, birch, willow, ginkgo, sweetgum, American yellowwood and American hornbeam. Mulch well to conserve soil temperature (but don't pile mulch around the trunk). In cooler, dry climates, wait until spring to plant broad-leaved evergreens and conifers, to avoid excessive water loss through the foliage and to give them the warmer soil temperatures they need. If you're not sure whether it's safe to plant, check with a local nursery or extension service. 

More Planting Tips 

Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and other such berries perform best in rich, loose, well-drained soil. Depending on the type of soil you have and whether you need to adjust the pH (blueberries need an acidic soil of pH 4.5 to 5.0), you may want to spend fall preparing the soil and wait until spring to plant. 

Plant fruit trees in full sun and away from large shade trees that might take away water and nutrients. You're lucky if you have a north-facing slope. That's the best place to plant fruit trees. The trees will less likely be tricked into flowering too soon by an early spring and more apt to escape a late frost because cold air will fall into lower-lying areas. If you don't have a slope, placing the trees on the north side of a house or barn can help with the too-early bud break problem. 

Over the years the advice has changed about how best to plant trees. The current wisdom is to dig a hole no deeper than the depth of the root ball or container but three or four times as wide. In fact, it's even better to dig the hole a couple of inches shallower than the depth of the root ball. Digging a hole that's deeper than the root ball and then filling it partially with backfill before placing the tree invites settling. With a few waterings and a little time, the tree could sink below ground level and this could kill the tree.

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