As summer wanes and the days begin shorten, our thoughts tend to turn away from the garden. But, did you know that fall can be the best time to add new plants to your landscape?
The relatively mild temperatures of fall are rather gentle on new plants and gives them a head start by the time spring arrives.
In my work as a horticulturist, I have designed, planted and overseen the installation of thousands of plants. With the approach of fall, my calendar rapidly fills up with planting dates because people want to take advantage of the window of opportunity before winter and its cold temperatures arrive.
It may surprise you to find out that fall is a popular planting season and there are several reasons why you may want to delay putting away your shovel and look at adding some new plants to your garden.
Let’s look at why fall planting is best.
Fall planting allows plants time to grow roots. In colder climates, plants added in early fall, give them time to start growing roots before the cold of winter arrives. In the warmer regions of the Southeast, Southwest and Western United States, fall planting gives plants a longer length time for plants to grow roots – fall, winter and spring – before the hot temperatures of summer arrive.
Why is it important for plants to have a long length of time to grow their roots? A good root system is important because without it, plants can’t produce much top growth (branches, leaves and stems) without them. When plants are newly planted, you don’t see much growth occurring above ground. That is because a plant initially focuses their energies on growing roots – they need more roots before they can support more top growth above ground.
More roots = more top growth, the ability to better withstand temperature extremes and take up water.
Planting in fall helps reduce the effects of ‘transplant shock’. Garden basics teach us that whenever a new plant is taken out of the nursery, removed from its pot and added into a new hole and location – they go through what is called, ‘transplant shock’. Most of the stress of transplant shock is due to the plant being moved from one environment into another.
By adding new plants during the mild temperatures in fall when extreme heat or cold is absent – it helps to remove some of the temperature stresses that can make transplant shock more severe.
Adding new plants in fall gives them time to become established and ready for spring. Most of the activity with new plants occurs underneath in the ground. This can give them a head start on spring since they will already have had time to grow roots, so they will grow faster and bloom more than those planted in spring.
*It’s important to note that for those who live and garden in cooler, more northern climates – fall planting should be done in late summer and/or finished by the end of September before cold temperatures arrive. Cold-hardy plants handle fall planting best. If you have questions about which plants can handle fall planting, ask your nursery professional or contact your local cooperative extension office.
What will you plant this fall?