The cool temperatures of fall make it a great time to be outside working in the garden. Beyond typical cleanup activities, fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Fall season planting is less stressful on plants than spring planting because there’s less heat, as well as fewer insects and weeds.
Another great reason to plant in the fall is that in the fall, the plant can put all of its energy into growing roots, rather than growing the top and trying to flower and produce seed. While air temperatures cool off quickly in the fall, the soil stays warm longer. Your plants will continue growing roots right up until the ground freezes, giving them an excellent head start for next spring. Fall-planted perennials often look like they’ve been growing for a full year during their first spring.
Perennials to Plant Now
Fall-blooming perennials include asters, Joe-Pye weeds, sedum, caryopteris, heleniums, goldenrods, and more. But, you can plant any perennials you want in the fall, to give them a leg up on the next growing season.
For year-round interest, plant shrubs and trees with colorful evergreen foliage, winter fruit, or interesting bark.
Camellias are a great choice for fall season planting. They add fall and winter interest to your garden with their cool-season flowers and glossy, evergreen foliage. When selecting a camellia variety, consider its bloom time. Different varieties bloom at different times from early fall, to mid-winter, to early spring. Other beautiful evergreens include holly, rhododendron, spruce, yew, cypress, and boxwood.
Many deciduous trees are also suitable for fall season planting. Get started on your home orchard by planting apple, pear, or cherry trees. Add some shade to your landscape by planting a maple, linden, sycamore, or elm. Plan on spring blooms by adding a crabapple, dogwood, or redbud tree. Some flowering shrubs like forsythias, hydrangeas, and butterfly bushes can also be planted during the fall to provide wonderful blooms next summer.
Fall is also the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, ornamental alliums, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, and snowdrops. It is important to plant these bulbs before the ground freezes to see beautiful results in spring.
How Late is Too Late to Plant?
You should aim to have your plants in the ground at least two or three weeks before the average first freeze. Here in Maryland, this means you want to plant by early November.
Fall Plant Care
It may not be as hot and sunny, but you will still need to water your fall-planted perennials. Try to water a couple of times each week, until the ground freezes, to ensure new plants get off to a good start before winter sets in. It’s also a good idea to put a heavy layer of mulch around new plantings — just keep the mulch at least two inches away from plant stems. This will keep the soil warm and moist longer.
You should also avoid fertilizing when you plant in the fall. The nutrients from fertilizer can cause a plant to put energy into growing its top rather than its roots. This won’t help the plant in winter dormancy, as any new top growth will be killed by the first freeze.
Make the most of this season with fall season planting! Plant a few perennials and bulbs now to add interest to your landscape in every season and get a jump on spring.