Despite a many-decades long educational campaign by the nursery industry, it is still not common knowledge that for most plants (especially hardy ones), fall is actually a better time of year to plant than spring.
So here are 6 reasons why you should fit some time in between watching college football games and pulling out the Halloween decorations to plant your trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.
- Warm soil+cool air=happy plants. Just about every plant hardy in this area prefers moderate temperatures to summer's scorching heat. At the same time, plants like to sink their toes in warm soil. Fall is the only time of year you get those conditions-soil is still warm from the summer sun, but daily average temperatures are more comfortable for plants (and people-see #4).
- Less insect pest and disease pressure. Leaf spotters and leaf chewers are more active in spring and summer months than fall, making for less-stressed plants that root in better.
- Less water stress. Even if the fall brings only moderate rains, it's still easier to keep newly-planted plants watered when it's 70F than it is when it's 90F. (Pay special attention to the water needs of evergreens planted in fall as it's often being too dry rather than too cold that causes problems like leaf scorch or needle drop.)
- Planting is more pleasant. As much as digging a hole is ever pleasant, it's a nicer job when the temperatures are moderate and the soil is not soggy from spring rains.
- Plants have a head start for next spring. After spending the fall and winter rooting into the soil, plants are ready to get growing faster in spring, instead of having to devote energy to rooting. Flowering is often better the first spring/summer also.
- Better drought tolerance. Plants get an extra 6-8 months of root growth before they have to withstand dry conditions the following summer compared to planting in spring. Deeper, better established roots are a large factor in determining how well a plant tolerates drought.
Should everything be planted in fall? Of course not. Tender, heat-loving annuals meant for summer enjoyment can't be planted in fall, nor can tender tropicals or summer-blooming bulbs. And with proper care, almost any plant can be planted almost any time.
But especially in the case of an investment in a tree or extensive shrub or perennial plantings, it doesn't hurt to take advantage of the season to help make your plants happier and healthier.