Can I Plant This Now?

Planting flowers in the garden

No matter the time of year-spring, summer, fall, or winter-we get the question “Can I plant this now?” almost daily. The answer, with a few exceptions, is “yes”.

There are, of course, good, better, and best times to plant certain plants. Planting tomatoes in February is generally agreed to be a bad idea here in North Carolina, as is planting tulip bulbs in June.

Factors such as temperature, water and the plant’s growth stage all come into play when deciding to plant. For tender plants, planting should be put off until there is little chance of frost. Fall planting, when temperatures begin to ease and rainfall increases, is ideal for many woody plants.

The season does play a role in deciding whether it’s a good idea to plant, but maybe not the way you think. In summer, it may depend on your answer to the question “are you planning any vacations?” Since no plants fare well without regular watering after planting, you may not want to plant in summer if you won’t be around to water your new planting regularly, so plant after you return from the beach. In winter, frozen soil may indicate it’s not a great time to plant, while soggy soil in spring may cause you to wait a few weeks until the muck dries out.

Borderline hardy plants like hardy bananas or windmill palms have a much better chance of surviving winter if planted in early summer, allowing them as much growing season as possible to establish a strong root system. For that reason, planting them in fall would not be advised. (Find a bargain on a borderline hardy plant at a fall sale? Try keeping it in a cool garage for the winter or treat it as a houseplant until next spring.)

Rather than the time of year, the biggest causes of plant failure are choosing the wrong plant for a particular spot and lack of/too much water in the first weeks after planting. Choose the right plant for your conditions and give it a little TLC and it won’t matter too much when you actually plant it.