Can I Plant in Fall?

Can I Plant in Fall?
Fall planting is a good choice for many plants

Fall planting is a good choice for many plants

If you’ve been a subscriber to our Newsletter for a while, you know we like to remind everyone that Fall is for Planting about this time every year. Despite our annual reminders, one of the most common questions we still get in fall is “Is it OK to plant now?” Because there are significant benefits to fall planting that we want everyone to be aware of, we’re going to look at why the answer is YES! Fall is great for planting!

In truth, most hardy plants can be planted almost any time of year and will survive as long as they are cared for properly, and by "cared for" we mostly mean "watered". Water is critical. Regardless of when you plant, you must provide adequate water to newly installed trees, shrubs and perennials. The dropping temperatures and (usually) increased rainfall of early fall makes this a much easier task in September and October than in June and July! Plus, as deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves, they’ll need less water. You’ll find it’s not as difficult to keep the soil at the correct moisture level. 

Another advantage of fall planting over spring planting is that the soil is still quite warm from being baked by the sun’s rays all summer. Compare this to the still-chilly soil in April and May. Roots love warm soil and will continue to grow even after leaves have gone dormant and dropped. If winter temperatures are mild, they may continue to grow through much of the winter. What’s the advantage?  In spring, an established root system can support healthy leaf and branch growth and will tolerate the summer’s heat and dry spells with less stress.

If your fescue lawn needs reseeding for bare or sparse areas, fall is the ideal time to do this. Not allowing the newly germinated seeds to dry out is critical to establishing nice new grass. The cooler temperatures (fescues don’t thrive in hot weather) make it easier to keep the grass seeds evenly moist during the first few weeks after germination.

Want lush, colorful beds of pansies or violas this winter and next spring? Get your pansies planted in September or October rather than waiting for frost to kill back your summer flowers first. Yes, it’s tough to pull up beautifully flowering summer annuals, but the difference in quality and bloom-power of pansies and violas planted in early fall vs. late fall or early winter is tremendous, plus they’ll survive better if the winter turns out to be particularly harsh. You’ll also have a much wider choice of colors if you shop early.

Let’s not forget the practical aspect of planting in fall—the lower temperatures and reduced humidity is a lot more pleasant for you, the gardener!

All of these reasons make fall a fantastic time to plant, particularly when you’re dealing with high value landscape additions like trees, mass shrub plantings, or lawn improvements. So even though it’s not spring, plant away in fall!