When we plant shrubs and trees in the spring, we do so because the roots should have plenty of time to settle in and there’s no danger of freezing temperatures killing the roots, which in turn would kill the young shrub or tree. But as spring advances, new leaves emerge, which require food and water to survive. So the stress begins for the roots of these fresh plantings, and elevates further as the weather heats up. If root system development hasn’t kept pace with the growth above the ground, the tree or shrub will struggle, and may even weaken or die. Since roots usually develop more energetically in cooler soil, it makes sense in our region to take advantage of our long fall season to add new plantings in our gardens and landscapes.
This time of year, new plantings can concentrate on developing healthy, vigorous roots without having to worry about feeding new growth in the form of branches, flowers, leaves, or fruit. This settling in period gives trees and shrubs a great advantage come next spring when those foliage buds start bursting open.
In our region, we’re lucky enough to be able to plant later than in more northerly areas of the country. Just make sure the ground isn’t frozen when you plant, and provide sufficient insulation, in the form of wood chips, to keep the roots below from freezing. If the roots freeze, they won’t survive, and neither will the tree or shrub.
Some trees, such as some conifers and those with fibrous roots resembling frizzy hair, prefer warm soil and even warmer air during their settling in period, and should be planted earlier in the fall. Other trees just take longer to settle in, and are best planted in the spring. Some examples are magnolias, sweetgum, poplar, and ginko. Broadleaf evergreens, such a rhododendrons also do better with spring planting. In general, it’s best to plant shallow rooted trees and shrubs in the spring.
Most deciduous shrubs, and trees such as maples, crabapples, pines, and spruces are candidates for fall plantings.
Here at the nursery, we have a variety of trees and shrubs available. There’s still a little time left to plant some of the shallow rooted trees, such as Dogwood “Venus” a vigorous, disease resistant hybrid cultivar from Rutgers University featuring extremely large white flowers. We also have Japanese Maples “Ryusen”, “Shishigasira”, and “Coral Bark”. If you’re looking to add some shrubberies to your garden or yard, we have Loropetalum “Ruby White”, Osmanthus, Snowball Viburnum, Distylium “Vintage Jade” and “Linebacker”, Itea “Little Henry”, Nandina “Twilight”, Abelia “Kaleidoscope”, Gardenia “Frostproof”, Pieris “Mountain Snow”, and Fig “Little Miss Figgy”.
Make the most of these beautifully cool and clear fall days, and plant some beauty in your world!
Header Image: Snowball Viburnum has been grown in gardens for over 500 years, and is among the latest of the spring blooming shrubs. The large flower heads are fragrant, and in the south, Snowball Viburnum is almost evergreen and can attain heights of 20 feet. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)