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Embrace the changing seasons with fall gardening. Whether you may or may not know, planting shrubs and perennials in the fall is a wonderful time to establish more beautiful plants into your garden and landscape. The weather conditions of the season are perfect for establishing a healthy root system for a quick and easy transition into your garden beds. With reliable rainfall, short, bright days, and cool temperatures, your plants will get off to a good start and be ready to blossom for the garden season ahead.
Fall planting is best done by understanding when the ground will potentially freeze in your area. You will want to plant no less than six weeks prior to this occurring. This gives the roots ample time to get settled into their new home before the winter season is well underway. If you are unsure when the ground will officially freeze in your area, a good guess is around mid-November. This means that any time between the beginning of September through mid-October is a suitable time to get your fall planting done.
In any case, if you find yourself a little late in getting your shrubs out of their pots, plant them in the ground any ways. They will do much better enduring a winter season with potentially less-established roots in the ground than in their original planting container.
Any varieties hardy in your zone are good to plant in the fall, with a few exceptions. First, we do not recommend planting evergreens in mid-late fall. This is because they are more prone to drying out during the winter when the ground is frozen, and the wind is blowing. Their evergreen foliage demands the plant focuses on what is happening above ground rather than establishing a hardy root system below ground. Therefore, they need several months (and not weeks) to grow roots and survive a cold and dry winter.
Also, if you notice a perennial or shrub that endures considerable winter damage in your climate, it is best to plant this variety in the spring. Again, you want to make sure this plant is better established to endure such damage.
Lastly, refrain from establishing any plants whose hardiness falls just outside of your zone. Hardiness zones are guidelines and not definitive. Thus, we love it when home gardeners stretch the boundaries of whether a plant can survive in their zone, but these are best to start in the spring. That way it has a whole season to grow roots and better face the winter ahead.
Once you get your shrubs and perennials into the ground, be sure to keep an eye on how much water they receive. While the fall season brings a good amount of rain, you will want to make sure your newly established plants are well-watered immediately after planting. Be sure to water daily or every other day for the first week after planting (this is a good rule of thumb for planting at any time in the garden season). Continue to watch their water intake until the ground has officially frozen. Remember, you want to make sure their roots are healthy and ready for this transition, so making sure they are getting the nutrients they need is crucial at this time.
To ensure optimal care through a cold winter, mulch the area surrounding the base of your plant for added protection and warmth. Mulch acts as insulation for plants and creates an even better environment for root growth.
Once you have made sure your plant is well taken care of, sit back and await the season ahead. You will not see much growth on the shrub itself during its first fall because it is so busy growing and establishing its roots. Take solace in knowing that below the ground’s surface your plant is setting itself up for success and will be ready to perform well in the new year.