Autumn is a special season as temperatures cool and a kaleidoscope of colors fills the landscape. Avid gardeners are cleaning out their gardens in anticipation of the change of season from fall to winter. So why is fall the “Best Time to Plant?” A valid question indeed!

What plants benefit from a fall installation?

For trees and shrubs, planting in the fall is ideal. It is the perfect time to establish a “green screen” for privacy between neighbors using emerald green or green giant arborvitae, Leyland cypress or skip laurels. Looking forward to the spring, a tree-lined street or yard filled with beautiful redbuds, flowering dogwoods or cherry trees will greet you with blooms in 2021 if installed this fall.

What are the benefits of fall planting?

As temperatures cool and rain showers increase, Mother Nature is preparing us for a transition from fall to winter. Installing trees and shrubs during this transition allows the roots to get established in warmer temperatures before the freeze sets in. There is less care needed in comparison to the spring and hot summer months, when regular watering several times a week is required. Cooler nights and mornings help plants retain moisture and settle in.

What are the secrets to success when planting in the fall?

A well-laid foundation is the key to success for any project. When installing trees and shrubs, it is important to research the needs of your chosen plant to help it get off to a good start. In general, a hole has to be dug to the specifications needed by the plant, and its roots should be loosened prior to placing it in the ground. It often helps to amend the native soil with products that will enhance the fertility, drainage and moisture retention of your plant’s new home. One ingredient our team uses is a root stimulator that helps drives success when added to the amended soil mixture. Most importantly, you should water the plant with an open hose. Then, top dress around it with mulch, being careful to avoid the trunk/stem of the plant. Once it is installed, fall and winter rains will set in and allow your new tree or shrub to become well established by spring. Spring rains will be the “wake up call” that ushers in a season of glorious growth.

How can I protect my plants through the winter?

Slow growth patterns take over in fall, and fall plantings begin to go into dormancy as winter sets in. Watering plants as needed ensures well-insulated roots that will help maintain the wellbeing of the plant. In recent years, we have had warmer winters. During warm winter days and before a severe freeze, be sure to soak the root ball with an open hose to insulate the roots with water, providing moisture for the entire plant. There is no need for sprinklers or other watering devices, just an open hose is needed for a root drench at the mulch line.

Gardening in Western North Carolina is a four-season affair, and fall is the perfect time to incorporate new trees and shrubs for a rainbow of color year-round. Since many garden retailers will be getting in fresh shipments from the West Coast, the month of September is a great time to source unique conifers and spring-blooming trees that will beautify your landscape for years to come.

About the Author

Therese Figura is Director of Business Development for B.B.BARNS, Asheville’s premier garden center and landscaping services company and a proud community partner of The North Carolina Arboretum. In her free time, she enjoys socializing and finding balance through meditation and yoga. Her favorite plants include evergreen beauties like English boxwoods and unique conifers.