by Ray Allen
We hear it every year, but do you know why the experts always insist fall is a better time than spring to put in shrubs and perennials? It's actually very simple, and well explained by Dr. Douglas Welch, a well-known Professor and Extension Horticulturist.
In his article, "Fall is Ideal for Planting Trees and Shrubs," he makes it all clear: When a plant is put into the ground in fall, it may be facing the cold above ground, but over most of the country, root growth below ground goes right on until the deep soil temperature drops below 40 degrees. (In about half the country, it never falls that low, and even in the coldest areas, the roots have several months to grow before the temperature underground drops to that point.)
So the comparison is simple. If you plant a shrub in spring, it must acclimate itself to its new home and begin growing immediately. At the same time, it has to produce leaves, flowers, and then endure the rapidly arriving summer heat. Plant the same shrub in fall, and here's what happens. It becomes happily dormant above ground soon after planting, but the roots have several months to grow and become comfortable and strong in their new home. Then when spring does arrive, the plant's established and ready to put out strong leaves, new top growth, and lots of flowers. So the difference is obvious: Fall planting gives your plant's roots a wonderful "head start" over spring planting.
Now you know why you hear it every fall. And it's true. Fall (from September up until Christmas) is the best time to plant shrubs and perennials, so start planning now. It's really easy to put in some plants each fall along with the tulips and daffodils! It'll mean better plants and less work next spring.
PHOTOS: Top photo is the stunning blue "mophead" Hydrangea "All Summer Beauty", and just below is one of the most popular Weigelas, "Fine Wine." Both are examples of shrubs that will benefit from fall planting.