Issue: October 4, 1999

Fall tree planting


When in the Fall would be a good time to plant or replant Plum and Cherry trees? I notice that they are beginning to sell them in the stores. Also, how big do they have to be to survive the winter?


Now is a good time to be planting trees. So, from now until the ground freezes is a good time to plant the trees. The trees are now going dormant, so don't expect or try to encourage growth. The trees you buy should be sold in containers, and it may be necessary to "score" or cut any circling roots at the edge of the root ball. Don't worry about injuring the tree as you do that. Failure to cut circling roots will be more damaging in the long run. Autumn is the time when much tree root growth occurs, so it is actually an excellent time for planting, and new roots will rapidly be formed to replace any which are cut.

If by "replant" you are referring to transplanting trees which have come up in the wrong places, now is also a good time to transplant them. As you dig them up, you will lose a large percentage of the root system, and now is a good time to transplant them as it is a good time for new root growth. As the air temperatures cool, the soil continues to be warm for a while so much of the activity of the tree moves underground and new roots are produced. The larger the tree transplanted, the greater the percentage of roots which are lost. Smaller trees which lose a smaller percentages of their roots are easier to transplant.

As far as size of trees from the nursery, the same rule of thumb applies - smaller trees reestablish in the landscape more easily. However, it is easier to establish large container grown trees than large trees transplanted from another place in the landscape. Another factor to consider is that a tree has a better chance of survival in the ground (if you provide water if the winter is dry) than it does if it remains in a container through the winter. The soil in a container dries more rapidly, and the roots in a container are subject to greater fluctuations in temperature than the roots of trees in the ground.

Be sure to water the tree once every three or four weeks through the winter unless we have sufficient moisture to keep the soil moist to at least the entire depth of the root ball.

When to prune ficus tree


I have a large weeping fig tree (8-9 feet tall). I need to prune it to bring it back in doors. When is the best time to prune and how much?


The weeping fig is a tropical tree and can be pruned at almost any time. It does have brief "rest" periods when there is little growth. The very best time to prune would be at the end of a rest period as the new growth begins. However, if pruning is necessary before bringing it indoors, do it now so that the tree will be indoors before freezing temperatures.

When to prune cherry tree


What season do you prune Cherry Trees?


Cherry trees are best pruned during the dormant season; that is, from the time the leaves fall until the buds begin to swell and "show color" in the spring. This is true for most other deciduous trees. For some flowering trees and shrubs, pruning at this time will reduce the production of blossoms, but this is the least damaging time to prune. As long as all the twigs aren't pruned from the tree, there will be flowers.

Note: Now is the time to begin "long-night" treatments for poinsettias, Christmas cactus, kalanch'es, and other plants for holiday display indoors. Information regarding these long-night treatments may be found in the "Yard and Garden" archives of the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences , Cooperative Extension Service World Wide Web site at