November 1, 2014

1 - Fall tree planting is a good idea.

Yard and Garden November 1, 2014


With winter approaching it does not seem logical, but I have read that fall is a good time to plant trees. Is that true?


Fall is a good time for planting several things - spring flowering bulbs and trees are among those plants that can be planted in the autumn.

Many nurseries have container grown trees and shrubs that are often discounted in the autumn. They will have new plant material arriving in the spring and want to clear old planting stock so that they have room for the new material and to avoid the necessity of maintaining it over the winter. Plants in containers are more subject to drying and freezing damage than plants in the ground, so they are better off planted in your landscape rather than waiting through the winter at the nursery.

Another reason for fall planting, even if you cannot get discounted plants, is the fact that many trees and shrubs from temperate climates produce new root growth in the autumn. This is because the upper portion of the tree received most of the food produced by leaves during the summer when the air was warm and metabolic activity was high in the upper portion of the plants. As the air cools in the autumn, the upper portion of the plants begins to go dormant and metabolic activity decreases. However, at this time the soil is still warm and metabolism continues in the roots. Metabolism draws food from the trunk and branches to the roots allowing growth at this time of year. Another advantage in New Mexico is that there is usually less wind in the fall than in the spring. This reduces the need for staking and reduces drying of the plants.

If trees are properly planted in the fall, they should be well established by spring and able to begin new leaf production better than if they were planted in the spring. Planting directions are available in Guide H-420: Establishing Fruit and Shade Trees or in Spanish Guía H-420: Cómo sembrar árboles frutales y de sombra. After planting the trees, irrigation once or twice a month depending on precipitation and organic mulch will help assure successful establishment and growth of your new tree in the spring.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

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