In winter, most gardeners put up their feet and dream of the coming year. Experienced gardeners do more than dream. They plan ahead so that when the glorious seasons of spring and summer arrive, they have prepared the garden to give the best it can. Every year people rush to buy their trees and shrubs when the first warm days arrive, but to get the best results, planting during the colder weather makes a lot of sense, and always pays off.
Planting Trees in Fall and Winter
Fall is an ideal time everywhere for planting trees and shrubs, but if you live in a milder area, where the ground does not freeze solid, or at least perhaps not until January or February, then that fall planting can be spread right through the winter. If you can dig a hole, you can plant a tree. This is also the time when bargains abound and sales can bring you big savings, so it makes a lot of sense to think now about the trees you want to have blooming in your garden next year.
Even if you can’t plant right now, trees in pots will sit comfortably outdoors through winter. Just place the pot in contact with the earth and pile some leaves or mulch around it. You don’t need to protect the branches at all. That way your trees will be ready to plant the first day the ground has thawed, and they will get off to a flying start.
Why Fall and Winter are the Best Planting Seasons
Tree roots grow best during cool and cold weather. While the top of your trees take a rest, perhaps dropping their leaves, root systems thrive in cooler soil, spreading out in preparation for the coming warm weather. Trees that have become established in this way get off to a flying start, put on more growth, and are more drought resistant than plants put in the ground in spring. In contrast, trees planted in spring focus on stems and branches, and they can quickly outpace the ability of their roots to supply water and nutrients. Then they will grow more slowly, needing a lot of attention to keep them going.
When you buy new trees and shrubs, the plants were probably moved into their pots from smaller ones a few months before. While they are being cared for, they continue to grow. So, plants you buy in fall will have increased in size at the nursery, and you actually get a bigger plant, with a larger root system, often at a bargain price. This truly is a win-win for you and your garden.
Some Great Choices for Flowers Next Year
So what are some trees to look out for, that will benefit from planting now and give you great results next summer? Top choice should go to the Crape Myrtle Trees. These spectacular summer-flowering shrubs deserve a place in every garden, because they carry such a punch of flower color on a tough, easy to care for plant that thrives in the hottest and sunniest places in your garden. By planting in fall and winter they get a chance to establish their roots, making them even more drought-proof during their first year, and making them capable of more growth and more flowers in their very first season. Don’t be put off by the bare twigs – they carry the promise of a great summer. Just shorten them back a little after planting, so that strong shoots appear in spring. Those branches will soon be laden with giant clusters of pink, red, purple, white or lilac flowers that keep coming all summer and fall, right up to the first frost.
Magnolia Trees are always wonderful in the garden, with their spectacular flowers. Wherever you live, cold or hot, the deciduous kind that flower in spring, like the Betty Hybrid Magnolia, will be smothered in upright, pink flowers on their bare stems, even before the leaves begin to show. If you live in warmer areas, then the evergreen Little Gem Southern Magnolia must be the top pick, because it blooms while still very young, with wide open, richly scented flowers all summer long.
If you live in a hot, dry area, flowering trees can be hard to grow well, but one that is both spectacular and that thrives in heat is the Western Redbud. This relative of the European Judas tree, and of the Eastern Redbud, sends out purple-red flowers in cluster right from the trunk and stems, long before the leaves appear. A bush in flower is a great sight to see, and this is a tree that deserves to be grown and seen more often. If you live in a hot and dry state you owe it to yourself to plant one this winter, so that you can enjoy its beauty in the coming spring and for many years afterwards.
All in all, fall and winter planting makes a lot of sense, so take advantage of the bargains around and get set for a great spring and summer with plants that have had a flying start on establishing themselves in your garden.