Fall is a good time to plant. The pleasant weather tempts one to be outside. Moisture conditions are usually good.
If spring planting is delayed by cold, wet weather, many valuable weeks of growing weather are given the plants if they have been planted in the fall.
Give Perennial Plants Time To Get Established
Fall planting allows perennial plants time to get well established and be ready to start actively growing when spring arrives.
More on perennials –> Check out our article on 45+ Easy Perennials
Shrubs and trees are not sent out by nurseries until a killing frost has caused the leaves to drop. The part above ground is then dormant but as soon as planted, the roots go right on growing.
This they cannot do in nursery winter storage. The temperature of the soil in the fall is warmer than the air above ground which favors root growth at a time when no strength is used for top growth.
What Plants Can Be Safely Planted In The Fall?
Not only can the early spring blooming bulbs be planted safely, but they must also be planted at this time.
- Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxas)
- Grape hyacinths (if you have only the blue, try some white ones this year)
- Tulips (so many kinds and colors from which to choose from)
- Daffodils – read Storing Daffodil Bulbs
- Cluster-flowered narcissus
- Large-flowered hyacinths
Not as frequently seen but requiring fall planting are the charming wood hyacinths (Scilia plants in blue, pink, or white), snowflakes (leucojum) and puschkinia.
The latter has small nodding blossoms in loose clusters, white striped with blue.
Snowdrops (Galanthus) may be the first flowers of the season appearing before the last snows have come but a sure sign that spring is on the way.
The winter aconite (eranthis) is another harbinger of spring. It blooms almost as early as the snowdrops.
They grow from small, irregular tubers which should be planted as soon as possible. The bright yellow buttercup-like flowers are directly above the shiny finely-cut foliage.
Planting Bulbs A General Rule
Planting instructions almost always come with the bulbs. If not, or if they are misplaced don’t worry!
The general rule is to plant bulbs to a depth equal to three times their diameter measuring from the top of bulb to the base.
A two-inch bulb would have the base six inches below the soil surface and the bulb covered with four inches of good garden soil.
Tulips and daffodils are often planted deeper as they appear to split up less than with shallow planting.
Rodents are less likely to disturb the deeper planted bulbs.
What Other Things Can Be Safely Planted In The Fall?
Check out nursery catalogs and online listings. They are as tempting and exciting as the spring ones and a splendid guide as to what can or should be planted at this time.
An order including seeds, spring-blooming bulbs, lily bulbs, perennial plants, trees and shrubs, will arrive in several packages.
The seeds and spring-blooming bulbs will be sent as soon as they arrive from the growers.
Lily bulbs are sent when dormant. For most of them, this will be after frost blackens the leaves.
Coral lily (Lilium tenuifolium), concolor lily in red and in the rarer yellow, auratum and speciosum lilies and their hybrids, and regal lilies are all lovely and useful in the border.
Culture for the June-blooming Madonna lily is slightly different.
Madonna lily goes dormant during the summer and should be planted in late August or early September in order for it to have time to make its fall leaf growth which remains green throughout the winter.
The other lilies do not make leaf growth until spring. The Madonna lily requires shallower planting. Put no more than two inches of soil over the top of its bulb.
No Perfect Perennial Planting Season
There is no one planting season that is equally good for all perennials. We are advised usually to plant early flowering kinds in the fall.
The exceptions are those which are questionably hardy in the region – those are best planted in the spring as are the late bloomers such as hardy asters and mums.
Oriental poppies go dormant after blooming. Then later on in the summer they make new green growth. The fleshy roots should be planted while in this dormant state, and early enough to make a good crown of leaves – usually by September 15th.
Fall catalogs list:
- Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
- Vinca minor
- Hardy ferns
- Hardy candytuft (Iberis)
- Platycodon flower
- The August-blooming hardy amaryllis (Lycoris squamigera)
- … and other perennials
Eremurus, the foxtail-lily is an interesting and different perennial to be planted now.
Allium giganteum, a relative of the onion, has immense purple heads of bloom in June on sturdy three- to five-foot stems.
Note the trees listed in the fall catalogs such as fruit trees including dwarf forms. Plant them carefully putting each in a “$10 dollar hole.”
Among the shrubs entitled to the same careful planting are:
If roses are listed for your region, follow to the last detail the fall planting instructions that come with them. The hybrid lilacs with larger flowers, newer colors and appealing fragrance are favorites in any garden.
When lilacs are planted in the fall there is no set-back of leaf buds which commence swelling on the first warm spring days. Plant lilacs in a well-drained, sunny location.
Following Nature’s Calendar
We follow, somewhat, nature’s calendar when we plant seeds in late summer and early fall.
She plants her seeds as soon as they ripen and fall from the seed pods. The rains and winds help to cover them.
If plants with ripened seeds are not in the garden for nature to work with, then we must order seeds and do the planting.
What Seeds Do You Plant In The Fall?
One nursery suggests planting these seeds in the fall:
- Coral bells (Heuchera)
- English daisy (Bellis)
- Gloriosa daisy
- Oriental poppy
- Painted daisy
- Polyanthus primrose
- Russell lupines
- Scabiosa (pincushion flower)
- Sweet William (Dianthus)
- Blue-eyed mary (Collinsia verna)
- English wallflower (Cheiranthus al-lioni) should be planted in late August or early September. They bloom in the spring.