Fall Planting: The Best Way to a Healthy Root System

Though you may be dubious of the benefits of planting in the fall, professionals recommend it for a reason. Fall planting has many advantages that make it worth your while.

What is fall, and why should I plant?

Fall occurs when the temperatures begin to drop and the length of the day shortens. In the St. Louis region, September is usually considered early fall, while October through November is considered mid to late fall.

In the early fall, we often see regular rainfalls returning. With the daytime temperatures beginning to cool, less water is often needed compared to summer plantings. This moisture, combined with warm soil temperatures, creates the ideal situation for establishing root growth before the first winter freeze.

When is the best time to plant in the fall?

The best time to plant in St. Louis is from September through mid to late October. This is when temperatures drop steadily, and the soil temperature is cooling but still warm.

Pros & Cons of planting in the fall:

Pros of planting in the fall:

  • Soils are warmer, and we often have more consistent rain. This combination is excellent for establishing root growth.
  • Fall root growth will allow the plant to become better established, allowing it to withstand the following season’s harsh conditions better.
  • Establishing perennials in the fall will create more uniform plants with a greater blooming capacity the following season.

Cons of planting in the fall:

  • Plants will begin to go dormant in the fall, so they may not look their best when you plant them.
  • As the season progresses, smaller container plants can heave during the first freeze if they’re not yet rooted.
  • Not every plant can be safely planted later in the fall in the St. Louis area.

What should you NOT plant in the fall?

In St. Louis, it’s safe to plant most plants until the beginning or middle of October. After that, you should avoid planting semi-hardy plants that might not make it through the winter. This includes plants like Crape Myrtle, Laurels, and Pieris japonica.

Some trees are better off being planted in the spring rather than the fall since they don’t produce enough significant root growth during the shorter planting season. These include Beech, Birch, Dogwood, Magnolia, Oak, Redbud, Tulip poplar, and Willow.

Fall is great for planting, but these trees are best planted in the spring.

Do plants need water in the fall?

Yes! You don’t have to water as often because there is more rain and less heat to allow for evaporation. But, you do need to water during fall and even winter. The roots are actively growing even when the top goes dormant. Making it necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy throughout the fall and until the ground freezes.

Establishing a solid root system in fall will allow your plants to be strong and healthy the following season. Planting now will help them get the best start possible.

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