Trees to Plant in the Fall

Do you eagerly await the trees budding and blooming in the spring? Are you the kind of person who walks through the yard in the fall and delights at the sound of leaves crunching under your foot? Are you looking for more sources of dry browns for your compost pile? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might be a tree hugger.

Why not plant some trees on your property? Doing so can have a positive impact on your home. From the raising of property values, providing shade that reduces heating and cooling bills, to providing a food source for you or wildlife, trees can do it all. Wondering what trees to plant in the fall? Read on!

Fall Planted Trees

Yes, you can plant trees in the fall

Most people think of spring when it comes to planting trees, but fall is a great time to plant a tree or two in your garden. One tip we gave in our frugal gardening post was to look for deals on perennials, trees and shrubs in the fall. This time of year garden centers and nurseries have reduced the prices of perennials or trees that didn’t sell during spring or summer. Prices can be as much as 75% off the price a tree sold for in the spring.

Planting trees in the fall is ideal for a couple of reasons. The ground is still warm even if the air is crisp! The warmer soil temperature means that your tree can send out new roots and settle into the garden quicker than if you planted it in the cold spring ground. In the spring and summer, your tree may be at danger of drying out and dying, but the cooler fall air and rains means your tree has a better chance of survival if planted now.


According to Purdue University, magnolia, dogwood, tuliptree, sweet gum, red maple, birch, hawthorn, poplars, cherries, plum and many of the oaks are among the plants that are best saved for spring planting. So just about any other tree is safe to plant this time of year, but don’t let a good bargain slip through your fingers.

Trees you can safely plant in the fall

The Morton Arboretum, outside of Chicago, suggests you can safely plant: alder, ash, buckeye, catalpa, crabapple, hackberry, hawthorn, honey locust, elm, Kentucky coffee tree, linden, maple, sycamore, pines and spruces in the fall.

Keep in mind that microclimates and changing weather conditions can be used in your favor. If a tree is balled-and-burlapped, or container-grown, you can overwinter it by placing it (still in the container) near the foundation of your home and covering the roots with a generous pile of mulch. So, if you come across a dogwood or red maple you can’t live without, go ahead and buy it now and overwinter it and plant it in the spring. This is a technique we used when I worked in a bonsai nursery and we had a lot of trees and shrubs left over at the end of the season.

How late you can plant trees in the fall?

As I mentioned above, microclimates in the landscape and changing weather conditions can extend how long you have to plant a tree in your landscape. But a good general rule to follow is that the soil temperatures should be above 55 F 6 inches below the soil at the time you plant your tree.

TLC for fall planted trees

Water your fall planted trees with an inch of water a week until the ground has frozen even if the deciduous trees have lost all their leaves. If the tree is a thin-barked species (or really young), wrap the bark in November to prevent cracking, sun scald and damage by animals. The wrapping should be removed in March when the tree is coming out of dormancy and beginning to grow.

Whether you want to plant a tree in the fall for its beauty, or because it will expand your garden’s harvest, or provide food for wildlife, there isn’t a wrong reason to plant a tree. Take advantage of the warm soil temperatures to plant a tree and get its roots established before winter comes. If you don’t think there’s enough time to plant your tree before the ground freezes, protect the root ball and plant it in the spring.

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