“Fall is for Planting”

September 13, 2006

“Fall is for Planting”

Since the mid 1980’s, nurserymen throughout the state of Texas have adopted the slogan, “Fall is for Planting.” Prior to that time the general public, with help from media, only associated planting and landscaping with springtime. Texas nurserymen cooperatively joined together to change this stereotype thinking to convince the public that fall is a great time to landscape and garden. This gospel-like message is especially timely in warmer areas of the state where the fall season is actually a better time than spring for planting and root establishment.

Why is fall actually a better time to plant than the spring season?
Fall planting follows the extreme heat of summer and precedes a cooler winter season. It is a time of rejuvenation. Shrubs, trees and most landscape plants planted in the fall use this timing to their advantage. Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is about 40 degrees F or slightly higher, and this occurs nearly all winter long in most of the state.

Therefore during the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens thrive and become well-established. When the spring arrives, this well-developed root system makes it possible for the plant to take advantage of the full surge of spring growth. Much of the possible “transplanting shock” associated with spring-planted shrubs and trees can also be minimized by fall planting.

So, if you’ve been considering adding a new tree, or a grouping of shrubs to the landscape, or if there is an area in your landscape that needs “restoration” from the drought, the fall months are not only an excellent time, but the best time to do so. I always say, “If I was a newly planted shrub in San Antonio, I would rather go against a typical mild winter, instead of a harsh, devilish, drought-ridden summer.”

Unfortunately, spring is still the season you’ll find the greatest selection of shrubs and trees. But most Texas nurseries and garden centers are beginning to recognize the value of fall planting and making special efforts to provide their customers with the best selection possible throughout the fall and early winter season.

When selecting those special plants for your landscape, always look for healthy, well-grown plants. Always buy from a reputable nursery with an experienced staff of Texas Certified Nursery Professionals. These nurseries are in the business of selling service year-round, and in turn, they depend on loyal customers to return. Only by selling quality plants can such a nursery operation be assured of their customers continued confidence in their business.

Plants, like all goods and services, come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, colors and most importantly, qualities. It is just as important to evaluate plants individually before purchasing as it is to carefully inspect a new shirt or a television set. Shopping for plants by telephone or looking for the least expensive price can be a foolish decision. That old saying, “You get what you pay for,” is more often true than false, and certainly can apply to the purchase of new landscape plant materials. Many times you will find that not all nurseries and garden centers are created equal.

Currently, due to lack of uniform standards in the nursery industry, all plants have vast differences in plant size, as well as appearance and quality. Remember, not all sales are bargains. Please, do shop around. Compare prices before you make that final decision. Paying a little bit extra may make a big difference.
Shrubs and trees are available in the fall typically as container-grown stock. Container-grown plants are usually available in various sizes. One, two, three and five “gallon” sizes are the most common. An old wise man was once asked, “What size plant should I buy?” He responded, “What size hole have you dug?”

Check It Out!
When you buy a new puppy or even a new car, don’t you examine them before you buy them? Of course you do! It is no different with purchasing a plant. When shopping for landscape plants, make sure the root system is well established, but not root-bound or growing out of the container. The roots should be firmly incorporated throughout the soil, but not protruding outside or penetrating into the ground.

In selecting plants, keep in mind all plants have growing requirements; some have very specific cultural requirements. Answer these four questions about the plants before selecting them:

1) Does the plant prefer an acid soil?
2) Is it winter hardy to this area?
3) Will it grow in sun, or must it have shade?
4) Does it need a wet or dry location?

The best nurseries have this type of information posted besides the plants. If not, ask the “Certified Nurseryman” for assistance before you buy. A complete listing with information of plant material for this area can be found at our Texas Cooperative Extension website: http://agrilife.org/bexarcounty/programs/horticulture-gardening/best-plants-for-bexar-county-south-texas/.

Plan ahead before you make that final plant purchase and again before you dig that hole. Every plant should supply an important need and serve a specific purpose in your landscape. Before planting ask these three questions:

1) Do I want this plant for screening, for privacy, or for shade?
2) How large will it be three or five years from now?
3) Will this plant look good in this location, or will five years turn it into an uncontrollable mess?

Plants are just like you and me (probably more like you–they grow up!). Be sure to plan ahead and provide all your new plants with the essential space that they require.

Remember, Learn and Have Fun, and “Fall is for Planting”

For more information, please contact:

David Rodriguez
Texas Cooperative Extension
The Texas A&M University System
Extension Horticulturist &
Bexar County Master Gardener Coordinator
3355 Cherry Ridge, Ste. #212,
San Antonio, TX 78230-4818

E-mail at dhrodriguez@ag.tamu.edu
Website is http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu

Special Note: Listen “Live” with David Rodriguez every Saturday morning between 8:00- 11:00 a.m. on WOAI 1200 AM. Radio, “Gardening Show.” Call in at 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624. Visit the WOAI 1200 web site under WOAI experts (Click on Gardening) to see the plant of the week. Check it out!

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