The Best Time to Plant is in the Fall

Homestead Gardening in the Texas Gulf Coast

Podcast E5 – November 30, 2021

Do you have a new shrub or ornamental plant for the garden but have no idea how or when to put in the ground? Maybe your potted plant is getting a little too big, and you don’t know what to do next. Or, perhaps you have an older plant that is just in the wrong place, but you are too afraid to move it?  

In this short 15 minute episode, I’m going to share with you the #1 planting myth and tell you not only how but when to plant and transplant your garden shrubs.

The number 1 planting myth and maybe even the number 1 gardening myth is that plants should be planted in spring. So where did everyone get the big idea that we should plant in spring? Well, I think it’s because spring is when a perennial or dormant shrub or tree begins to grow above ground again. We see fresh new leaves, new branches, and we think, yes, this plant made it through winter and is finally alive. But it was always alive, the top was just dormant.

My theme so far with my YouTube channel has been “below the surface,” and every video made so far has fit this category. That’s because this is where all the magic happens. So, what’s happening below the surface?  Root growth, microbial activity, and plant health is all happening at this unseen level, and it’s all still happening during fall and winter as the top of your plant goes dormant. During the dormant period, the roots no longer have to support all that top growth and they can finally stretch and expand, preparing to provide additional support for even more growth next year.

So, if the myth is that we should plant in spring, when is the best time to plant? Planting in fall right before or as the plant goes dormant is the best time to install woody shrubs and ornamental plants. I say woody because these plants are going to be more cold hardy. However, once a perennials or herbaceous plant has established roots, it can die back to the ground in cold weather and revive itself in spring after growing stronger healthy roots just like woody plants.

Let’s talk specifically about Houston and climate zones 8b to 9a. Winter in a sub-tropical climate consists of some cooler weather with a few cold snaps. Plants may go dormant but revive themselves too early before spring has sprung which is the only reason why late winter cold snaps in Houston damage the ends of plants. The plant is usually not damaged anywhere else but the ends where new top growth is trying to form. This can happen in other less tropical climates, too of Austin and Dallas where a late freeze damaged awakened plants.

Stop being afraid! Several people have reached out to me after the Texas freeze in February 2021 fearful of planting now, fall of 2021 because of the potential of a late winter/early spring 2022 freeze. There is no reason to be afraid to install a plant that is adapted to the climate you live in even if we have a normal freeze or a freak freeze. The worst thing that can happen with a plant adapted to the climate is that the ends where new growth forms die. In that case, you simply trim off the dead parts and move on. Even if a plant dies to the ground, if it’s adapted, it will grow back from the roots. And that’s exactly what I saw happening after the freeze. Very few plants were damaged that were adapted and those that weren’t came back from the roots. Some with extreme vigor and others with a little lag but they were still alive and kicking.

Other Ways you Can Learn From Me:

You can find me on Instagram if you’d like to connect and share your garden stories with me. I offer complimentary Q&A “mini-consultations” on Fridays in the stories section.

Hiring a Designer:

If you tried to start a garden but had limited success or no idea how to start, ask the expert! HDG Landscape Design has over a decade experience advising clients on the when, where, what, why, and how of ornamental garden design, growing edible plants, and outdoor living and pool design. Visit our website for a list of services.

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