September 18, 2008

CONTACT:  Rob Beets, Marketing Specialist
(615) 837-5517

Don’t “Fall Back” Now—Spring Forward for Beautiful Plants Next Year


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After spending the last six months digging, planting, weeding, mowing and trimming, the thrill of gardening is gone. It’s time to sit back and let nature do all the work. For a while.


Truth is, you know that come March, that old yearning will be back—wouldn’t it be nice to have some of the work already done? And get better results? Autumn is actually the best time to plant some of a home environment’s most important assets: perennials, shrubs and especially trees.


Putting these plants in the ground during the fall serves several purposes. Most important, it gives them a chance to get their roots established in a new site. It’s an adjustment they won’t have to make in the spring and hot, dry summer, when their energies are better spent growing, blooming and resisting insect pests and diseases. Fall planting gives these plants a head start, which leads into the second benefit: they’re much more likely to bloom the first year if planted in the fall instead of the spring. Fall plantings succeed well from October right up until the ground freezes, which in Tennessee could easily be December.


Fall is also a great time to drive around and discover the plants you wish you had turning red, orange, yellow and purple in your own yard. If you can clip a little switch of the plant, leaves intact, you can take that to a local nursery or garden center and show the grower what you want. People count on their maples and oaks, especially, for fall color, and there are so many varieties it can be hard to know exactly which kinds provide the colors and characteristics you want. Red maples are a shorter lived variety of maple, lasting 50-60 years, compared to the slower growing sugar maples, which can live 70-80 years. Generally, faster growing trees have softer or more brittle wood, making them more susceptible to breakage, pests and disease, shortening their lives.


So which plants are best? A thorough checklist of personal preferences and environmental restrictions can answer that question: How much space will this tree eventually take up? How much sun will it need? Will it drop some unwanted seed or fruit? Will the roots tangle into underground pipes or cause mowing problems if they snake along above ground? Will it grow well in this region? Locally grown plants ensure that purchases have the best chance of surviving in Tennessee, since they haven’t been stressed by being transported for long distances and they are already accustomed to Tennessee’s climate. Choosing plants not appropriate to Tennessee can be an expensive mistake.


Landscaping is an investment; it affects the value of property for several reasons. Trees provide wind breaks and sun shade, food and shelter for wildlife and aesthetic benefits for home and community. Well-placed trees keep homes cooler in summer and warmer in winter.


Among the trees proven to stand up to Tennessee’s sometimes extreme conditions are redbud, sweet bay magnolia and Milky Way dogwood. Smart choices for shrubs include Hydrangea varieties Oakleaf, “Annabelle” and “Tardiva”; Viburnum varieties “Conoy”, “Shasta” and Mohawk”; and the Winterberry holly.


Other small trees often chosen for their autumn beauty include the Pacific Sunset Maple, Amelanchier and Sourwood. Small trees with a better chance of flowering in spring if planted in the fall include White Fringetree, crab apple and Saucer Magnolia.


No matter which trees are chosen for fall planting, some basic guidelines apply. Watering is very important, especially in early autumn before the fall rains begin. Use mulch to help trees retain moisture. Go ahead and fertilize with a root stimulator when planting, especially in the fall, because roots can still develop and grow during the winter even as the rest of the tree rests.


Some traditional lines of thinking have changed in recent years, so be sure to ask for the latest planting information. For instance, root balls are made so much broader now that a shallower hole is recommended. The top of the root ball should be the top of the ground, so be careful not to not to plant too deep. Also, research shows that staking trees is a detrimental practice. Tree trunks actually become stronger when the trees are allowed to sway and resist winds. If necessary, use stakes through the root ball to help pin the tree in position.


Now, while the weather is mild and while existing plants still have their foliage, look carefully at the effect plants create in your home environment. Decide where replacement trees will go, where more texture and color are needed, and then enjoy a final outdoor planting project before winter weather drives everyone indoors. You’ll be guaranteeing that springs and falls will be even better for years to come.


For a list of local plant growers or more information on fall plants, visit and click on Nursery Products or contact TDA Market Development at 615-837-5160.