Fall is the perfect time to plant, especially trees and shrubs, which get a chance to settle in to their new environs, enjoy cool weather and adequate rainfall.
This helps the rooting process without the demands of leaf growth; the trees and shrubs snooze over the winter, then start the growing process seven to eight months later.
In a nutshell, fall plantings needn't hit the ground running like spring plantings do.
You must plant them properly, however. If the shrub/tree root ball is wrapped in burlap and twine, cut the twine (especially if it's plastic or nylon) around the trunk after you've placed the root ball it in the hole. (If the wrap is plastic, remove it or it will strangle root growth; burlap will rot and can stay on the root ball.)
If your plant is potted, remove it and remember to plant at the same level it was planted originally, and in an adequate, but not large, hole. (Larger used to be better; now experts say the roots will find their way, and it is not necessary to create a plush, but false environment).
When you plant with a root ball in clay soil, allow two inches of the ball to remain above grade, because clay soil drains with difficulty.
Cover with soil, and water well; such plantings will not be damaged by poor drainage or standing water, but they are more apt to dry out, so if rain and snow are scarce this winter, make sure such plantings have adequate moisture.
Here are some other questions asked at this time of year:
Q. My jack-in-the pulpits seem to have vanished. I had quite a thick stand of these spring favorites. What happened?
A. Jack-in-the pulpits (or arisaemas) typically seed themselves in damp, shady areas and go on for years, although some, like the Japanese A.sikokianum, tend to be short-lived perennials. What might be happening is that the seeds, which naturally propagate these plants, are not being planted. Because these are very desirable to chipmunks and some other wildlife, try netting the bright red-berried stalks once they form after the spathe fades to keep the foragers away. Extended periods of drought can also kill off this plant.
Q. I bought several leathery-leafed daisy-flowered plants (the backs of the petals are purple) in spring. They bloomed for a month, and did nothing over the summer, but now seem to have gotten a second wind. I think they're called a Cape Daisy. Will they bloom again in spring?
A. Sounds like you are talking about osteospermum, a South African genus, popular in Europe for years and recently gaining attention here in America. The original plants like cool temperatures -- 50-60 degrees -- but since new cultivars have been introduced, Americans have a better shot at bringing them through our scorching summers to bloom again in fall.
They belong to the perennials now known as half-hardies: They are perennials, but not in our zone. They should bloom late into fall, so enjoy them as two-season annuals. If you have room, winter them over in your garage or an unheated room. Give them just enough water to keep them going.
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