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The Case for Fall Planting

Weather conditions in warmer zones are ideal for planting new fruit trees, especially bare-root, in the fall. Here are three great reasons why.

Hello to all you warm-zoned fruit growers! I’m here today to put to rest a prevalent misconception. Today, with the help of Stark Bro’s horticultural expert, Elmer, I will debunk the emotional pull of melting snow, warm breezes, flowers, birds, and bunnies!

This very day, all you southern growers will leave knowing that fall – not just spring – is a great time to plant.

Have some doubts? Allow me to explain!

Examples of “warm zones” according to the USDA:

  • the eastern area south of the Mason-Dixon line
  • the southwestern states
  • most of California
  • the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington

The Root of The Matter

It all starts with some basics of botany: roots. Roots are a plant’s lifeline of nutrients, water and, ultimately, growth. For trees to receive the optimal benefits of this lifeline, their roots need to be securely established in the soil environment. This is very important, especially when the trees are young. Why? Because of the many extreme, and potentially destructive, weather conditions Mother Nature brings, such as biting cold, early frost, strong winds, extreme heat, and drought. Young trees are least likely to survive these unpredictable weather conditions, but their strongest defense is a firmly established root system. Learn more in our related article, The Importance of Roots.

And that, my friends, is the first reason to support fall planting! Weather conditions in zones 6-10 are ideal for planting in fall and establishing new fruit trees. These same conditions are beneficial to helping a young fruit tree adapt quickly to its new location. With fall planting, a fruit tree is subjected to less “transplant shock” (caused when disrupting the roots and moving from one location and replanting in another), and the rain/snow helps to settle in the soil around the tree. Even when the air gets cool, the soil remains warmer and the roots of a young fruit tree will grow until the ground freezes.

Brass Tacks of Bare Root & Dormancy

My second reason to encourage planting in fall is dormancy. You’ve heard the word, but what does it mean and why is it important? Just like bears, trees have their own winter hibernation, when the plants’ systems take a hiatus for a good winter’s sleep. That’s dormancy! And digging, moving, shipping, transporting, and re-planting are all activities best done when the trees have reached this hibernating stage.

The dangers of planting a non-dormant tree are the effects that sudden frost and cold snaps may have on its tender green growth. Leafed-out trees also have a higher need for water and a greater chance at life-threatening, water-related stress in warmer weather due to transpiration (“the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation from aerial parts especially from leaves but also from stems and flowers.” – Wikipedia).

Fall planting gives you the perfect opportunity to get your bare-root trees in the ground while they’re dormant – and they’ll stay dormant for several more weeks! So take advantage of planting those bare-root trees when they are asleep; allow the roots to firmly establish; and then, when the warm breezes and bird chirps tell of spring on its way, you’ll have some very happy new trees.

What To Plant

If you’re trying to figure out what to consider for fall planting, here are a few Stark Bro’s suggestions – trees and plants fit for warm-zone gardens:

Heat-Tolerant Apple Trees

  1. Ginger Gold®
  2. Cinnamon Spice
  3. Golden Delicious
  4. Granny Smith

Southern-Friendly Berry Plants

  1. Southern Highbush Blueberry Plant Collection
  2. Triple Crown blackberry & Ouachita blackberry
  3. Anne yellow raspberry

Pears Trees for the South

  1. Blake’s Pride (European type)
  2. New Century (Asian type)
  3. Hosui (Asian type)

— Meg C.

Get to Know Your Zone »


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