Fall is considered the best time to plant trees. August – October are the best months, but you can plant a tree any time before the ground is frozen. In some states like Alabama and California, where the weather stays warmer, winter is an even better time to plant your tree.
During this time of year, there is less chance of drought or sun damage to your recently planted trees. The cooler temperatures are beneficial in promoting new root growth. Since fall is normally the time for root growth, this helps new trees develop even stronger roots. The more time a tree has to establish its roots, the faster a tree will grow and have a better life.
Here are four popular trees that do best planted in the fall:
Blue Spruce – We had one of these trees in our front yard when I was growing up. I loved the tree because it looked like a small Christmas tree and the silvery blue-green color of the tree was so pretty. This tree is native to American and is also known as Colorado blue spruce. It can grow up to 18 feet. There are dwarf species that can grow up to 5 – 15 feet. Plant the tree in a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. The plant tolerates wind and can adjust to dry soil. This tree is very easy to take care of once it is established. Keep the soil moist during the first season. The tree is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3-7.
Ponderosa Pine – The Ponderosa Pine is native to Western North America. These trees can live around 150 years and grow 40-100 feet tall and 25-30 feet at maturity. The tree grows like a pyramid with a crown at the top. As the tree gets older it flattens out. The bottom part of the tree has a straight trunk that does not have branches. The thick bark of the tree makes it very resistant to wildfires and it has a cinnamon scent. The dark gray-green, olive or yellow-green needles are stiff and can grow 5-8 inches long. If you are going to grow this tree you need ample space. It will flower in the first year and will produce both male and female cones. In the second year, the female cones release their winged seeds in the autumn. This plant sets roots down quickly. Plant the Ponderosa pine tree in full sun and deep, moist, well-drained soil. It does adapt to a wide range of soils. Once established the tree is drought tolerant. The tree is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5-9.
Red Maple – The red maple tree is native to Eastern and North Central US. In fact, it is the most common tree in the Eastern US. They earned their name because of the beautiful bright red leaves that appear in the fall. These trees can reach 50 to 60 feet tall at maturity. This tree is an early bloomer, in the spring before leaves appear on other trees the red maple will flower. The flowers are small, with slender stalk, red with petals. They appear from March to May depending on elevation and latitude. This fast-growing tree adapts too many environments from drought-tolerant to wet locations. It will also grow in many different soils. Red Maple trees offer shade in the hot summer and have a vivid show of red leaves in the fall. The tree is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.
White Oak – White Oak trees are found in most of the eastern United States from Canada to Florida and as far west as Minnesota. This tree is important as it is used for its timber. It got its name because the newly cut wood is light in color almost white. It is currently used to make flooring, furniture, beams, and barrels and its use goes back to colonial times. These trees grow 80 to 100 feet tall, but there are some that have grown up to 150 feet tall. The trunk usually measures 4 feet in diameter. The leaves on the tree grow 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. When new leaves appear they start out pinkish, then change to dark green and in the fall they become wine red. White Oaks produce acorns that are a vital food source for animals. This tree is slow-growing and can survive for more than 100 years. The white oak prefers full sun but has a moderate tolerance to partial shade. The tree performs best in well-drained soil as it does not tolerate wet conditions well. The tree is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.
Other trees that can be successfully planted in the fall include alder, ash, buckeye, catalpa, crabapple, hackberry, hawthorn, honey locust, elm, Kentucky coffee tree, linden, maple, sycamore, pines, and spruces. Most deciduous shrubs can also be easily planted in fall.
If you are interested in planting these other popular trees like birch, dogwood, magnolia, or willow, the spring is the desirable time to do this. These trees are slower to establish since they are growing roots and leaves. During this time they will need to be watered regularly, which is something you can’t do in the wintertime.