Fall Planting: How Late Can You Go?

Sedum and other hardy plants do well when planted in fall.

Sedum and other hardy plants do well when planted in fall.

Fall is a great time for planting, though as we get past mid-October, the question is how late in fall can you plant?

Many years ago, I had an entire landscape installed in the first week of November! When I asked the landscaper about whether late fall planting was a good idea, he assured me that as long as I watered consistently until the ground froze and then continued to water again in the spring, everything would be fine. He was right! All the plants -- trees, shrubs and perennials -- took and grew the next year. This was a landscape filled with native and very hardy trees, shrubs and perennials, so it was well suited to fall planting.

Not everything can be planted in late October or November. The University of Minnesota recommends that spring-blooming bulbs, for example, be planted by mid-October. If you are dividing perennials you already have planted, divide spring and early summer perennials in fall and fall-blooming perennials in spring, the U of M recommends. If you are planting something that "pushes the zone," you also may want to do that in spring or early fall in order to give the less-hardy plant a chance to get acclimated before winter sets in.

When doing fall planting, be sure to add a layer of mulch around the plants. The goal of the mulch is not to protect the plant from cold temperatures, but to even out the temperatures in spring so the plant doesn't thaw, then freeze again and experience frost heaving, which can cause serious damage or death to the plant.

One reason to plant in fall is that many nurseries have great deals on trees, shrubs and perennials for fall planting. Check out our Discount Partner list for high-quality nurseries that cater to northern gardeners.

Here's an interesting article on when to plant ornamental and edible plants depending on the type of plant.

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8 Comments

  1. […] I explained on an earlier blog post, I once had an entire landscape (trees, shrubs, perennials and turf grass) installed in […]

  2. Jane on July 25, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Can I still plant zone 4 perennial seed?

  3. Sandy Dunbar on October 29, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    We have Hydrangeas in pots that need to be planted but don’t know if we’re to late .

    • Mary Lahr Schier on November 2, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      It’s getting late for them to root in in the ground. You might want to dig the hole where you want the plant to go, and then place the pot there until spring.

  4. Sandy C on November 11, 2021 at 2:55 am

    I have a need to plant two trees to honor the loss of two babies. What can I plant now – before the ground freezes?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on November 17, 2021 at 4:39 pm

      It’s not the best time to plant trees, but if you must, choose something native to Minnesota and make sure to water it regularly (like daily) until the ground freezes. Our condolences on your loss.

  5. […] How late can you plant? The general advice is up to one month before the first hard frost. That's definitely safe and a good policy to follow, but I have stretched it in the past. After building a new home many years ago, my husband and I installed our full landscape — trees, shrubs and perennials — in the first week of November! It all came through winter just fine, except perhaps one rudbeckia. […]

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