The rest of this week promises to be lovely, and maybe you are thinking about planting some of those perennials or shrubs that are on deep discount at your local nursery. Well, you sure can, especially if you are willing to take a small risk. Most university sources recommend you plant in fall by early or mid-October to give plants six or more weeks to set out roots and guarantee a good result, but you can go later than that without killing your new plants.
I learned this long ago when we moved to a brand new house in mid-September. The landscaper who helped us design and plant the yard at first started work in mid-October. Just as his crew was finishing the job on a cold, windy, overcast day in early November, the landscaper came to my door and asked if I wanted some black-eyed Susans added to a back garden bed. The plants were extra cheap because he didn’t want to over-winter them in his greenhouse. “Are they going to survive?” I asked. “You bet,” he responded, and so they were planted.
The area was watered regularly, by me and Mother Nature, for the next few weeks, and then the snow came and winter descended. To my surprise, the perennials bloomed gloriously the next year, as did all the shrubs (and trees) that had been planted in mid to late fall.
Those who plant late in the season recommend that you plant potted plants (not bare-root trees) and that you give the plants adequate water right up until the ground freezes. You may even want to put some leaves or other mulch around the plants to keep the ground a bit warmer so the plants have time to root in before the ground freezes. Continue to water well the next spring.
How late have you planted and what were your results?
—Mary Lahr Schier