The Season for Planting?

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“When is the best time of year to plant?” We get this question a lot. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this question. If you are looking at annuals like garden vegetables, the answer is complicated--certain species are active during different parts of the year. We will delve into the subject of vegetables and herbs in another post. 

For now let’s assume we are talking about landscape plants: there is still a host of follow up questions that come after the question is asked.

-What are you planting?

-What are your watering habits like?

-Are you considering traveling soon?

First of all, with most landscape plants, any time of year is fine to plant IF you are committed to making sure you give the plant all it needs. If you have a frost tender plant, you must be committed to protecting it from any upcoming frosts--a newly installed plant that is frost-tender is less likely to grow back than an established plant. If it is summer, you must be committed to watering the plant (most plants require daily watering when first planted in the summer). It isn’t that summer is a bad time to plant; it is just that if you forget to water the new plant is often less forgiving in the summer for skipping a day.

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The easy answer that many nurseries give people is that fall is the best time to plant because it gives the plant time to get established before the summer heat kicks in. There is a good amount of truth in this. But honestly, if one is committed to watering, getting a plant established happens quicker in its growing season. Many plants don’t grow much at all during the winter, even underground.

Some people think they should keep a plant in a container until the fall. This seems ludicrous to us: plants generally don’t like growing in containers. All the elements that make summer planting difficult are even tougher in a container. Plants are even MORE unforgiving if you forget to water or keep them in too hot a location while in a small black container. Once you find a plant you really like, you should really get it into the ground, or a larger container if that is the final destination, as soon as possible.

Finally, if we only went to the nursery during the fall and spring, we might miss out on some really cool plants. Not all species are available all the time. Some plants are difficult to procure. If you see a plant you really want, don’t wait. Just get it, plant it, and give it all the love it needs. Also, if you only visit nurseries during limited seasons, you may be missing out on plants that make spectacular displays during the “off seasons” (one plant's off season is another plant's prime). A big mistake many people make is buying everything that is flowering during the fall when they are apt to visit the nursery. Make sure when you plant out your landscape, that you don’t end up with one that is florific during one part of the year, and less so during the rest.

In short, you can plant any time of year so long as you can commit to giving the plant you take home all that it needs. If you know yourself, and cannot commit to watering daily, try planting in the cooler seasons. If you are a committed plant-freak, you can put plants in the ground during any time of year so long as you meet the needs of each species as they transition from container life, into landscape life.

Katherine Gierlach