Rooting Out Why Fall is a Great Time to Plant

Aug. 24th, 2017 by W Scott McAdam Jr.

Once again this year, as predictably as the change of seasons, I am being peppered with familiar late-summer inquiries:

“Is it too late to plant? Should we wait until next spring?” Those questions allow me to dispel the misconception that if you do any planting in the fall, there will not be enough time for the plants to establish and they will suffer.

In fact, fall is considered the best time for planting. Here’s why:

  1. The root system does not go dormant like the above-ground portion of a tree or shrub. There is little energy demand for the above-ground stems, so almost all of that energy is directed toward root growth. A well-established root system provides an excellent foundation for water and nutrient uptake, come spring, for optimal growth.
  1. There is decreased pressure from drought stress. Because the daytime highs and nighttime lows are cooler, the evaporation rate is much lower and allows the soil to maintain moisture following planting.

When planting in the fall, be sure to plant the tree properly. Dig your hole no deeper than the height of the root ball and do not overwater—it is possible to kill your plant with kindness. Planting too deep and providing too much moisture impairs the root zone’s ability to sufficiently exchange oxygen.

For a consultation about these or any other issues, contact me at or 708-771-2299.

This installment of "Ask the Plant Expert" was published in the July 23, 2017 edition of the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, the Forest Park Review and the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.