Horticulture News: Fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs

By Kim Cowherd Published:

Will there be color on deciduous trees this fall?

Betting on this is more certain than playing the lottery. Deciduous trees always exhibit some fall color as leaves lose their green chlorophyll. The degree of color depends on many factors including environmental conditions during the growing season and as time approaches for dormancy.

Also, genetics of the particular tree are very important. Even under the best environmental conditions, tree leaves will only color to the extent that they are genetically capable of doing so.

Since fall is the best time for planting trees and shrubs, why not make a trip to a local plant nursery, arboretum or park in the next few weeks to select particular trees or cultivars of trees that exhibit good fall color. If you decide to plant some trees or shrubs this fall, here are a few helpful hints.

As I said, fall is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs in Kentucky. Broad-leafed evergreens and conifers do best when planted in early fall while deciduous trees will do well if transplanted a little later in mid-autumn.

For most trees, select a site that is well drained. If your site is not well drained, consult with your local nursery professional or county horticulture agent for a recommendation of trees that will tolerate poorly drained sites.

When digging the planting hole, remember that you want the hole to look more like a pie pan than a stew pot. Wide and shallow is preferred over narrow and deep.

The plant should be transplanted to grow at the same depth in the soil as it was growing in its container or the nursery. Making the hole wide will help break up compacted soil and allow the tree’s root system to more quickly become established.

A minimum width for the planting hole would be two to three times the diameter of the tree’s root ball, even wider is preferred if the soil is heavy or compacted.

Back fill the hole with the same material removed from the hole. If higher quality soil or a peat/soil mixture is used for filling the hole, the tree’s roots may become concentrated in this area and not expand out into the surrounding soil. Such a plant will be less drought tolerant and may be prone to blow over during heavy wind.

Speaking of wind, staking of young trees is generally not recommended. Research has shown that movement of the tree’s trunk after planting will stimulate more root growth than if the trunk is immobilized by staking and tying.

Apply two to three inches of mulch after planting, but keep the mulch pulled away a few inches from the base of the tree. The finished application of mulch should be in the shape of a bowl instead of a volcano.

Even a few inches of mulch covering the base of a tree can encourage disease or insect problems by keeping the trunk too wet.

Keep newly planted trees well watered until the ground freezes, and water again as the ground is allowed to thaw. Remember to water deeply and slowly by soaking the soil in the area of the tree’s root ball.

No fertilizer should be applied during the first year of growth.

By following these tips, your new tree should get a good start and you should enjoy beautiful fall colors for many years to come.

For more information about trees, log on to http://www.treesaregood.com/. For printed material, or questions about tree care and maintenance, contact Franklin County Extension at 502-695-9035 by phone or email Kim.Cowherd@uky.edu.

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