plant trees

Fall is an Ideal Time to Plant Trees – Here’s Why

You might think that spring is the best time to plant trees, and while it is a perfectly good season to do so, fall can be an even better time. Why? Well, the rain and cooler temperatures we get here in Pennsylvania in the fall helps trees establish their root systems without creating the new top growth that happens in the spring. The result is a stronger, better developed root system that will prepare the tree for next spring’s growth spurt. But the timing must be right… fall planting is considered late August through mid-November. Any later and you may run into frost issues and temperatures too cold for adequate root growth. Conifers especially need warmer soil temperatures, so don’t leave their planting off until October if you can help it.

Selecting the Right Trees

Not every tree will thrive in your landscape. Some prefer to be in the shade of a larger tree while others like having their roots kept wet by a nearby stream. Some need acidic soil while others can withstand the harsh conditions of being in the middle of a paved parking lot. How do you know which tree(s) are right for you?

The best way to get started is to test the soil in your landscape (in several places if it is large) to know the pH, mineral characteristics, clay versus sandy or loamy, etc. You can buy a kit from Penn State Extension and they will analyze the results for you. For a list of pricing and additional details, visit Or kits may be available over the counter at your local garden shop. Once you know the make-up of your landscape it helps to map it out, marking sunny and shady spots, wet and dry areas, and places where you would like to plant some trees. Then choose tree species that will grow well in those conditions.

Trees native to Pennsylvania are preferable for a landscape because they are adapted to the climate here and will provide food (nuts, seeds, nectar, etc.) for a variety of wildlife. To discover myriad trees native to Pennsylvania, click here.

Long-term Maintenance

You can’t just plant a tree then walk away. Newly planted trees (and all plants for that matter) will require more TLC in the beginning to ensure they thrive. The following are some suggested tips to keep your trees healthy, especially headed into winter:

  • Watering is essential during a tree’s early days. Watering deeply will encourage more root growth.
  • Mulching around a tree will help retain moisture and warmth, but make sure to use correct mulching techniques, which can be found here.
  • Using a tree tube around young trees will help prevent them from deer browse and other issues, but they must be installed correctly or they can kill the tree. Find out more here.
  • Staking trees will help them grow straight and tall, but make sure this is done correctly. Learn more here.
  • Pruning trees in the late fall (after leaves have fallen) minimizes negative impacts to the tree and will make them look nicer in the spring. Pruning tips can be found here.

For More Information

There are many great resources online to help your fall tree planting season a success, including:

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