Spring might seem like a good time for planting trees as you can get large selections from nurseries.
However, this isn’t the full story as the fall and winter can be among the best time to plant a tree. Anyone who asks if you can plant trees in winter won’t be met with a straight yes or no answer. There are exceptions because many factors come into play.
What type of tree or shrub you like to plant, your local climate, and is there still time before the first severe frosts are forecast?
As a general rule, trees and shrubs need around 6-weeks to establish roots before a heavy freeze; although you can plant them at any times, you can easily work the ground.
You can learn more about how to plant a tree in the winter and how to care for newly planted trees before the run-up to spring. (Read How Long Does It Take For Trees To Grow?)
What Part of Winter Do You Wish to Plant?
The early spring can be OK to plant young trees. Thus, if you decide on late winter planting, you will find it can be a good time for your tree.
Your tree stands a higher chance of survival if planted before any signs of buds appear in the spring. Furthermore, should there be thawing snow or spring showers, your tree will like warmer weather, warmer ground, and moisture for good growth.
Check Your Area for Winter Trees
One of the best ways you can tell is if trees in the area you live still have leaves; if so, you can deal with your plants.
Mid-August to mid-October are ideal times to plant new trees; however, you can easily push this to November and December.
One way to be certain is to measure the early morning soil temperature on several consecutive days.
If the soil is 50° F or higher on these days as an average, you are good to plant.
You will see this temperature works better for deciduous trees, which shed leaves before winter.
As a result, they focus on growing and getting water to their roots during the winter, and energy levels are lower. (Read How Far To Plant Fruit Trees Apart)
In contrast, evergreen trees such as pines and spruce will hang onto their needles all year-round. As a result of this, they require as many nutrients as they can get before the ground freezes.
For this reason, you need to avoid planting evergreens if soil temperatures are below 60° F as your tree won’t have sufficient time to store the energy needed to survive.
In most states, including USDA zones 5, 6, and 7, the fall will be a great time for planting a new tree in your yard.
If you live in USDA Zones 8, 9, and 10, then you have longer to plant for winter and can plant a new tree into December.
Here’s a list of states that can enable planting trees outside fall:
- Alabama: Fall is okay to plant, yet November to March is ideal.
- Florida: Planting from May to October during the rainy season is ideal, although any time can be suitable in this region.
- Georgia: Late fall is OK to plant new plants, yet November and December over winter are perfect.
- Louisiana: November or December is best here.
- Tennessee: New trees might like the weather in Autumn and early wintertime before the cold weather arrives.
If you have your first snow or frozen ground, you are better off waiting until late winter or even early spring before planting a tree. Young trees can have their roots dry out from the cold, and they might not withstand the harsh weather of the season.
Evergreens vs. Deciduous?
The best time to plant is when trees are dormant, and you won’t disturb any growth.
Leading from this, you need to know if your trees are evergreens or deciduous bare root trees.
Deciduous perform better when planted toward the end of fall. Their leaves fall, and they slip into their dormant phase. Even better is the start of spring, before they start to bud.
Deciduous trees have different requirements for water in the fall, and these vastly reduce. (Learn How To Kill A Tree)
Although to grow roots, they still require water, yet it is minimal compared to what leaves require.
These lower water requirements help with the Fall planting of deciduous trees.
Evergreen planting is different as they aren’t as fussy when it comes to their growth, and you can have any time of year to choose from. However, do avoid planting when it’s hot or very cold.
Evergreens retain their leaves and needles on the tree in the winter, even while they have a reduced metabolism. Even with reduced metabolism, evergreens still lack water all winter.
When the ground is frozen, the roots can’t absorb the water they demand for root growth, and resulting in brown or dead needles come spring. (Read How To Prune A Palm Tree)
You can find this is the key reason fall planting is difficult for evergreens, particularly broad-leaf evergreens.
Winter Care Tips
Here’s a few tips to help with planting a tree in the coldest time of the year to keep it healthy.
- Keep Plants Watered: Any new tree will need watering. They can suffer from drying out of the new roots in the frozen soil (desiccation). Keep watering right up until the ground freezes.
- Use Mulch: Mulch helps keep constant soil temperatures. Plants can also grow root systems if soil temperature is over 45 degrees.
- Don’t Fertilize: You can add small amounts of bone meal or compost, yet don’t try to get more growth by adding fertilizer.