Fall is for Planting

This article originally ran in the Ruston Daily Leader on Nov. 9, 2010, and you may also view this article at the Fount's web site.

There are some advantages to fall and winter planting of ornamental or landscape plants. For instance, it allows the plant materials time to establish a root system in the new soil long before the hot weather approaches. Root activity takes place in relatively cool soil even though the top is not actively growing.

Usually less supplementary water will be required in late fall and early winter as compared to late spring or summer planting.

Home owners have a wide choice of fresh plants available later in the year. In addition, the weather is pleasant, and there may be a tendency to take fewer shortcuts in soil preparation.

Depending on the weather, spring- and summer-planted shrubs and trees may experience greater shock than late fall- and winter-planted materials.

Reduce Winter Damage to Ornamentals

Proper maintenance and care of ornamental shrubs and trees in our home landscape during the late fall and winter help tremendously in reducing or eliminating damage from low temperatures. Winter damage is not only caused by cold but also can be caused by drying winds that lead to desiccation of plant tissue.

Desiccation is most common on evergreen plants, but it can occur on deciduous plants as well. If fall months are dry, which is quite common in Louisiana, soil moisture may be insufficient to supply a plant’s root system with needed water. Also, strong winds and sunny mild weather lead to desiccation of terminal growing tips.

New growth stimulated by pruning or fertilization in the fall is more susceptible to freeze damage than older growth. The new growth has not “hardened off” by winter’s arrival, and ice crystals can form inside cells and between cell walls. Freeze damage is common on the southwest side of trees because afternoon sun is responsible for significant changes between day and night temperatures.

Stem breakage relates to ice or snow accumulation, which can be a problem in northern Louisiana.

Damage is especially noticed on misshapen plants, trees with weak structural branches or multiple trunks and “poodled” or sculptured plants.

The following steps can be taken to minimize damage to landscape plants in winter:

  1. Avoid poorly drained soil areas. Soil water can freeze and lift plants out of the ground.
  2. Select plants adapted to our climate – USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and 9.
  3. Prune and fertilize properly to minimize new growth in the late fall and winter.
  4. Plant new trees and shrubs where they will be protected from intense winter sun and drying winds.
  5. Maintain adequate moisture in plant tissue.
  6. Mulch landscape beds to insulate the root system and minimize soil temperature fluctuations.

For more information regarding this or any other horticulture topic please feel free to contact me.

11/22/2010 10:23:44 PM
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