How to Plant a Shrub in the Fall

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Autumn is an excellent time to install new shrubs. In this season, it's easy to recall where the summer garden needed more heft. Plus, planting a shrub in the fall gives it a healthier start than plunking it into spring’s cold soil, where it will next face blistering hot weather in the summer. In fall's warm soil and cooler air, fall-planted shrubs contend with less stress and put on strong root growth before the winter. 

Go ahead and take advantage of end-of-season sales on shrubs.

Go ahead and take advantage of end-of-season sales on shrubs.

There are no special instructions for planting shrubs in the fall. At any time of the year, the effort you put into preparing the planting hole pays off in the long run. Be generous when digging a shrub’s new home, making it a couple of sizes larger than the shrub’s container. This might require moving nearby established perennials, which is perfectly fine, since you want a realistic visualization of how close other plants will be to the mature shrub. Once your shrub is in place, water it well and mulch it with shredded bark or compost to moderate the soil temperature. 

You do need to pay some special care to watering and soil care as fall-planted shrubs settle in. Water at the base of the shrub at least once a week, soaking the soil to 12 inches deep, until winter starts to set in. Just prior to the ground freezing, give the shrub an extra-thorough soaking to prevent the plant from desiccating (drying out) during the winter. There’s no need to fertilize the new shrub; you do not want to encourage vigorous growth going into the cooler months. Now is the time for it to go dormant and be ready for spring.