Our Guide for Fall Planting
The start of fall may signal the gardening season is coming to a close, but it’s not over yet! There is still plenty of time to enjoy colorful flowers and foliage, or even sprinkle in some new perennials and shrubs before winter arrives. Even with cold temperatures approaching, the soil remains warm for much longer, which gives your new plants time to grow roots and establish in your garden. In some areas, planting in the fall is more favorable than planting in spring! So grab your sweater, shovel, and a few (or more) great plants. We’ll spell out everything you need to keep your garden flourishing for the rest of the season.
How Cold is Too Cold to Plant?
Worried whether your plants will establish before winter? You actually have more time than you think! While the gardening season for annuals typically ends around the first frost, perennials and shrubs continue to grow (especially belowground) until the hard frost. The first frost occurs when air temperatures dip below 32° Fahrenheit, but hard frost is when the ground and air both freeze.
Average First Frost Date
Zones 3, 4: Sept. 1 – Sept. 30
Zones 5, 6, 7: Sept. 30 – Oct. 30
Zone 8: Oct. 30 – Nov. 30
Zones 9 -10: Nov. 30 – Dec. 30
You can expect a hard frost in December, January, February, or not at all depending on your zone. We recommend planting everything up to 6 weeks before the ground freezes, giving your plants enough time to establish before snow and harsh temperatures arrive. Aim for the end of October in colder zones or mid-November in warmer zones. If your plants are still in nursery pots (plastic containers), it’s best to get them in the ground to protect their roots, even if you plan on moving them in spring.
Garden Care in Fall
Unfortunately, not every plant is suitable for fall planting! For the best success, select plants that are hardy to your zone and not sensitive to winter temperatures in your area. Some shrubs, like bigleaf hydrangeas or butterfly bushes, are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures and should be planted in spring or summer. In cold climates, we also recommend gardeners wait to plant evergreens (azaleas, holly, boxwood, even arborvitae) to avoid windburn.
That being said, here are some great options for fall planting:
1. COLD-TOLERANT PLANTS
Even in the chilliest winters, from USDA zone 4 and below, these cold-tolerant plants seem to thrive! You won’t have to wonder whether your plants survived the harsh winter. We are confident these plants won’t let you down.
2. Spring Bloomers
When considering what to plant in fall, we always think spring. Why? Planting your spring bloomers in fall ensures they’ll be ready to perform when spring arrives next year!
3. Southern Shrubs
Southern gardens can be dry, humid, sunny, or shaded, but the one thing they all have in common is they’re hot. That’s why fall is the best time to plant in warm zones! Shrubs have plenty of time to establish in your garden before the hot summer months return next year.