The horticultural calendar is winding down as December opens. It’s a time of finalizing leaf cleanups and prepping for winter. With the somewhat milder weather pattern we have enjoyed all fall, a question we often are asked is “can I still plant now?”
The answer is yes, with one or two qualifiers. First, this is still an ideal time to plant “woody” materials, i.e. trees and shrubs. These plants are hardy and in their dormancy. The key at this time of year especially, is to ensure during the backfilling process, the soil mixture has no air pockets. The soil acts as an insulator for the tree/shrub ball and its roots. Air pockets defeat this and place colder temps against the roots. These air pockets also contribute to dehydration. When the temps are above the mid 30’s make certain the plants are watered thoroughly.
As to the qualifiers, this is not the time to install “non-woody” plants. This takes in most ground covers and perennials. While these plants often are the finishing touch to the landscape, these plantings rarely survive the winter. With no chance to push out roots and get comfortable before winter’s chill, mortality rates are high. Mulch these beds for a finished look and schedule these plants for first thing in the spring when they will thrive.
For broadleaf shrubs, azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel; strongly consider an anti-desiccant spray which provides an organic, protective film to these larger leaf shrubs to prevent dehydration damage from strong winter winds.
Is this the time for a planting at your site? Two yeses, first you will need to act fast. And, second yes, if executed properly within the horticultural confines above, it looks like the next few weeks will remain just mild enough to complete the planting improvement your site needs.