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Gardening Basics of Planting Perennials in Fall

While spring is the growing season, fall is also a great time for certain plants like perennials. The weather is not too dry or wet and the temperature is perfect for growing seeds, bulbs, roots, or fully grown plants. In this guide, we are outlining gardening basics for growers who want to do their gardening in the autumn:

Why should you plant perennials in the fall?

flower garden

Planting in the fall allows you to enjoy the garden while giving plants more time to develop their root systems before the cold winter. As long as the growing plants can survive the local climate, the success rate of growing perennials in the fall season is very high.

Weeds are less likely to compete with your perennials for nutrients because of the cooler climate. Adding a layer of mulch also helps keep pesky crabgrass and foxtail at bay.

Growing plants in the fall also minimize plant shock because the plant is entering dormancy. By next year’s spring season, transplants will have stronger, tougher root systems.

What perennials to grow in the fall?

lavender

Not all plants are ideal for growing during the fall season. Below are some of the best plants to grow during autumn, just as the weather is transitioning to the winter season:

Coneflower: Chechinacea “Cheyenne Spirit” or coneflower is an early blooming perennial that shows a riot of colorful blooms during the early to late summer season. This perennial is easy to grow, incredibly drought tolerant, and attracts many pollinators. They grow best in full sun to partial shade.

Ranunculus: This cool season flowering plant can be planted in the fall, and flowers will bloom in the late winter to early spring. Ranunculus look gorgeous when grown in a raised garden bed or decorative pots with big, bright pink to red-violet flowers.

Bee balm: aka wild bergamot, is a classic favorite for fall gardening because it’s incredibly resilient and long-blooming. It attracts a host of pollinators, particularly bees and hummingbirds, because of its delightful fragrance reminiscent of bergamot orange. Bee balm is best grown in places that receive the full sun with partial shade.

Iris bulbs: Add color to your garden even in the late winter season by planting Iris bulbs in autumn. This perennial produces periwinkle to deep blue-violet flowers. Iris bulbs are incredibly easy to grow, are deer resistant, and resilient to changing weather. Use well-drained soil and plant in an area that receives the full sun.

English Lavender: aka Hidcote, English lavender is prized for its soothing, calming scent and beautiful periwinkle blooms. Hidcote is the hardest of all English cultivars and requires no babying. This versatile perennial leaves a lovely scent in the air while the eye-catching blooms will warm up the garden. By planting in the fall, the plant roots will mature before the heat of the summer.

Shirley Temple Peony: A low-maintenance perennial that produces the most delicate-looking, petal-perfect blooms. Shirley Temple peonies have rose-shaped blush-pink to ivory white flowers with ruffled petals. They make the perfect focal point in the garden.

Basic Fall Season Gardening Tips

Thinking of planting perennials in the fall? Here are some gardening basics to keep in mind:

Plan carefully

You know your garden more than anyone else. You know the best areas to grow tall plants, all the bare spots that need more ground cover, and shady areas to grow sunlight-sensitive plants. Before doing the actual planting, prepare your garden and visualize which areas to plant the perennials. Planning ahead ensures the survival of the plants while also elevating the garden’s look.

Get the timing right

Don’t wait for obvious signs of the fall season before doing the planting or transplanting unless you live in zones 8 to 11. Plant roots need more time to mature, so you should know when’s a good time to start planting. We suggest planting at least six weeks before the ground freezes. Plant earlier if you live further north. Spring-blooming plants are best planted early in the fall when the soil is still warm.

Mind the soil temperature

It’s essential to check the soil temperature before planting your favorite perennials. The right soil temperature aids in the maturation of the plant’s root systems. Unlike flowering plants, perennials do not spend much energy producing blooms, so their energy is reserved for root establishment. By planting the perennials at the right time, they’ll get a strong start during spring.

Don’t worry about frost

You might think that frost will be a huge problem when planting perennials in the fall, but it’s quite the opposite. While frost can certainly stop some plants from growing, it won’t kill the roots. The roots will continue to grow even when the soil is frozen solid. As long as you timed your planting perfectly, you don’t have to worry about frost at all.

Watering Your Perennial Plants

It’s essential to water the plants thoroughly, letting the roots get entirely soaked by water before planting. Low temperatures and shorter days will require less watering, so the perennials must be hydrated appropriately when planted and until the soil freezes.

Mulching in Fall to Protect Perennials for Winter

A nice layer of mulch will insulate plant roots to encourage new growth and develop mature root systems. We suggest adding mulch before the cold weather sets in, especially in places when the night temperature drops to 32 degrees or if the soil starts to freeze. The mulching material can be anything from straw to shredded bark and other loose, coarse-texture organic materials. Adding mulch will also prevent “frost heave,” a common occurrence when the thawing soil raises the plant out of the ground.

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Fall is one of the best seasons to grow a variety of plants. But whether you grow plants in the spring or autumn, the goal is to create a beautiful garden that you and your family will enjoy no matter the season!

Go ahead, complete your gardening essentials. Discover the joys of fall season gardening with ECOgardener.