10 Things to Plant This Fall

Dig in! It's the first day of fall: learn what you should be planting right now.

Pride Of Lions Daffodil

Pride Of Lions Daffodil

Plant sunny yellow daffodil bulbs in fall for a cheerful spring show. Pride of Lion daffodils open true yellow blooms.

Photo by: ColorBlends FlowerBulbs at ColorBlends.com

ColorBlends FlowerBulbs at ColorBlends.com

Take advantage of fall’s cooler weather to dig in your yard and add a few plants. Autumn is the perfect time to plant many different items, including grass, trees, tulips and daffodils. The season’s lower temps help plants to transition easier from pots to planting beds, and it’s also a welcome respite from summer heat for gardeners. Pests and disease problems typically dwindle in fall, and in many regions, seasonal rains help give plants a solid start. What should you be planting in fall?

1: Bulbs

Fall is the time for planting bulbs that flower in spring and summer, including crocus, tulip, daffodil, alliums and all of the lilies, such as Asiatic, Oriental, Orienpet, turk’s cap and martagon. Get bulbs in the ground when soil temps hit 55 F. This generally occurs when you no longer hear crickets, night temps hover between 40 F and 50 F or fall color is just past peak. You can plant as long as the ground is not frozen, but it’s best to get it done during the 8 weeks following the first frost.

2: Grass

Cool-season grass thrives in fall, whether you’re planting seed or sod. Cool-season grasses include fine fescues (red, chewings, hard, tall), Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and bentgrass. Fall is the right time to overseed cool-season lawns to thicken turf.

3: Cool-Season Veggies

Keep fresh vegetables coming by sowing seeds or transplants of cold-tolerant veggies. Depending on where you garden, seeds need to be in the ground by late August or early September, but you can find seedlings for sale at farmers’ markets and garden centers. Candidates for fall planting include a host of salad greens, like lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, arugula and mizuna. Other autumn veggies include radish, turnip, kohlrabi, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Purple Pansy

Purple Pansy

Matrix pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) opens large flowers that stand up to frost.

Photo by: Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

4: Cool-Season Annuals

Dress chilly days and frosty nights with colorful annuals that thrive when temperatures dip. Cool-weather bloomers include pansy, viola, sweet alyssum, flowering stock, calendula and lobelia. For colorful leaves that look great even in light snows, plant flowering kale and cabbage.

5: Peony

Autumn is the right time to get peonies into the ground. It’s the season when specialty peony nurseries ship bareroot peonies, so the greatest selection is available. Remember when planting bareroot peonies to keep them shallow—2 inches deep is best.

Fall Color

Fall Color

Choose plants that bring brilliant color to fall gardens, including fothergilla shrub and ornamental grasses.

Photo by: Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

6: Shrubs

The window for planting shrubs (evergreen and deciduous) is long—from early fall until the ground freezes. Of course, in coldest zones, it’s best to tuck plants into soil in early fall, so new roots can grow before the ground freezes solid. If you need a shrub and aren’t sure what to plant, check out the selection at a local nursery in early autumn to see which plants boast the best seasonal color.

7: Trees

Trees thrive with fall planting because warm soil coaxes roots to grow, while cool air near leaves reduces the sapling’s moisture needs. Choose trees that offer multi-season interest, including fall color. Plant trees from early fall until the ground freezes.

Pineappple Sage

Pineappple Sage

Pineapple sage blossoms in fall, opening red flowers that hummingbirds can’t resist.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

8: Cuttings of Tender Plants

In early fall, take cuttings of plants that won’t survive frost, including pineapple sage, scented geranium, fancy-leaf begonia, Mexican bush sage and plectranthus. Root cuttings in water, or dip them in rooting hormone and stick them directly into a rooting medium. Use bottom heat to ensure best rooting.

9: Perennials

Tuck perennials into planting beds as soon as you can in fall so plants establish roots before soil freezes. Be sure to mulch newly planted perennials to help prevent frost heave, especially in coldest zones.

10: Evergreens

For best results, plant evergreens by mid-fall to give roots ample time to penetrate into soil. In cold regions, it’s also a good idea to spray newly planted evergreen trees and shrubs with an antitranspirant to help prevent winter burn on leaves or needles. 

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