Fall pereniel planting

splitrockAugust 14, 2013

We have a weekend house perched on the side of a mountain in zone 6 a. I have learned not to plant evergreens in the fall, because winters are sometimes so cold and windy that they do not do well. I am wondering about perennials. I want to add dianthus, hardy geraniums, and some more Japanese forest grass. If you have similar conditions, I would love to know what you think of fall planting perennials.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i plant a lot of conifers in fall ...

if they are zone appropriate.. i dont know what a cold winter could be..

but i insure.. they remain moist.. deep into fall ... with my high drainage sand ... none of this. put the hose away at first frost stuff ...

i would suspect.. that your problem is improper watering at a weekend house.. rather than winter ...

wind of course.. burns tissue... on plants that are already lacking water ...

expanding all that to perennials.. simply means.. water deeply.. and mulch heavily... and insure they dont go into winter bone dry..


    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 9:17AM
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I second what Ken said on the proper watering & care. As for the perennials you mentioned - I would not recommend fall planting of the japanese forest grass. Grasses are one group of plants that do better planted in the spring in areas with cold winters. A technique I've used successfully to improve odds of survival is, in addition to mulching, put a large pot over a plant at the beginning of winter and leave it there until spring. I weight it down with brick or stone to keep the pot from blowing away.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 2:58PM
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I stopped planting perennials in fall because of our freeze/thaw/heave patterns of weather, especially with no snow cover some years. I found that the plants don't have enough time to really root themselves into the ground. I spend time pushing them back into the soil when they heave.

If I mulch them, it invites all those tunneling rodents over winter that snack on the plants under that toasty cover of mulch.

I've lost too many plants this way so I stick to spring planting.

This post was edited by susanzone5 on Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 17:01

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 3:20PM
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Sorry about the misspelling of perennials... Should have put on my glasses.
Thanks felisa, for the tip about grasses. Also thanks to Ken for the reminders about fall watering. As you guessed, we are not always there to water at the right times.
We get more rain in the spring, which is good, but often the soil is too wet to work in when we happen to be there.
That's why I thought of planting in the fall. I would need to order online in the next few weeks most likely, as dianthus and geraniums will not be available in my local area in the fall.
I guess I could just lossen the soil and add compost now and wait until spring to plant.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I've had good luck with fall planting as long as I plant early enough for them to root well, and in general I have better success since there is less work competing for my attention in the fall, and the autumn soil is still warm while the air is cooling so the plants are less stressed. We also tend to have good fall and spring rain most years. I find that by the time my garden has warmed up and dried out enough to plant in spring, the air is getting hot; we have a short grace period between mud season and high summer here. I don't find much difference with the voles between mulched and unmulched gardens in winter since we get enough snow that the voles tunnel under the snow regardless of mulch.

If you have good snowcover and some autumn rains most years, I would plant in fall, but if not, I'd be more likely to plant in spring, but give the new plants some temporary shade after planting.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 9:49PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

It would help the advice givers if we had some idea of where you are, so what the usual temperature/precipitation patterns are.

Where I am is similar to NHbabs in that fall rains are usually plentiful and the ground is warm enough that most plants establish well. I've had quite good luck with surprisingly small things planted surprisingly late in the year. Watering is a non-issue if you live in a place where it rains, and most things I plant get a watering in at first, but nothing after that.

To get to specifics, I wouldn't plant dianthus late because it can have trouble overwintering because of excess moisture. Geraniums are pretty idiot proof no matter when they get planted or moved. If the grass is Hakonechloa, I have a terrible time getting it established, though now I have a couple of large clumps of the plain green that I'm willing to abuse because I've got so much of it.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 10:05PM
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I don't usually plant perennials in the fall anymore. I used to order Bluestone's tiny packs and had big losses. Root systems just did have time to develop. Sometimes I buy much bigger plants on sale in the fall: that improves their chance of success, but not if they are rootbound or been poorly maintained. otoh, if I find a perennial for a few bucks it may be worth a try.But I hold my expectations loosely, as the saying goes.
I'll join the chorus (from zone 5a-6) about fall planting for woodies. I've had very good luck with planting shrubs and trees in autumn, even as late as October. I probably learned from Ken about the diligent watering, soil temps, roots growing long into the season. The only tree I lost recently was a fall planted (2012) Taylor's Sunburst conifer that survived winter, being planted too deeply, root girldling surgery.....and it died during or after a week of 90-100 degree heat, even though I watered deeply and faithfully. (I bet the compromised root system had something to do with it) I suspect heat kills more newly planted woodies than cold.

To suggest the obvious, do you ever spend a week at the house? You could get a good start then, including setting up a do-it-yourself soaker hose system with a timer. I really like Gardener's Supply "snip and drip". It is easy, but takes some hours. Much easier with two people.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:53PM
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I am in the NC mountains. We get an average of 20 inches of snow, but will not have frequent snow cover. Our temps fluctuate, greatly, often 20 to 30 degrees bteween day and night. High winds are a given. Voles are a big problem and thick mulch is a welcome mat for them. Fall can be dry, but I can easily water for a week and use a soaker hose on a timer. I have read the above posts and really appreciate the benefit of other"s experience. I will hold off on the grasses, dianthus, oak leaf hydrangea, and phlox until spring or early summer, whenever the ground dries up enough to plant.
I am planning to divide the walker"s low catmint and some ferns this weekend.
I have built a low stone wall to support a new morning sun only planting area in view of the kitchen windows. I had hoped to plant it this fall, but realize that I will have to wait for spring for some things.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:50PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I move plants and add plants in the spring and fall and any time that the temperatures and cloudy weather give me the best opportunity. I can't remember the last plant I lost. Some years if I wait too long to get a few pots in the ground, I've sunk them into the raised vegetable beds, cover them with a thick layer of chopped leaves and keep my fingers crossed. I'm always pleasantly surprised to see most of them make it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:23AM
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I live in SW Va mts in zone 6A, about 3 miles from NC. I often plant perennials in the fall. They need at least 6 weeks to grow roots before the ground freezes. For us, that's usually around Thanksgiving. I haven't planted conifers in the fall though. I suspect it's the wind and lack of water. Usually Sept and Oct are fairly dry and the fall rains begin in Nov but who knows what is "normal" now!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 1:40PM
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