What can I plant in the fall?

Q: Can I still plant this late in the year? I don’t grow vegetables, but if I could plant more perennials or shrubs, it might simplify my efforts from being too heavy in the spring.

A: Experienced gardeners know that “fall is for planting.” This isn’t just a logo for a garden center or a plant catalog; It is based on the real establishment advantages of many plant species. Spring flowering bulbs are planted now, and you’ll find an abundance of fall flower colors such as pansies and pansies for sale, but any hardy perennial, shrub, tree or vine can also be installed in the fall. (Exceptions can include stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and cherries.) Don’t wait until the last minute even if the weather remains mild, especially for evergreens that need well-established enough roots to keep their leaves moist throughout the winter. Otherwise, September through October should be absolutely fine. November may be enough for dormant flower bulbs, but I recommend doing so before Thanksgiving.

Why is the end of the growing season a good time? Roots in the ground remain warmer than air temperatures for some time, because the insulated ground cools more slowly, allowing root growth to continue long after frost begins. However, plants in containers will be more vulnerable and may stop growing sooner. Cool air temperatures reduce plant stress by reducing water demand, especially for species that will soon be defoliating, because foliage is the largest source of moisture loss.

Plants also do not divide their energies into two tasks: growing new leaves and branches, as happens in the spring, and at the same time growing new roots. Instead, they can only devote resources to root growth since the following year’s buds have already formed by fall and remain dormant on branches or tucked in perennial crowns.

Practice all recommended planting tips at any other time of the year as they are very important in successful establishment. Loosen tangled or tangled roots on potted plants before installing them, and remove covers and wire cages around the root balls of trees and shrubs covered with ball and burlap.

Although this takes more time and patience, it is best to rinse trees and shrubs of potting mix or soil before planting so you can inspect the root structure for unwanted kinks or tangles, and locate the root flare, which is the junction where it branches The main roots of a trunk or main stem. It is not uncommon for root flare to be several inches deep by the time plants are sold, and this should be corrected at planting for the long-term health of the plant. I find using a wheelbarrow garden hose sprayer to be an easy way to expose tree roots, and have found root tangles so bad when doing this that I would never see if I had loosened the edges of the root ball. Keep exposed roots moisturized as they are at greater risk of drying out – another benefit of the bathtub the wheelbarrow creates as you work. If you don’t have a wheelbarrow, any wide-mouth bucket or tub will be helpful.

Q: I love the aesthetic of ornamental onions with globular flowers but would rather use something local. Do we have native flowering onion plants?

A: Yes, although they look different from non-native species, such as the purple, white or blue species grown at this time of year. The primary native species grown for use in gardens, although still somewhat difficult to obtain compared to other wildflowers, are the onion, Allium sirnum. Its light to medium pink flowers are displayed in globe-like inflorescences during the summer, but as the name suggests, they nod slightly downward, and the clusters are not very large.

In Maryland, this species is found in some western Piedmont and mountainous counties, and nowhere is it abundant. Interestingly, it also occurs throughout the United States, although there are large areas in the population where it appears to be absent.

Planting should be relatively easy based on the plant’s preference for moist but well-drained soil and at least half a day of sun or more. As a perennial, it will grow and bloom again for years, and may slowly multiply to form a colony. They have good drought tolerance and deer and rabbits usually leave them alone. I think they look lovely paired with hedges, grasses or other finely textured perennials, or used in groups as a front row accent (being fairly short) to a mixed perennial border. Bees appear to be primary pollinators.

The University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information in extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Request Extension” to submit questions and photos.

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