Planting Trees & Shrubs in the Fall

Trees and shrubs not only beautify your landscape, but they can also add value to your home and reduce energy costs. Many of us only think about adding trees and shrubs to our landscape in the spring and summer, but fall is actually a great time to plant. Follow these few simple steps to insure that your fall plantings will be protected through the winter and thrive next summer.


Before you begin any landscaping project, call Gopher State One Call at 651-454-0002 to mark the location of any underground utilities.

You will also want to carefully select an appropriate tree or shrub for you site. Will you be planting under power lines or near a building? Be sure to look at the mature size of the plant; the size of a tree or shrub in a container can be misleading. If you need help picking out a tree or shrub for your landscape, just ask a garden center employee.

After you select the right plant for your location, start by digging a hole that in twice as wide as the root ball, but slightly shallower. It is very important to the long term health of trees and shrubs that they not be planted too deep. Remember that loose soil in the bottom of the planting hole will settle over time causing the plant to sink.

Next, remove the container and loosen or cut through any roots that are circling the root ball. Place the tree or shrub in the hole, leaving about 1/2” – 1” of the root ball above the surrounding soil level. Backfill the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Place mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve water, but do not place mulch next to the trunk of the tree or shrub as this could cause rot or disease.

Winter Care


It is important to continue to water trees and shrubs into late fall. Water newly planted trees and shrubs thoroughly until the ground freezes. In the fall, avoid fertilizing trees and shrubs that go dormant during the winter.


Sunscald appears as sunken, dried or cracked bark on the south or south-west side of a tree trunk. It is caused from the sun heating the bark during cold winter weather and can damage or kill a tree. The trunks of young and thin-barked trees should be covered with tree wrap from the base up to the first branches. Tree wrap should be applied in late fall and removed in spring.


Evergreens are particularly susceptible to winter damage because they do not go dormant during the winter. Evergreen needles may turn brown due to loss of water from wind and sun exposure or from the heat produced by decorative holiday lights. Protect young or exposed trees from drying winter winds by placing a burlap screen on the south or west side of the tree. If you do decorate your evergreen with holiday lights, try to use LED lights which don’t produce as much heat as traditional lights.

Animal Damage

When food for wildlife is in limited supply during the winter, young trees and shrubs can be damaged by deer, mice or rabbits. Protect trees from mice by placing a plastic trunk cover around the base of the tree during the winter. Because rabbits and deer can damage trees and shrubs above the snow level, you may want to consider placing fencing around your plants during the winter or using an animal repellent spray.

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