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Fall is for Planting

Aug 31, 2022 ● By Melinda Myers
pansies and stocks

Cool season annuals, like these pansies and stocks, brighten up the fall garden. Photo courtesy of

Fall is a great time to plant a few new additions in the landscape. The soil is warm and the air cooler, making it easier on plants as they adjust to their new location and to the person doing the planting. Here are just a few ideas for adding immediate and long-term beauty to the garden.

Add cool-season annuals like pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale and stocks to brighten the fall garden. Consider adding cold-hardy pansies like Cool Wave, a trailing bedding plant variety available online and at independent garden centers. They provide color in the fall garden, survive most winters and are back blooming in the spring, just as the snow melts.

Create or purchase container gardens filled with fall favorites. Set them by the front entrance, on a patio or deck to enjoy this last bit of color, and the pollinators will enjoy the nectar and pollen as fall fades to winter.

Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs, including native plants. Consider adding new plantings to enhance an existing landscape or replace those that have outgrown their location or were damaged by this summer’s storms and extreme heat. With the warmer soil and cooler air, the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. Give new plants plenty of room to reach their mature size. Those small transplants will eventually grow to large specimens. Temporarily fill the voids with annuals for immediate results. Each year as the plants grow, they’ll fill in any open areas.

Plant trees so the root flare, the place where the roots curve away from the trunk, is even with or slightly above the soil surface. Dig a hole the same depth as the distance from the root flare to the bottom of the root ball. Make the hole two to five times wider than the root ball. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill with the existing soil. Water thoroughly and spread a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface, keeping the mulch away from the tree trunk to avoid what’s often called “volcano mulch”.

Follow a similar planting procedure for shrubs. Plant these so the crown, the place where the stems meet the roots, is even with the soil surface. And be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems.

Plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other bulbs in fall for extra color next spring. Add them to perennial and mixed borders. Start planting spring flowering bulbs after the nighttime temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees. Be patient, because waiting until the soil cools reduces the risk of early sprouting that often occurs during a warm fall.

Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height deep. Check the label for recommended spacing specific to the type of bulbs, then cover them with soil, sprinkle on a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer like Milorganite, working it into the top few inches of the soil, and water.

Animals tend to leave Camassia leichtilinii ‘Blue Danube’ and other varieties of this bulb alone. Photo courtesy of

If critters are digging and eating the bulbs, plant varieties the animals tend to ignore. Daffodils, hyacinths, Fritillaria, alliums, Camassia, glory-of-the snow, snow drops and grape hyacinths are a few to consider.

Take advantage of the fall weather to add color and beauty to the landscape for years to come.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio program. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. For more information, visit

Learn more about fall planting and plant selection at a free

Fall is for Planting Seminar

followed by Q&A at

Pasquesi Home and Gardens,
975 North Shore Dr., Lake Bluff,
from 11 a.m. to noon,
September 10,

joining garden expert and columnist Melinda Myers.

For more information, visit