Fall is the best time to plant trees in South Texas

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For those living in Central Texas, autumn is “the absolute perfect season for planting trees” due to the shorter days, cooler temperatures and moderate rainfall, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Autumn provides the ideal conditions for planting trees and to keep transplant stress to a minimum,” said Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Travis County. “Most of the trees that we plant in Central Texas are deciduous, so they’ll soon be dropping their leaves and going dormant. During the winter, trees focus their resources below ground on their roots.”

She said trees planted in the fall have almost half a year to establish their root systems before it gets overbearingly hot and they need more water to survive.

“In order to take up water, plants must release water into the environment through a process called transpiration,” she said  “During the heat of summer, the air is so hot and dry that it practically sucks the water right out of leaves. It takes a lot of water to support a canopy full of leaves, so if there’s not enough water, that makes for a pretty stressful situation for the tree.”

She said under those stressful conditions trees will drop those unsupported leaves and “go to sleep” until the stress passes.

“If you’ve ever planted a tree during the spring, especially in the late spring or early summer, you may have noticed that your tree immediately dropped all of its leaves and struggled to survive through the summer months,” she said. “But once the temperatures began to drop and the sun became less intense a few months later, during the fall, new leaves appeared and the tree took advantage of the time before winter to get in a little growth before it went dormant.”

Richards said the lower temperature and higher relative humidity of the fall season helps keep trees better hydrated, so planting during autumn gives them more time to acclimate to their new environment and become established.

She also noted that in Central Texas fall and winter can be an excellent time to plant, transplant and prune some plants.

“This is a good time to plant winter annuals such as cyclamen and snapdragons, as well as ornamental vegetables like kale, cabbage and Swiss chard. It’s also a pretty good time to plant roses.”

However, she said, it’s best to avoid planting certain plants such as lantana, esperanza, plumbago and Pride of Barbados during this time of year.

“If your plant thrives in the heat, it may not want to be messed with in the cold,” she said. “This applies to plants native to hotter, drier areas of the U.S., as well as tropical plants. Also, if your plant is one that will need protection during our relatively mild winters, that’s a good sign that you should leave it alone until we warm up in the spring.”

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