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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Plant Shrubs and Trees For Fall

R. L. Rhodes
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Difficulty: Beginner
Duration: 2 hours

During the summer your soil collects warmth and oxygen, making the transition to autumn the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs.

To ensure that your fall plantings have the opportunity to establish themselves, get them into the ground about six weeks before the first hard frost. Depending on what part of the country you live in, now is a good time to add container-grown palm trees, maples, dogwoods, smoke trees, beautyberry and more to revitalize your fall garden and provide you with year after year of pleasure.

Tools & materials

Tips for Planting

1. For the best results, remember to select the right plant for the right place. Trees and shrubs should be planted slightly higher than surrounding soil to allow for increased soil drainage. Before planting a tree, consider the size of the root system once mature. A tree with a large root system should not be planted next to a patio, sidewalk or driveway, as it may buckle paved areas. Be sure not to plant sun-loving plants in the shade, or shade-loving plants in the sun. Use the plant code for plants you’ve bought from the Home Depot Garden Center to find more helpful information.

2. Prepare your garden bed by adding a layer of compost and working it into the soil a good 12″ deep.

3. Remove plants from containers and place them in a hole that is the same size as the pot the plant was growing in. Be sure to loosen and straighten any roots that are wound around the root ball.

4. Fill in around the plant with soil you removed when you dug the hole. Make sure the planting areas look undisturbed, since animals may be attracted by any lingering evidence of digging. Apply a 1″ to 2″ layer of mulch to hide the telltale signs, keep weeds at a minimum and retain soil moisture.

5.Water new plantings once a week for the first month. Thoroughly soak the root ball.

USDA Zones. Click to enlarge.


Suggestions for Planting

Below are some suggestions for shrub and tree varieties that make excellent adornments for your landscape. Included are the zones where each thrives, so if you’re unsure whether or not a plant is suitable for your region, compare it on the USDA Zone Map provided.




  • Mt. Airy

    Aesculus parviflora, Bottlebrush Buckeye (Zones 4 to 8), has brilliant yellow foliage.

  • Callicarpa Americana, Beautyberry (Zones 7 to 10), is covered with lavender fruit on bare stems.
  • Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ (Zones 5 to 8) produces red-yellow and orange leaves that practically glow in autumn.


  • Winterberry

    Ilex verticillata, Winterberry (Zones 3 to 9), is a deciduous holly covered with dense clusters of red fruit on bare stems that start to color in fall and persist into winter. Only the female hollies produce fruit. Make sure to purchase a male pollinator when you buy your holly.

  • Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’, Crape Myrtle Natchez (Zones 7 to 9), turns red and orange in the fall. ‘Natchez’ also produces masses of white flowers in summer and the cinnamon-colored bark is ornamental year round.
  • Viburnum

    Pyracantha spp. and cvs., Firethorns ( Zones 6 to 9), are evergreen and produce masses of red, orange or yellow berries in autumn. They are a good choice for a bank planting or growing up against a building.

  • Viburnum spp. and cvs. (Zones 5 to 7 or 9, depending on the type) have clusters of fruit in fall that persist into winter.




  • Japanese Maple

    Acer palmatum cvs., Japanese Maples (Zone 5 to 8), are one of the most elegant trees in the garden. There are many different types, with various habits including weeping and mounding. The fall foliage ranges from fiery orange to soft yellow.

  • Acer rubrum cvs., Red Maples (Zone 3 to 9), are one of the first trees to show color in the autumn. Depending on the selection, the leaves range from brilliant red to orange to soft yellow. A good choice for a shade tree.
  • Ginko, or Maidentree

    Cordia sebestena, Geiger Tree (Zone 10 to 11), blooms year round with orange flowers.

  • Fraxinus Americana, American Ash (Zone 3 to 9). There are numerous selections of this tree including ‘Autumn Applause’, which offers maroon fall foliage—perfect for a large shade tree.
  • Ginkgo biloba, Maidentree (Zone 3 to 8), is a magnificent specimen tree for the landscape. In late fall the leaves turn a brilliant butter yellow and then they all drop at once, creating a carpet of color. Purchase a male tree if you want to avoid the odor produce by the fruit.
  • Live Oak

    Nyssa sylvatica, Black Gum (Zone 3 to 9), is a native tree that displays red, yellow and orange fall colors. As it matures the bark develops an alligator-like appearance. A beautiful tree in for all seasons.

  • Oxydendrum arboreum, Sourwood (Zone 6 to 9), is a native tree with variable fall color, ranging from red to purple to yellow. In summer it produces masses of pendulous, fragrant, lily-of-the-valley flowers.
  • Quercus spp., Oaks (Zone 3 to 8, depending on the species), are a large and diverse group of trees. Some, like the White Oak, Quercus alba display colorful fall foliage in shades of brown to red to wine and others exhibit varying degrees of color.

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