Be In The Know About Fall Planting

Be In The Know About Fall Planting

Now that it’s cooler, Cape Cod homeowners and gardeners are getting into their landscapes to plant. Not only is the weather more conducive to working outdoors, but the cooler nights are easier on the plants as well. Here are several tips and suggestions for your fall planting.

Before you shop, make a list of your goals.

Even in the fall, the selection of plants in the garden center can be overwhelming. If you arrive with a list of what you want to accomplish with the trees, shrubs and perennials you buy, you can focus on plants that solve your problems or suit your location. Do you need plants that will thrive in the shade or in a hot, dry area? Do you want native plants or varieties that will attract the birds to your yard? Perhaps you’re looking for ideas for winter interest, mid-summer flowering, or fragrance. Or maybe you want a weed-smothering, evergreen ground cover that’s not invasive. No matter what the goal is in your landscape, it’s likely that there’s a plant for you in the garden center right now.

Filling in your perennial garden.

If perennial garden fill-in plants are on your list, check out the small pots in the front section. While there are many annuals in that area, there is also a great selection of perennials. From Sedum to Nepeta, daisies and Coreopsis, to Gaura and Euphorbias with variegated leaves, there is a good selection small, hardy plants in the fall. If you place these in the garden now they will be larger in the spring and you’ll have a more beautiful perennial garden in 2023.
Superblue Lavender is a variety that is very hardy, dense and fragrant. Grow this plant in full sun and areas with good drainage.

Fall planted perennials grow quickly!

You’ll be amazed at how much growth fall-planted perennials put on before winter sets in. See the small Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow plants in the upper left corner? This perennial has variegated green, yellow and pinkish foliage. I purchased several of these three weeks ago, and the photo below shows that they have doubled their size or more since I put them in the ground.
In three weeks the small Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow I planted have grown tremendously. They are nearly triple the size that they were when I put them into the ground. Since this plant is semi-evergreen, it will look good in my perennial garden all fall and most of the winter…and it will come into flower in the spring.

Planting for birds and wildlife.

Do you want more plants that attract birds to your property? Consider adding Viburnum dentatum, as pictured here, or V. lantago or V. trilobum. If you plant two or more of any Viburnum variety you’ll have better pollination and more berries. Viburnums also provide good shelter for birds, in addition to food, and many of them display colorful fall foliage.

Native plants for your landscape.

If you’re looking for more native plants for your yard, consider the Virginia rose. The rose hips are especially colorful in the fall.
If you want more native plants in shady spots, you can’t go wrong with wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). This evergreen mixes well with other shade plants such as ferns, and provides colorful berries that supports an assortment of wildlife.

Perennials for mid to late summer color.

Echinacea (aka coneflower) are perennials for full sun that flower from July into September. The bees appreciate the flowers when they’re in bloom, and the birds eat the seeds out of the cones after the blossoms fade. Plant these with Russian sage, another mid-to-late summer perennial; the tall, wispy, lavender flowers of the Russian sage contrast nicely with the round Echinacea blooms.

Add color to part-shade gardens or foundation plantings.

Hakon grass (Hakonechloa macra, aka Japanese forest grass) is a low-growing perennial that adds color from the minute it comes up in April until October. This grass thrives in part-sun or part-shade, and is the perfect contrast to blue-leafed hosta or a red-foliaged dwarf maple tree.

Low, evergreen ground cover for shade.

Here’s a plant geek’s tip for shady gardens: Plant dwarf sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana ‘var. humilis’) in between or in front of taller shrubs. This evergreen grows to about 12″ high, spreading gradually in a way that is weed-smothering but not aggressive.

A narrow, flowering shrub that’s not too dense.

Sometimes we need a shrub but don’t want a plant that’s too thick and dense. Perhaps you want something near a patio but don’t want to block the view of the yard beyond. Or maybe you need a plant that gives you a bit of greening but doesn’t prevent the delightful sea breeze from cooling the area. If this resonates with you, check out the Prague Viburnum (Viburnum X Pragense ), a shrub that’s semi-evergreen on Cape Cod.

Planting for winter color or interest.

As the days grow shorter, homeowners may want to add some winter-interest plants to their landscapes. This winterberry holly is a plant that will turn any winter dismay into winter delight. Other plants for winter interest include yellow and red twig dogwood shrubs, and trees that have attractive bark. Consider planting a magnolia tree or the low male skimmia, since their buds are pretty all winter. Look for trees with attractive bark, such as the Heritage River Birch, and evergreen shrubs that have golden needles.

A final note about planting and roots.

Many people have been taught that roots always need to be pulled, cut or “tickled” when a plant is put into the ground. This isn’t necessarily true. If you don’t see circling, congested roots when you pull a plant out of the pot, you don’t have to disturb the roots at all. If the plant has become very root-bound, however, you may want to gently pull the roots apart. Look closely at shrubs and trees that were grown in containers, and pull out circling roots so that they don’t continue with that congested growth.

This ornamental pepper plant is clearly starting to be root bound. In fact, it has roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. This rootball can be gently pulled to loosen roots. Some shrubs and trees might have circling roots that need even more pulling so that they don’t continue to grow in a circle once they are planted.
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