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 Learn how to test if it is too late to plant a tree this fall. Review steps you can take to care for your newly planted tree.

When Is It Too Late to Plant a Tree in Fall?

October 25, 2016

Now that fall is here, you may be itching to add a new tree to your landscape. Who wouldn’t want more of that gorgeous seasonal fall color? But with a frigid winter right around the corner, is it safe to plant?

Before you begin digging a new home for your tree, test to see if it’s still OK to plant this late in fall. Plus, learn what happens if you were to plant your tree too late in the season.

How to Tell if It's Too Late in Fall to Plant a New Tree

How late can you plant a tree in fall? Is October or November too late to plant trees?

Mid-August to mid-October is an ideal time of year to plant new trees. Though, that time frame can be stretched.

A good rule of thumb is that if the trees in your area still have leaves, you can plant new trees. To be 100% sure, look to the soil! Using a soil thermometer, measure soil temperature early in the morning for a few, consecutive days. If your soil is consistently 50° F or higher, you’re good to plant.

More on why fall is the best time to plant trees here.

Can I plant any type of tree if the soil is 50° or higher in autumn?

The 50° F mark works best for deciduous trees. Those are the trees that shed leaves before for winter. Because of this, they focus only on growing and providing water to their roots in winter. So, they don’t need as much energy.

On the other hand, evergreen trees–like pine and spruce–hold onto their needles year-round. They need all the nutrients they can get before the ground freezes. That’s why you want to avoid planting evergreen trees if the soil temperature is lower than 60° F. Your tree wouldn’t have enough time to save the energy needed to survive the winter.

What happens if I plant a tree when the soil is too cold?

Planting a tree when the ground is too cool sets your tree up for trouble. It’ll likely suffer from reduced root growth and eventual tree decline.

If you find out after planting a new tree that it was too late, you can boost its health. Your goal is to make up for the lack of growth this fall. So, how do you do that? Water, fertilize, prune and keep an eye out of for disease and pests. Essentially, you want to create a plant health care plan for your new tree.

Once I plant a new tree in fall, do I need to do anything to prepare it for winter?

Water your new tree weekly, even if its leaves have fallen, until the ground freezes.

Need a refresher on how to properly plant a tree? We’ve got you covered! Read this.

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