When Should I Plant My Plants?

When Should I Plant My Plants?

By Published February 07, 2014 Updated May 02, 2022

There are plenty of myths related to gardening, especially when it comes to best planting times. Some gardeners say fall, others say winter, but your garden gut says to plant in spring. So, is there a correct time to plant? The answer is no. With very few exceptions, the best time to plant is when you have time and when you can keep your newly planted plants watered.

The key to successful planting and transplanting is very simple…a well-prepared planting bed and proper watering afterwards. Yes, it’s really that simple!

If the question is when is the best time to plant for plants to establish the fastest, the answer would be midsummer. Although you never hear midsummer planting mentioned, this is by far my favorite time to plant. Each year we plant hundreds of perennial plants during weeks that the high air temperatures reach the upper 90s or 100s. Most plants love being planted then, since their roots are growing so fast that establishment and subsequent growth is truly unreal. Summer planting, however, means you must have a reliable water supply during the establishment period. It used to be that you had to be around to cut the water on and off, but nowadays, there are a variety of faucet timers that can manage the on/off hose operations for you while you’re away.

Spring is probably my second favorite time to plant, but the main problem I run into is planting on top of dormant plants that have yet to re-emerge. Obviously, the key to spring planting is a good garden labeling system. Spring is a nice compromise for those who have a hang-up about summer planting. 

Most printed gardening literature says fall is best for planting and, for most plants, fall is indeed a fine time. Because the temperatures are cooling, plants generally require less water to get established because at that time the soil and the plant are both losing less water. There are a small number of plants…mostly what we term, “hardy tropicals”, that should not be planted in fall. These would include hardy palms, bananas, elephant ears, and agave (century plants). These plants simply don’t get established quickly enough in fall to survive our cold winter temperatures. This same group of plants should also not be planted in winter in climates where the temperatures drop into the single digits F.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen and you can tell what is already planted in the area, winter is a great time to plant in many regions. This is not a good time to plant in colder climates where the soil freezes deeply and where frost heaving may actually push poorly anchored plants out of the ground. While the soil may stay moist longer due to cooler temperatures, it is important to remember that evergreen plants still lose water through their leaves in winter. When planting or transplanting broadleaf plants in the winter, it is important to spray the leaves with an anti-transpirant or anti-desiccant. During winter most people simply aren’t thinking about watering as often as they should. The great thing about planting in winter is that you can better consider the "bones" or structure of the garden.

We hope this gives you a new perspective on getting your new plants in the ground.

Back to articles