As the weather turns colder, many homeowners want to know—can you plant trees in the winter? The short answer to this question is yes. However, you must consider the type of tree, your climate zone, and the upcoming weather forecast. It also makes a difference whether you plant in early, mid, or late winter. Let’s discuss each of these factors in detail so you know if now is a good time to plant a tree in your yard.
Tree Type – Evergreen or Deciduous
When deciding whether to plant a tree in the winter, consider the type of tree you’re interested in. Evergreens—such as spruce and pine trees—never shed their needles. Because they need all the nutrients they can get before the ground freezes, they have a narrower planting window than deciduous trees. The key is to plant evergreens when the soil is no lower than 60 degrees F (16 degrees C).
Deciduous trees, or those that lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter, don’t need as much energy to survive the cold months. This means the temperature can be lower when you plant them. For the best results, plant deciduous trees in the fall or early spring before they begin to bud, when the soil is 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) or higher.
The climate has a huge impact on when you can add a tree to your yard. For all of Canada and most of the northern United States, fall is the best season to plant trees. The heat of summer has passed, but the bitter temperatures of winter have yet to arrive. In USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1 through 7, mid-August to mid-October is the ideal time to add a new tree to your yard.
However, in southern climates—including Zones 8 through 11—you have more time to get trees in the ground. November and December are perfectly acceptable times to plant trees in Florida, Louisiana, and southern Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Upcoming Weather Forecast
In addition to considering your climate, any current, unseasonable weather could impact your ability to plant a tree. For instance, an especially warm winter may be perfectly suited for planting trees, even if you live in a northern climate. Then again, a freak snowstorm in early September demands that you hold off on putting any new trees in the ground.
Early, Mid, or Late Winter
The winter season can be divided into three distinct periods. Early winter often has fall-like characteristics, making it suitable for transplanting saplings. However, once the ground freezes or snow falls, it’s best to wait until late winter or early spring. After all, new saplings are vulnerable to frost damage, and their roots may dry out, if you plant them in midwinter—unless you live in a southern climate where cold and snow aren’t a concern.
No matter where you live or what type of tree you want to plant, help your sapling make it through the winter with these tips:
- Keep watering: Saturate the soil around the new tree every week or two until the ground freezes. Give it an especially heavy watering right before a deep freeze.
- Apply mulch: The freeze-thaw cycle is particularly harmful to young tree roots. Insulate the ground with mulch to maintain a more consistent temperature. Mulch also slows evaporation so the roots can absorb water more effectively.
- Stake the tree: Windy winter conditions could stunt a sapling’s growth. Help the tree grow straight and true by tying it to three or four stakes.
- Consider applying anti-desiccant: As a product that adds a protective waxy coating to broadleaf evergreens, anti-desiccants prevent desiccation (drying out) during the winter.
- Don’t fertilize: Immediately after planting a sapling, you want the new tree to develop strong roots, not new branches. It’s acceptable to add a little compost and bone meal but wait to fertilize until spring.
- Don’t prune: Transplanting is stressful enough on a sapling without you removing any of its branches. The exception to this is if a limb is damaged during shipment and must be removed.
- Protect from deer: Protect your newly planted tree from deer browsing by treating the tree with a deer repellant. Also consider installing a protective tube on the trunk to deter deer from rubbing their antlers on it.
Start Thinking About Spring Clean-Up
Thanks to this guide, you should now know whether you can plant a tree this time of year. Still, feel free to contact The Grounds Guys® with any questions you have. Spring will be here before you know it, so it’s wise to start planning. Schedule spring clean-up services now, before we’re fully booked! Contact us online to request a free job estimate today.
Did you know? The Grounds Guys is a Neighborly company. Learn more about Neighborly’s community of home service experts at Neighborly.com.