Lifestyle

Why Plants Shed Leaves and What You Should Plant in Autumn

Fall has a few brief moments of beauty as the leaves turn yellow, orange and red. This is a process that begins with that first “fall feeling,” a sharp dip in temperature and shorter days.

The change in weather triggers a hormonal reaction in deciduous trees. This reaction signals the branch to begin cutting off the leaf at the area were the stem attaches to the branch. The cells that “push” off the leaf are red in color. When looking at the leaves, you can spot this process along the stem, telling you when the leaves will begin falling.  

But why do trees do this? 

The leaves of the tree allows photosynthesis to occur, which creates energy that the tree needs to grow, reproduce, and thrive. During warm and sunny days, the leaves are offering a lot of benefits to the tree. But in the winter, the leaves are much less valuable and may even steal resources from the tree, making the tree vulnerable and unable to take advantage of the spring and summer weather.

While fall often sees a transformation that leaves nature a little barren, this time of year is actually a great time to start planting a garden. A big reason for this is that plants need to establish a root system before they will grow, so doing this later in the year (at least 6 weeks before the first frost) will mean that plants can be ready for the spring season. 

But what should you plant around September or October? Read the next section to learn about a few of the options.

What to Plant During the Fall Season

Bulbs

Some plants thrive when planted before a cold period. This may be true for some spring bulbs. You aren’t likely to see these growing until spring, but the wait will be worthwhile. 

  • Siberian squill
  • Allium
  • Fritillaria
  • Dog’s-tooth violet
  • Glory-of-the-snow
  • Winter aconite
  • Snowdrop

If you need tips for how to plant bulbs, follow this guide.

Vegetables 

If planting vegetables, consider starting them in August so they have time to mature.

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

To extend the growing season, cover plants with cold frames. These will allow light, air, and water to reach the plant while protecting them from frost.

Trees and Shrubs

Established trees and shrubs are also good for planting in the fall. For the greatest chances of success, so that plants bloom in the spring, following some of the below suggestions:

  • Good trees to plant in fall include ash, alder, elm, catalpa, crabapple, Eastern redbud, maple, horse chestnut, hackberry, hawthorn, honeylocust, sycamore, and linden.
  • Plant pine and spruce trees before October while the soil is warm.
  • Choose moderately-sized deciduous trees and shrubs that will adapt to their new location quickly and survive the winter.
  • Choose plants grown in ball or burlap containers.
  • Avoid planting broadleaf plants until spring.
  • Following the planting instructions for light requirements and give plants enough space to grow.

For tips on planting trees and shrubs, following this guide.

Fall doesn’t have to be all bad. There is still plenty of time to grow vegetables, plant trees and shrubs, and prepare for everything to bloom in spring.

Author

Eleanor Ward