Spring is seductive. It’s hard to not want to rush out to the garden centers on the first beautiful day of the year and load up on your yearly plant purchases. Then summer hits and the garden romance quickly comes to an end. Often, by the time the brutal heat and drought of summer have passed, the last thing anyone wants to think about is getting back out in the garden. Unfortunately, this summer hangover tends to keep Dallasites from planting at the very best time of year: fall.
With the intense heat and persistent drought conditions here in Dallas, spring-planted trees, shrubs, and lawns often struggle to make it through their first summer. They certainly don’t have much time to acclimate or put down roots by the time the heat wave hits. Homeowners often fail to deliver the extra water needed to newly planted specimens, especially with watering restrictions in place. Yet, we persist in our habit of late-spring planting, en masse.
If you’re not native to Dallas and moved here from a cooler climate, then doing the bulk of your planting in April or May seems normal and logical. In our year-round gardening season, however, fall is a better time to establish a new landscape.
Why is this? Not only do we get more rain in the fall, but more importantly, the night temperatures come down significantly, which reduces how much moisture plants lose through their leaves. The combination makes for a more hospitable environment for new plants. Thus, you’ll have a much easier time getting fall-planted specimens through the following summer—and you’ll use less water to do it. Fall-planted specimens have about nine months to put down new roots and begin to acclimate to their new environment before the onset of summer stress.
Now, I’m not saying don’t plant anything in spring! There are many plants that are meant to be planted during this time, including heat-tolerant color, vegetables that fruit in summer, and fall-blooming perennials. If you have to plant new shrubs and trees in late spring, just prepare for their added water and care needs.
Fall is also a great time to score some unusual and high-demand plants for your garden. Hellebore, also called Lenten rose, is a must-have for shady Dallas gardens that’s most often available in fall. This tough evergreen perennial tolerates clay
soils and blooms in winter. Most garden centers bring in their main stock of fruit trees and citrus plants in the fall, as well. Want to put on a big spring show of daffodils? If so, you’ll need to buy your bulbs and plant them in fall. If you love Iceland poppies, October is when you’ll find them for sale and when they should be planted. Cool-season veggies abound, and you can plant most crops through November. Salad greens, broccoli, and kale are especially easy.
So remember, now is not the time for armchair gardening! If you’re planning on adding new plants to your garden or installing a completely new landscape, take advantage of our prime fall-planting window.