Help keep our Arboretum and Public Garden spaces open

5 reasons why fall is the best time to plant

Arboretum volunteers planting
Fall is the best time for plants to grow hearty root systems. Last fall Arboretum volunteers helped establish new plants along the banks of the waterway the garden’s East Asian Collection.

Ever wonder why some plants in your yard seem to thrive more than others? Sure there are multiple factors at play, including plant quality, soil quality, sun exposure and location, but one of the most often overlooked issues is timing – when you plant makes all the difference.

“It seems counter-intuitive to many,” says Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden nursery manager. “Many think the best time of year to plant must be spring because it’s when leaves bud and things get green again after winter, but if you want healthy plants through our long, hot, Central Valley summers, do yourself a favor. . . plant in fall.”

Autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, is the best time of year for new planting whether you are renovating a lawn area or adding new plants to a mature landscape. Plant establishment is much easier now and here are five reasons why:

  1. Less water use – Thanks to recent rains the soil moisture can be kept constant with less irrigation.
  2. Softer soil – The soil is softer now so it’s easier to dig holes!
  3. Fewer weeds – Unwanted plant life is less prolific thanks to less sun and cooler temperatures.
  4. Less stress – Cooler temperatures also are less stressful to new plants.
  5. Hearty roots – When the air temperature is cooler than the soil temperature, plants put more energy into root growth without new top growth, which results in heartier root systems and stronger plants overall.

“Imagine those roots getting cozy underground through the fall and winter,” explains Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. “There isn’t going to be much growth above ground where you can see it, but just wait . . . come spring your plants will show you how happy they are you planted in fall!”

To take advantage of the timing, do-it-yourself gardeners won’t want to miss the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s clearance sale and last plant sale of the fall season this Saturday. They’ll be featuring one of our area’s largest selections of attractive, low-water, easy-care, regionally-appropriate plants for at least 20% off.