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Plant Away, I Say!

By Paul James

I’ve been asked the same question a lot lately: Is it okay to plant now? So let me say, without hesitation, that the answer is a resounding yes. But to be clear, it depends on what you’re planting. Tomatoes? No way! Petunias? Fugget about it! Ditto plants that can’t handle temps below freezing. Sure, that eliminates a number of possibilities, but what’s left is still a long list.

Soil temperatures have consistently been hovering in the 40s throughout Green Country for weeks now, and that’s warm enough for roots to develop. And soil moisture has been sufficient and stable for weeks, which isn’t always the case this time of year. Those two factors combined create the ideal conditions for planting. And here’s what can go in the ground now.

Trees and Shrubs

I’ve often reminded you that fall is the ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs because they focus all their energy on root growth rather than producing stems and leaves. Well, although we’re in the middle of winter, the weather is distinctly fall-like, which means it’s still a great time to plant.

Conifers and Evergreens

The same is true of conifers and evergreens, including azaleas. These super hardy trees and shrubs actually benefit more from planting this time of year than their deciduous counterparts, largely because they retain their leaves and therefore continue to photosynthesize. So while their top growth grows at a snail’s pace (if at all), they’re able to focus nearly all of their energy on root development.

Perennials and Groundcovers

The same logic applies to woody and herbaceous perennials and groundcovers. They may not look all that great right now compared to their splendor in spring (Hellebores and Autumn ferns being two notable exceptions), but they’ll actually grow faster come spring after putting on so many new roots during the winter months.


Yes, you could certainly wait until spring to plant these rugged beauties, but it’s perfectly fine to plant them now for a blast of color in otherwise colorless gardens. And chances are they’ll produce even more flowers when spring rolls around thanks to a more robust root system. Just make sure they get plenty of sun and the soil drains well.

I’ve looked at half a dozen long-range forecasts from local and national weather sources, and it looks like our mild winter will continue for weeks. That’s not to say we won’t have a sudden cold snap, but even if we do, it’s not going to affect what you plant now. So, plant now!

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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6 responses to “Plant Away, I Say!”

  1. Janet Jaunitis says:

    Do you happen to have Christmas Holly bush available?
    Thank you in advance.

  2. Joan locke says:

    Have some tulip bulbs I didn’t get in fall can I do those now??

  3. Tom Peters says:

    Hey Paul, I just got 20″ of snow on Monday here in Connecticut so planting anything is a ways off for me. I know you always would get your potatoes in early and I was wondering how you feel about cutting seed potatoes in half to get more plants. Do you think doing so affects plant vigor or production? Thanks

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