Fall vs Spring planting

My spot is supposed to be a 5b but im situated next to a large bay and only a mile from the gulf. My location (from a cold hardiness perspective) is in all likelihood behaving more like a zone 6.

What surprised me the most were the japanese plums and the pluots. They took off in the spring just as well as anything else; better than the apples on seedling and b118, which were hit hard by scab.

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Have you tried planting out later in the fall; like late october or november, once the trees are fully dormant? My experience is limited to bareroot with the exception of 2 potted apple trees i planted in october a few years back. They are still alive.

Thanks for the info.


I think the different results boils down to differences between hardness zones where people live. It also may matter where the bare root tree is being shipped from- a Northern nursery or one in a more Southern location. I would expect a tree supplied from a Northern nursery would be better hardened off.

Most references I have seen say Fall planting is good for zone 6 and warmer. And Spring planting is preferred for zone 5 and colder.

Some older references still prefer Fall planting for colder locations or at least getting the trees in the Fall and heeling them in using a protected location. The reason given for this was in the past, some nurseries had trouble storing trees over the winter and you were better off storing it yourself.

All of this discussion I find very interesting since I am barely in zone 6 by the latest zone maps and on the older maps I was in the middle of zone 5b. I have passed on getting trees in Fall because I was afraid that the trees wouldn’t survive the winter. It would be nice to be able to plant in the Fall especially since some nurseries in the South only ship in the Fall.


if you plant in august your good but any later they don’t make it. ground is frozen here by mid oct.

I noticed the same with Japanese plums. I planted some on myrobalan rootstock in March and they outgrew pears I had planted the year before. Not sure what made them so vigorous.

Atleast here in Colorado zone 5 the problem with fall planting is the frequency of your winter watering. They really need some time to break into the earth around them or else they dry up is what i believe. I have had it work great with strong rooting plants but i am also accustomed to winter watering dormant greenhouse trees, but try to do all my planting in spring even though i am busier because i believe it lets them root out best and makes my life easier in the winter.

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I did some forced experimentation last fall, as I was several months late completing the moose fence around my orchard expansion, and felt winter wasn’t as dangerous to plants as moose. I finished the fence in October, and had well over a hundred trees of various sorts in mostly 3 gallon pots with no place to store them over the winter. The ground was lightly freezing but I was able to rototill anyhow and started planting stuff. Around Halloween we got several inches of snow which slowed the freezing, and I continued planting well into November, rototilling in the snow. Come spring, most of the apples, cherries, and pears survived, about half the apricots made it, a couple plums out of about six squeaked through, and I killed off about two dozen peach trees. Some of the apples and pears were killed but all the bacatta and OHxF 87 rootstocks survived. A few apples survived on B9, and all the G41 roots died quite decisively. I should also note that most peach trees I plant in the spring have winter killed also, as I’m in a steep learning curve with them.


I’ve done quite a bit of fall planting with good success, but it’s mostly been digging up and moving one place to another. I like it because things are not so busy for me in the fall. Though it varies a lot, usually our ground doesn’t freeze very far down since we usually get snow before temps get into the -20’s & -30’s. I mulch when I move things anyway and generally later than earlier when they’re dormant or close to it. Don’t think I’ve ever had anything die. Sue

I’ve planted a number of 8-12’ potted apples and pears in September. All have survived. I have also moved quite a few wild crab rootstocks in the fall with success. I think the key in northern areas is that they stay well watered until the ground freezes.

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I see my situation being different that yours in that when i order trees they are coming from other parts of Canada. They dont ship until early November which equates to them being well hardened off (in the case of a southern quebec/ontario origin). The ground is still friable here in early November so its easy to get them in.

I prefer fall planting also and keeping them watered is important even in my warmer area that the ground rarely freezes.

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England has mild winter temps and NY has relatively harsh ones. The literature revolves around what serves commercial fruit growers and Cornell research is mostly done in upstate NY. They are the key source of researched info in the east, particularly the NE.

The main problem with fall planting for most species is when it’s done in areas where the winter temps often plummet below 0 F. and are followed by thaws and then subsequent similar lows.

If trees are planted in some types of soil this will cause them to dislodge from the soil or loosen enough to be killed by freeze.

Commercial growers have therefor usually planted only in spring and the nursery industry has developed around that timing.

However, the issue of dislodging can be addressed by mulching the soil over the roots after transplanting in the fall and fall planting often gives trees a boost in spring growth because of root growth in the new soil in fall.

More and more, nurseries are beginning to offer trees for planting in the fall. I do most of my planting from my nursery in the fall, including a majority of bare root, 2.5" caliber trees (about 12’ tall and well branched, fruiting trees) and I do see an overall advantage to plant at that time with all the species I manage and sell besides mulberries. Mulberries often experience some winter kill of small branches form this practice. The trees most often survive it.

My pear trees are almost never sold bare root. They don’t tend to transplant well bare root at any size, although the whips are usually fine but more sluggish than other species.

But I always use a generous layer of mulch to help trees through winter.