Like so many of us, conifers really love the fall season. The brilliant sunshine,
cooler temperatures, and more reliable soil moisture of autumn provide the perfect
growing conditions for this group of plants. Early and mid autumn are the best
times for planting conifers.
Here are a few simple guidelines for selecting healthy,
happy plants that will please you for many years to come:
Check the root system. Most conifers are sold either balled and burlapped or in containers.
Since they are shallow-rooted plants, check to be sure that the plants have adequate, healthy roots.
The root tips should be creamy white or reddish in color - not black. Check to see if the plant is
loose and wobbly - push gently on the plant and watch the base of the stem. If the pot or the burlap
looks old and worn, the plant may have been sitting in the sales yard for several seasons, and the
root system might not be healthy.
Check the plant for overall color. Whether you choose a plant that is green, blue, or yellow,
the colors should be vivid and fresh looking, not pale and washed out.
Look at the branch structure. If you are choosing a columnar conifer for hedges or
accent plants try to select plants that have a single leader. Although you might be
tempted to buy plants with many leaders because they look fuller, plants with several
leaders are actually more prone to damage from snow loads and from high winds, as we
recently experienced with Hurricane Isabel. Single is always better. Conifers that
naturally have a rounded or spreading shape should be well-balanced and evenly branched.
Bigger is not necessarily better. Many conifers acclimate better to a new
planting site if they are young and vigorous. If faced with the choice of
planting a hedge with 5-6 ft tall plants or 3-4 ft tall plants -- the 3-4 ft plants
is the better choice. After two or three years, the shorter plants will very
often surpass the 5-6 ft tall plants in growth because the larger specimens will
take longer to adjust to the site.
One of the most beautiful sights in the fall season is the rich brocade of
color that is created by deciduous tree leaves set against the rich, deep green
of conifers. What more inspiration is needed for planting conifers in the fall?