Question: I see signs at nurseries saying "Fall is for Planting." Won't newly planted shrubs die during the winter?
Answer: Those nursery signs are right -- fall is indeed a great time for planting trees and shrubs. In fact, many gardeners consider late August through mid October to be prime time for planting.
When the weather begins to cool, the days begin to shorten, and the sun drops a little lower in the sky, it brings ideal conditions for establishing new trees and shrubs. These factors work together to create the perfect environment for establishing a good root system. Warm soil promotes vigorous root growth, while cooler air temperatures deter top growth. When new shrubs and trees are planted, ideally, we'd like them to develop good root structure first, before they begin to throw out new leaves and branches. By planting in the autumn, the plant has plenty of time to produce roots before spring brings new (and thirsty) top growth. Essentially, the plant is putting all its energy into getting established, instead of generating new leaves and/or flowers.
There are a few things, however, that you should do to help your newly planted trees and shrubs through the colder months. Soon after planting, mulch them well with a few inches of shredded bark or compost, being sure to keep it away from the trunk (bark-chewing voles …