When planting a tree, monitoring and maintenance are essential to its survival, as are proper planning and wise decision making. One such decision that needs to be made is the time of year in which to plant the tree. Due to varying climate patterns throughout the year, as well as how plant growth occurs during each season, trees planted at different times may face harsher or milder conditions, which can ultimately determine the success of a planting. Spring and fall are the best seasons to plant trees because of milder temperatures, more abundant water, and their timing in the growing season.
Spring is a perfect time for planting, largely because of the snowmelt and spring rains that provide plants with abundant water. Root development and photosynthesis is supported, allowing trees to become adapted to the site before the drier and hotter summer. Too much water, however, can be a problem. In addition to creating muddy and difficult planting conditions, too much water reduces the supply of oxygen and airflow to the roots. This is essential for proper functioning, and if a soil’s pore spaces are completely filled with water, this process cannot occur.
Spring temperatures are also much milder than those of summer. Milder temperatures allow newly planted trees to retain more of their water, rather than lose it due to evapotranspiration, which occurs more rapidly with extreme heat. Trees also grow faster at mild-to-warm temperatures versus the high temperatures in the peak of summer. If planting occurs too late in spring, there is a risk that the summer heat may come too early and present problems.
A tree planted in the spring has the advantage of benefiting from the entire growing season. Trees can photosynthesize and grow throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and adapt to the soil and surrounding conditions. For trees which are particularly slow to adapt to new conditions, early planting gives sufficient time to establish.
Fall is also recommended for tree planting, for many of the same reasons as spring. There tends to be more rain in the fall, and the milder temperatures following summer help to ensure that trees have sufficient water. In contrast to those planted in the spring, trees planted in the fall miss out on the early growing season. Despite that, root growth still occurs in the soil even into the colder months leading up to winter, as soil temperatures remain warm enough for below-ground growth. In the following spring, the tree will have a head start for the growing season. Similar to spring planting, trees that are planted too late into the fall may suffer if they don’t have adequate time to adapt to the site before the winter strikes. For that reason, trees which are slow to acclimate should not be planted during the fall.
Because of ideal climate conditions and seasonal tree-growth patterns, a tree planted in spring or fall will have an edge in surviving beyond its initial years in a new spot. This does not mean these trees are guaranteed success, however. A successful planting will require proper monitoring and maintenance, in addition to wise decisions and good timing.