Autumn is the best time of year to plant many kinds of hardy plants in your garden – it’s a sweet spot when the soil is still warm so the new roots will develop quickly and get your new plants established.
At the same time, many plants will be starting to ‘shut down’ for the winter as the days get shorter – instead of concentrating on their leaves (photosynthesizing and growing new ones) they will re-focus on the root system.
So – the soil is warm and ideal, plants are in a good place, receptive and ready to be planted and we usually get some nice rain at this time of year too – it’s the perfect time of year for planting things!
Things to plant in Autumn
- If you are planning to re-arrange your garden, this is one of the best times to attempt moving established trees and shrubs to a new area. While there is never a guarantee of success if they have been planted for many years – the best odds of success are in Autumn. Try to move them with the largest possible root ball of soil, soak them well both before and after you move them. Increase your chances of success with bigger and older shrubs by pruning to reduce the length and number of branches by 30-50% before you start, this will mean less water is lost by transpiration that must be replaced by the redeveloping root system.
- Plant potted hedges, trees, shrubs and conifers in September and October.
- Plant evergreens (including rootball hedging plants) during October and November
- And of course – now is the time to plant those spring bulbs for a great display next year!
The best bulbs to plant ready for Spring
Spring flowering bulbs are best when planted in autumn because the soil is still warm, allowing their root system to develop effectively meaning you’ll have the best spring blooms. Planting bulbs in autumn will provide you with beautiful flowers come spring, adding positivity and colour to your garden and lifting the winter gloom. Bulbs are some of the most low-maintenance and rewarding plants to grow as they will provide you with flowers year on year once planted.
Where to plant your spring-flowering bulbs
Once you have picked which plants you want, you can plant them amongst your borders in either a random arrangement or a more organised layered display.
If you choose to plant bulbs, a hardy option such as daffodils are best in a site that is warm and sunny. Good drainage in the area you plant your bulbs is always an advantage because these flowers originate from places with dry summer climates.
How to plant your bulbs
You should plant your bulbs two bulb-widths apart, and two to three times their own depth, as this gives them adequate space to grow. If you don’t plant them deep enough it can leave them at risk of damage. However, if you plant them too close to each other, the roots can get entangled, effectively strangling each other and causing dehydration / starvation.
Daffodils are one of the top spring-flowering bulbs to plant, a well-loved garden classic. These golden trumpets are renowned for their hardiness, making them low-maintenance and easy for beginners as they can handle everything the UK weather throws at them.
In second place is crocuses, these not only look great in your garden adding a burst of colour; but also are a great source of nectar for bees. Plant crocus bulbs this autumn and do your bit to help save the bees! If you live in a particularly turbulent weather area you may want to plant Ruby Giant Crocuses as they are a weather-resistant variety.
Tulips are another ideal flower to plant this winter, although they often do not come back yearly like other bulbs, taking more maintenance and care. But they are more than worth it with their bright rainbow of colour, adding the pop your garden needs in spring.
If you are looking for a sturdy addition to your garden, hyacinths are the flower to plant this autumn. They come in distinctive shades of purple, pink, white and blue and have a sweet smell.
Finally, alliums are our last suggestion, these deep purple globes are beautiful and easy to grow. These flowers are also great at keeping rodents away as they do not like the taste, with alliums often described as ornamental onion.
Planting flowers for spring is not a complex job and will not take you long. Once your spring-flowering bulbs are planted you can sit back and wait until spring to see the result of your handiwork.
- All transplanted trees and shrubs do well if you add a little bone meal (well mixed with the soil) into the planting hole. This is a natural fertilizer that encourages root growth rather than top growth.
- Add some mycorrhizal fungi at the same time for best results
- Securely stake taller shrubs and all trees so they don’t get battered by the winter weather
- Add a mulch around the base after you plant. This can be bark chippings, Coir or well-rotted compost – this stops the weeds from growing and will keep the root system cool and moist next Spring when the warm weather comes so you won’t need to water as much.
- Check your new plants now and again over Winter, if the wind dislodges them then firm them back in with the heel of your foot so the holes don’t fill with Winter rain
Summary of reasons to plant in Autumn
- The soil is still warm. This means that when you plant into it – the conditions are just perfect for new roots to grow (pretty much straight away!). While the days are getting shorter and it might not be obvious that anything much is happening with your new plants above ground, below ground they will be hard at work. Next Spring your new plants should have a ready developed root system already taking up water and nutrients as the days get longer and they will develop and grow much more quickly.
- Autumn brings cooler temperatures and usually some rain (or at least a good dew each morning) which means you will not need to water them as much compared to planting in the Spring when the weather is (hopefully) getting drier and warmer.
- With the shorter days and less sun, most plants will begin to shut down naturally and go into dormancy during Autumn, this is ideal because the plant’s energy will be focused on their root development instead of photosynthesis and making growth. Plants that develop from the roots up will almost always be healthier and grow more strongly.