En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - November 02, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Optimum planting time for perennials and trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our group is running out of fall workdays. Is it OK to plant native perennials and small trees in Central Texas during the winter months? Or should we wait now until the spring?

ANSWER:

November, December and January have always been our favorite time to plants woody plants. If you already have them, then certainly the sooner you get them in the ground, the better. You don't want the roots to dry out, and you sure don't want them out of the ground when the first freeze comes. The ground is a great insulator, and will keep the new roots from being damaged. You should try very hard to avoid transplant shock-in other words, get water in the loose soil around the roots, at a small dribble from a hose, about 3 times a week. The average first frost in Austin is usually about December 1, but in this temperate region, the ground does not freeze, and frosts usually last only a few hours. While the plants are in dormancy during cooler weather, the moisture in the plant is down around the base and in the roots. A plant can be severely damaged or killed by a heavy, hard frost freezing the water in the plant. The cell walls can burst when the water expands as it freezes, and the damage can be fatal. Another protection for the newly planted trees and perennials is a good, thick coat of an organic mulch over their root systems. This will hold moisture in the soil, further insulate the roots, and as it decomposes, add still more warmth and help to enrich the soil.

If the plants are being held in plastic pots and a freeze is predicted, a friendly garage, if one is available, would be a good place to store them. Plastic is no insulator, and can get very cold and very hot, to match the outside temperature. And if you are holding plants in pots, be sure to keep them watered. Even in dormancy, some moisture is needed, and a plant without its roots in the earth is very susceptible to drying out.

To sum up, a plant waiting to be transplanted into a permanent position, and with its roots out of the ground, is better off being planted just about any time, but the best time is when it's cool and the plants are in dormancy.

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
July 30, 2012 - We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed woul...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Shady Front Beds in OK
July 15, 2014 - I need a groundcover for my front beds in Edmond, OK that are moist and in full shade. The groundcover would primarily be around and under a Japanese maple. Low maintenance is preferred.
view the full question and answer

What plants grow well in Athens, TX?
January 18, 2011 - Athens, Texas, we have very sandy soil mixed with clay, what plants grow well here?
view the full question and answer

Need Native Plants for Ditch Stabilization in Texarkana, Arkansas
September 14, 2010 - I live in Texarkana, Arkansas. I have a ditch near the street in my front yard that is approximately 90-100 ft. long. It gets full sun. There is a lot of clay and rocks in the ditch. I need to fin...
view the full question and answer

Container plants for Arlington TX
February 10, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I just moved to Arlington, TX. I am trying to create a container garden on my apartment balcony. What flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit combinations can I put together that wil...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center