Although 2016 brought a warmer than usual fall season, with high temperatures staying in the middle to upper 80s through the end of October and one of the warmest Novembers on record, the weather is finally starting to cool off, and the Texas Agrilife Extension Service says now through the end of December is a prime time to plant trees and shrubs.

Ensuring newly planted trees and shrubs have enough water is important, cooler temperatures mean they will have a chance to thrive without constant watering. When a new item is planted, be sure to soak the roots and also the surrounding soil. Plant experts suggest watering every 7 to 10 days to boost the newly planted tree or shrub’s chance of adapting to its new home. If you water more often, this can lead to root rot.

“Remember more trees and shrubs fail from over watering then from under watering,” said Douglas Welsh, a landscape horticulturalist with the Texas Agrilife service.

Planting after the worst heat of the year is over, but before the winter freeze begins, give trees and shrubs a jump start on growing strong roots. Plants are known to grow whenever the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which Welsh notes might be the case for all or most of a winter in Texas. If the trees or shrubs roots are established by the time spring arrives, this can mean a significant surge in plant growth once temperatures warm up.

Agrilife also recommends buying healthy, well-grown plants from a reputable source. If a tree or shrub is offered at a price that seems too good to be true, it will be no bargain if it dies. While price is always important, of course, making a purchase that will be able to thrive in the conditions you plant it in can mean the difference between a great deal and a bad one.

Check to see if the tree or shrub you are purchasing will thrive in the local soil, what type of sunlight or shade it will grow best in, and if it is heat or cold tolerant. Local nurseries can provide this information, as well as your county Agrilife extension agent.

It’s also best to make a plan of what you want in your yard before you begin planting. Think ahead to avoid planting something in the wrong place.

“Every plant in the landscape should serve a purpose,” Welsh said. “Ask yourself if you want a plant for screening, for privacy, or for shade. How large will it be five years from now? Plants, like people, grow up. Remember, that a small one-gallon-size plant will look entirely different after a few years of growth in your landscape.”

Other planting tips include:

  • Digging a hole large enough so that the root system will have at least 6 inches of clearance on all sides. The root ball should be on a solid foundation, so avoid digging too deep.
  • Planting the tree or shrub a little above the surrounding soil to allow for settling and to assist in drainage.
  • Be careful when placing the tree or shrub in its hole. Handle it by the root ball, and not by the trunk.
  • Remove any container before you plant.
  • Backfill the hole using the same soil that was removed to dig the hole.
  • Water the newly planted tree or shrub thoroughly to settle the soil near the roots and to get rid of air pockets.
  • Do not fertilize your tree or shrub immediately after it is planted. Wait until spring, and then fertilize lightly. Too much fertilizer can harm the roots and could kill the plant.
  • After the tree or shrub is planted, add 4 to 6 inches of mulch at the base or the plant. This helps to control weeds and also helps the soil to maintain its moisture. Recommended mulches include compost, pine, bark, grass clippings or leaves.  Following these tips can help your tree or shrub get off to a good start. For more information, including the best trees for your yard and how to care them, visit http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/.