Here's What to Plant in the Fall for the Prettiest Spring Yard

Give yourself a jumpstart on spring with these fall plantings.

After a steamy summer, autumn's cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners, but the soil is still warm enough to allow roots to grow until the ground freezes. Fall showers are generally plentiful, but it's easy to deeply water plants if it doesn't rain at least an inch per week. Pests and disease problems also fade away in the fall. Plus, the late season is often bargain time at garden centers that are trying to sell the last of their inventory before winter. Look for deals on spring-blooming bulbs, perennials, trees, and shrubs, which can all be planted in the fall, up until your area gets hit with a hard frost. And don't forget your lawn; cool-season turfgrass can be seeded this time of year, too. Get these plants in the ground in fall, and they'll reward you with gorgeous color in spring.

Person planting multiple bulbs in soil
Jacob Fox

1. Spring Bulbs

All spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths need a period of cold to bloom, which is why they need to be planted in fall even though you won't be able to enjoy them until the following spring. Many bulbs come in a wide assortment of varieties, so you can choose colors, heights, and bloom times that work best in your garden. If deer or other critters frequent your yard, plant bulbs they don't like to nibble, such as daffodils, grape hyacinths, and alliums.

close up of a person planting a pansy
Peter Krumhardt

2. Pansies and Violas

Fall is the good time to plant pansies and their smaller cousins violas because the still-warm soil temperatures give their roots time to grow enough to survive the winter. Plus, by planting them in fall, you'll get two seasons of enjoyment out of these cool-season favorites because they'll often start blooming again when weather warms up in spring. If you live where the ground freezes, look for more cold hardy varieties. To help them overwinter, add a thick layer of mulch around them once your soil is frozen; this insulates them from alternate freezing and thawing cycles that can heave these small plants out of the ground.

repairing lawn
Jacob Fox

3. Turf Grass

Fall is the best time to establish new turf grass, either by seeding or laying down fresh sod. When creating a brand new lawn, seeding is usually the cheaper and easier DIY option, but sod will give more immediate results. If you'd just like to repair a patchy or sparse lawn, first rake the spots to expose soil, sprinkle grass seeds wherever you want them to grow, then cover lightly with compost or straw. Keep the new grass well-watered until freezing temperatures arrive.

In process planting oak tree
Peter Krumhardt

4. Trees and Shrubs

Once the weather cools off after summer but the soil is still warm enough for root development, it's the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs. Before digging, check with your local utility companies to locate any underground lines. Always plant trees and shrubs at their natural soil lines. Keep newly planted trees or shrubs well-watered until the ground freezes so they get a good start before going into full dormancy during winter.

dividing hosta plant with knife
Julie Maris Semarco

5. Perennials

When you're looking to add to your collection of perennials, autumn is one of the best times to do it. You can also divide and replant existing perennials such as hostas and astilbe in your garden. Keep any fall-planted perennials well-watered until the ground freezes to encourage them to grow new, healthy roots before they go dormant for the winter. Protect them from frost heaving with a blanket of shredded leaves or other mulch, layered about 3 inches thick around them. When spring rolls around, they'll be ready to fill out your garden beds with fresh foliage.

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