Winter is the best time to plant trees

What?! Why?!

This is the usual reaction my clients give me when I tell them this bit of information. Yes, winter is the best time to plant trees. (Palm trees are not true trees, I will explain this one later.) To answer the why, we need to explore a little more about plant physiology. During the winter, deciduous trees are in a dormant state and conifers are in the slowest state of activity. This means processes like photosynthesis and transpiration are not occurring at normal rates. When a tree is planted it will undergo transplant shock, transplant shock is when the tree adjusts to the new growing conditions and the response is negative. Once the tree is planted, the tree will start to adjust to its new growing condition and because the physiological processes are hampered, the tree will have more time to adjust, thus lessening the effects of transplant shock. During the winter, trees focus growth on their roots, this gives them a head-start for the spring when the tree shifts gears and pushes out leaves. Leaf growth tasks the tree more for resources then root growth does. In addition, the exploration of roots into the soil will allow the tree to become more tolerant of the summer drought when water resources are scarce. I hope this shines a little more light on the topic for you.

There are a few things you can do to prevent transplant shock, even if you plant during the hottest part of the year.
  • Plant the tree properly in the ground (yes, there is a correct way to plant a tree)
  • Water the tree regularly
  • If needed, add fertilizer and mychorizza
  • Add mulch
  • Limit branch and root pruning, less is more

-mp