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Right Tree, Right Place: When to Plant

The right time to plant a tree is during the dormant season – spring or fall in the Northeast.
man planting tree with young child watching

Trees have many benefits: They clean the air we breathe, increase property value and curb appeal, and can even help reduce heating and cooling costs. But there are many factors to take into account when planting a tree in your yard – and when you plant can be just as important as what you plant.

Experts agree that the best time to plant a tree is during the dormant season, when mild weather conditions allow trees to establish roots before the scorching heat of summer or below-freezing temperatures of winter. In the Northeast, trees can be planted in spring or fall, both of which have their advantages.


The Advantages of Planting Trees in Spring

  • Nurseries are fully stocked and offer the most abundant selection.
  • Homeowners who have been cooped up all winter are excited to spend time in their yards and are more likely to care for a new tree before yard work becomes a chore.
  • Trees planted in the spring have ample time to establish roots before the ground freezes, which can prevent crucial moisture from reaching the tree.
  • Because they are more delicate, trees sold as bare root stock (such as fruit trees) are only available in the spring, but they grow faster and adapt better to their new conditions than potted trees.

The Advantages of Planting Trees in Fall

  • Trees don’t need to expend energy on leaf growth, so they can focus their resources on the development of a strong root structure.
  • Trees planted in the fall have ample time to get established before the stress of summer heat.
  • Because trees go dormant in the cooler months, they require little or no care during that time.
  • A tree that gets established in the fall won’t need nearly as much water the following spring and summer.

Fun Fact: In one year, an acre of forest can absorb two times the CO2 produced by the average car.

A walk through the forest should be enough to prove that trees have a propensity to grow where they are planted – even when their seeds are sowed at random by the wind. There are many ways to increase your chances for success, but a general rule of thumb is that you can plant a tree as long as you can dig a proper hole. If you’re committed to the care of your tree and prepared to provide for its needs until it gets established, any day can be Arbor Day.