Fall Planting Guide

Fall is for planting!

You’ve heard it before, and it really is true. Here in Ohio, we’re in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6. That means that from October 1st until the end of November is an ideal time to plant everything from shrubs to spring bulbs.

With a little planning and planting, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous garden come spring.

Tips for Planting Bulbs

One of the most popular items to plant in the fall is bulbs. Besides being a lovely surprise and pop of color when they emerge from the ground in spring, many bulbs bloom year after year, maintenance free. Plant once, and reap beautiful blooms for years to come.

Planting bulbs may seem difficult or best left to seasoned gardeners, but it’s nearly goof-proof as long as you follow a few general guidelines. Here are our steps to bulb-planting success:


  • Adhere to your USDA Plant Hardiness guidelines. As we mentioned, Ohio is in Zone 6. Bulbs like a cool ground, but not a frozen ground! Planting in the month of October is a good rule of thumb.
  • Pick a spot for your bed of bulbs. They aren’t picky, as long as the area gets adequate drainage and several hours of sunlight a day.
  • Think about a layout for your bulbs. This is important! Do you want them in a pattern? Random?  Either way, bulbs look best grouped together in odd numbers, so consider clusters of three, five, or seven.  Also, bulbs of different heights, varieties, and colors work well together. Think clusters of red and pink or yellow and purple!
  • Ready to get digging? If you’re planting just a few bulbs, use a bulb planter or spade to place them in the ground individually. If you’re planting a bunch of bulbs, it’s more efficient to dig one long trench and place the bulbs in your desired pattern.
  • Plant bulbs pointy side up, about 6” deep, although the depth may vary depending on the size of bulbs. It’s best to follow the directions for your particular bulbs. If you’re planting bulbs of various sizes, remember to put the smallest bulbs in the front or around the perimeter!
  • Once everything is planted and recovered with soil, give your beds a light watering and cover of mulch, straw, or mulched leaves. Then, it’s time to sit back, let the bulbs do their thing, and wait for them to emerge as one of the first signs of spring!

Tip! Don’t let your bulbs sit around for too long. We suggest planting them within a week or two of purchase. Old bulbs equal rotting bulbs which won’t grow properly.

Tips for Planting Perennials

Fall offers a good opportunity to plant spring-flowering perennials, but also to divide these spring-flowering perennials. Many of the same steps covered above on planting bulbs apply to planting perennials, but we have included steps specific to planting your perennials this fall:

  • Consult with the experts at Rice’s Nursery or do research on your own to find the perennials you would like to plant. Remember to consider layout and space when selecting your plants.
  • Dig one hole at a time that's wider but not deeper than the container. Be sure to handle perennials by root mass, as to not hurt the stems.
  • Prepare your plant by loosening the roots with your hand or make four shallow cuts into the root mass near the bottom with a sharp knife. This preparation will help the perennials’ roots to grow more quickly before going dormant in the winter.
  • Tip! If you see few roots in the root mass and mostly potting soil, remove some of the potting soil to ensure the roots make direct contact with the garden soil.
  • Set your perennial into its hole and be sure to place it exactly as deep as it was in container.
  • Cover the roots with loose soil, water lightly; add remaining soil and pack gently but firmly. Be sure to water the perennial well after planting.
  • Repeat the above steps for each perennial that you will be planting.

For more information on on-going plant care, including which type or plant fertilizer to use, stop by our garden center to speak with one of our customer service representatives.

Tips for Planting Trees and Shrubs

Now is also a popular time to plant trees and shrubs, as roots become active during winter months to store nutrient reserves for the next season. Also water requirements are generally much less during winter months. Planting trees and shrubs in fall allows for preparation for the coming spring, but it also provides a pop of fall color before going into their dormant season.

Here are our steps to properly plant your trees and shrubs this fall:

  • Find the trees and/or shrubs for your environmental conditions (space, soil type, etc.) and personal taste (color, size, etc.). Usually the best way to find the best choice is to visit our garden center and speak with one of our tree and shrub experts.
  • Dig the hole. The hole should be 2 to 3 times wider than the “root ball” but just as deep as the root ball. It’s best to not dig too deep a hole or the new tree/shrub can settle during watering.
  • Tip! Discard soil from hole on a tarp as some of this dirt will be replaced after the tree or shrub has been placed in the new hole.
  • Prepare the tree or shrub for planting by loosening the roots with your hands in order to “free” the roots to grow.
  • Place the tree/shrub in the new hole. Be sure the top of the root ball is 2 to 3 inches higher than the soil line. If deeper than the soil line, remove the tree/shrub and pile enough dirt in the middle of the hole to bring the top of the root ball above the soil line. This will also help to ensure the tree/shrub doesn’t settle when watered.
  • Return the dirt back to the hole. Be sure to press the soil down lightly, as to allow for air pockets for rain, worms, and root growth.
  • Add mulch around the new tree or shrub, but do not mound it up like a volcano. Two inches is plenty, but be sure the mulch does not directly touch the trunk or stem of your newly planted tree/shrub.
  • Be sure to water your new planted tree/shrub for 20 to 30 minutes every 7 to 10 days until the ground freezes.

Tip! Don’t use fertilizer or prune your new tree or shrub. Fertilizer and pruning encourage new growth, which should only be done in the spring.

Get planting this fall and enjoy the beauty of your efforts and the bulbs themselves come spring. It’s easy and inexpensive, and we promise you’ll be so glad you took the time to do it.