Can I Plant Trees and Shrubs in Late Fall or Winter?

Shrubs in containers ready for planting.

We just bought some shrubs at a late fall sale. Can we plant them now, or should we try to store them until spring? -Dee

Go ahead and plant them. Even though it’s late in the season, your shrubs will be happier in the ground than in pots. Ideally, trees and shrubs need about a month to establish roots before a heavy freeze, but it’s actually OK to plant them anytime the ground is workable, and many bare-root trees and shrubs are planted in very early spring while they’re still dormant.

I’ve planted well into December with success, though the plantings looked pretty pitiful until the weather warms up in the spring.

Here are a few tips for seeing your late-season plantings through the winter:

  • Avoid stimulating growth: Don’t fertilize or overly amend the soil. You can add a little compost and bone meal (to stimulate root growth), but hold off on fertilizer until spring.
  • Don’t disturb the plant: Avoid pruning, and be very gentle with the roots while planting. The shrub won’t have time to recover from damage, and it’s going to be stressed enough as it is.
  • Keep plants watered: The worst part of cold damage is caused by desiccation, or drying out. Keep new shrubs watered every week or two until the ground freezes, and especially right before a heavy freeze.
  • Watch out for frost heaving.
  • Apply Mulch: Add mulch to keep newly planted shrubs insulated. If you’re planting cold-sensitive trees or shrubs, you can add extra protection by wrapping or banking the plants with burlap or leaves on cold nights. Be sure to uncover in the morning.

If the ground is frozen solid and unworkable, you can store unplanted shrubs in a sheltered spot with a southern exposure. Bank with leaves or mulch to keep them insulated and water every few days. When growth starts in early spring, prune away any damaged branches, shape up your plants, feed with a balanced organic fertilizer, and they should recover nicely.

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15 Comments on “Can I Plant Trees and Shrubs in Late Fall or Winter?”

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  • darcie Says:
    November 28th, 2018 at 8:14 am

    hi my name is darcie i am 13 years old and my school is doing a project on plantin in all four seasons if anyone has any suggestions please contact me before novembre 30. Thank you for your time.

    you can reach me at

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    October 20th, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Hi, Olivia! If you have determined a transplant site, the next step is to move the Yew.
    Here’s a resource on that process from our friends at SFGate:
    Let us know how it works for you!

  • OLIVIA Says:
    October 20th, 2018 at 11:58 am



  • carla Marie Cookman penny Says:
    September 21st, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    I live in Canada where it gets really cold lol -40 in the winter. I just got two maple tree seedlings and I’m not sure if I should plant them. I know it’s september but it’s all ready snowing out side. I put them both in pots in my office where they will get lots of natural light. Would they just be better to spend the winter inside? There maybe 4-5 inches tall

  • Sharon Folks Says:
    March 3rd, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    I was given a Denver spice tree seedling it’s beenin a six inch pot of soil well wateed. I have had it for 2 weeks indoors. Since I live in Iowa and it’s early March when can I put it outside?

  • Vicky Says:
    February 22nd, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Also it needs water! Vicky

  • Mary L Kenworthy7 Says:
    November 7th, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Can I plant seedling pine trees in November. They are wrapped in burlap, with a sm amt. of soil. I live in kansas. We have 5 days of 50-60 temp daytime..then gets down to 37- 40’s at night. After 5 days. Temp at night drops to freezing. Is 5 days long enough for them to start to have root growth?. I will plant them with bone meal and cover with straw. Please answer
    Me. ASAP. Thankyou

  • Robert Says:
    November 29th, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I just bought two weigela shrub plants that are just the root. I live in the lower part of Pennsylvania. can I go ahead and plant them before we get snow or should I wait until spring? (how do I winter themover if I need to wait?)
    Thank you

  • Beverly Whitaker Says:
    November 17th, 2016 at 5:44 am

    Hi I live in newport news Virginia. I just bought my first beautiful eucalyptus tree and it’s November , is it safe to plant my tree or should I keep the tree indoors until spring ? Thank you

  • Aron Lewis Says:
    October 28th, 2016 at 11:10 am

    i live in denver colorado is it to late to plant shrubs it has been overly warm and the ground shouldn’t be frozen for another 3-4 weeks is it ok to plant now? we are considering spending a significant amount of money on our shrubs possibly upward of 5k is it smarter to wait for spring?

  • fanny reiter Says:
    November 27th, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    I live on the Olympic Peninsula,removed 8 huge old DFirs to close to the house.I have 2 Port Orford cedars and one 6 ft liquid amber to plant to fill in sudden empty space. Ground has been frozen for several days. I am wondering if I can plant in the ground or should I wait? What if we get unexpected high snowfall, will it hurt the potted trees?

  • Linda Trammel Says:
    October 11th, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Hello. I live in SW Oklahoma. In front of my front porch I have planted several candytuft plants in among rocks. I took the advise of a video and pruned off the white clusters of flowers in late spring and since that time they have not bore any white flowers at all. This has been very disappointing because I love the blooms. Otherwise they have been nice and green and have grown but no flowers! What did I do wrong? Thank you.

  • Betsy Noland Says:
    August 20th, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I live in Lexington, KY and would like to plant a few shrubs in my back yard under a large oak tree. There is so little sun on this area – I’m wondering what kind of shrub would be best to purchase/plant.

  • Gary Deyling Says:
    January 5th, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    In Raleigh, nc can I plant a 3 gallon pink delight butter fly bush in Jaurary? Thank you.

  • william Binns Says:
    December 22nd, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Hi julie,
    I have been on your web site in regards to late shrub planting, i have just planted a laurel hedge row and want to plant flowering small shrub inbetween so they can mingle with the laurel as they grow .I am an ametuer gardener having just retired. i find the gardening interesting, can you suggest a flowering shrub I can use now, i hope you have time to give me some advise.
    merry xmas.
    W P Binns

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Can I Plant Trees and Shrubs in Late Fall or Winter?