Fall Planting in Ohio

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Are you looking to spruce up your landscape before the chill of winter hits? Consider these types of plants to add beauty to your yard come spring!

Bulbs

Brown and tan bulbs covered with dirt. There are yellow flowers behind the bulbs.

Bulb plants need a period of dormancy for a happy bloom in the spring, so now is the best time to get them in the ground. A good rule of thumb is to plant your bulbs about six weeks before the ground freezes, usually late September or early October. It’s best to plant bulbs in groups, in damp soil and in a sunny area. You should also plant bulbs four times the bulb height and with the growing/pointed tip up. Common bulb plants in Ohio include tulip, hyacinth and daffodil, to name a few.

Trees & Shrubs

Thanks to moderate temperatures and increased rain in the fall, trees and shrubs can establish a solid root system. Their hardiness helps them survive the cold winter weather so that they are ready for the stress of hot and dry summers.

Two black walnuts hang from a branch of a black walnut tree.
Black walnuts

Before you plant, be sure that you dig a hole 2 to 3 inches wider than the tree or shrub root ball. If the roots are bunched up tight, you may need to use a tool to loosen them around the ball or cut off a little bit of the bottom. This will help the roots get established in the soil. After filling in the hole, be sure to give it a gentle soaking with a constant trickle from the garden hose for 15–20 minutes a day. Fertilizer isn’t necessary the first year, but feel free to lay down some mulch to reduce soil compaction and reduce weeds.

It’s always best to plant trees and shrubs that are native to our region. These can include black walnut, black oak, red maple, bur oak and eastern red cedar. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio is home to 99 species of trees, so there are plenty to choose from to beautify your landscape.

Grasses

Grasses are an excellent addition to any landscape, adding height, color and variety with other plants. They are also a great cover crop that you can plant in your garden in the fall to help nitrogen levels in the soil, and to help with erosion and insect control.

Deer-Tongue Grass
Deer-tongue grass (Photo courtesy flickr user Tom Potterfield/Creative Commons)

Grasses can grow anywhere from 3 to 8 feet, depending on the type, and can be incorporated individually or grouped together. To begin, rake and clear the area of debris and smooth out the soil. Plant seeds by spreading them evenly around the area and then lightly rake again to incorporate and cover the seeds. Soil moisture is essential for germination, so be sure to water the area regularly to avoid drying out.

Native grasses are the best to plant because they provide food, nesting materials and a habitat for birds and other local wildlife. Big bluestem, bottlebrush, deer-tongue and tall dropseed are just a few of the different varieties you can add to your yard or garden.


As mentioned before, it is important that when we considering planting, whether it be in the fall or any other season, that we go native. According to the ODNR, as of January 2020, there are 1,842 native plants in the state, including trees, perennials and grass. Planting native supports birds, insects and wildlife, increases pollinator resources and conserves the environment.

For a list of locations in Ohio where you can purchase native plants, visit Ohio Native Plant Month’s website. Or, if vegetable planting is more your style, we’ve got you covered!

Happy fall planting!


Kimberly Whitton, Public Engagement Coordinator

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