When Should You Plant Trees?

As long as you select healthy specimens that are well-suited for the location, you can plant trees at just about any time of year. However, because most people install relatively young – and therefore fragile – trees, you’ll have more success planting trees during some portions of the year than in others.

The Rule of Thumb: Fall Is Tree-Planting Time

Geographical factors are always important to consider, but generally speaking, the best time of year to plant new trees is the Fall. Root growth and development is one of the most crucial factors that determine whether a newly planted tree will thrive, so every effort must be made to plant it at a time conducive to root growth. By planting new trees in the Fall, they have the chance to develop a robust root system before winter dormancy sets in.

Additionally, by planting new trees in the Fall, they are unlikely to be stressed by a late-Summer heat wave or drought. Heat waves and drought increase a tree’s need for water and decrease the amount of water available, respectively. Accordingly, it is a good idea to avoid planting any trees until you are sure the Summer is in the rearview mirror and Fall has arrived.

And, while this is not a problem for most California residents, Fall planting schedules allow you to plant the trees before the ground freezes, which can make it difficult to excavate a planting hole. The trees also have a chance to adapt to its new surroundings before frosts and freezing temperatures occur.

Notable Exceptions and Caveats

Some trees thrive best when given a significant amount of time to establish themselves before Winter; these species are best planted in the Spring. Some of the trees that fall into this category include dogwoods, birches, willows, and magnolias, among others. Fruit trees are also best planted in the Spring in areas with cold winters, but they can be planted in the Fall in most of California.

Because they do not become dormant in the winter, you can plant evergreen conifers at just about any time of year. However, they may not thrive if planted during the heat of the Summer, so they are generally best installed in the Spring or Fall, like most other trees.

Other Important Factors to Consider

There are a few additional factors that can alter the ideal tree-planting time for your property. For example, if your yard is bathed in exceptionally high levels of sunlight, you’ll likely want to wait a little longer to plant your trees than others in your region. Conversely, those living on cool, windswept, northern exposures may want to give their new trees another week or two to establish themselves before cool temperatures set in, so it is wise for such homeowners to plant a little earlier than others in the area.

Similarly, if your home is situated low in your local watershed, and your soil typically carries ample moisture, your trees probably won’t be as negatively impacted by Summer heat, so you can plant them a little sooner than you otherwise would.


If you need help planning out a new tree installation, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. One of our experienced and trained arborists will visit your property, discuss your wishes and make recommendations regarding the species and the timing of the installation. If you like, we’ll even take care of the installation for you.