Posted by Brent Wilson on 11/1/2017 to FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
You're here because maybe you are interested in purchasing a new plant or tree that you intend on planting in your outdoor landscape but it's fall, winter or early spring, and you're just not sure about the best or safest time to do so.
It's a little difficult to provide this type of planting information in a way that will apply to every specific type of plant, and to gardeners from different locations and USDA Plant Hardiness Zones all over the United States, but I'll try my best. Here goes...
About the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones
Regarding the best time to plant any specific type or variety of plant outdoors will depend on the plant type and/or your location, or your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone, as well as other factors.
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones are the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to be cold hardy at a specific location. The zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. For better accuracy, the USDA has divided each numbered zone into two parts (such as 7a and 7b). The zones also indicate how far south in the United States a specific plant will likely grow to its full potential.
Before purchasing any specific type or variety plant with the intention to grow it permanently outdoors, first you want to confirm the plant is listed as hardy in your USDA Zone. If unsure about your USDA Zone you can click on the link below to find it on our USDA Zone Map.
How to find the USDA Zone for a plant
When browsing WilsonBrosGardens.com, on each and every plant page you will find the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones listed in several different places on the page.
Under the Description tab, you'll find the zones listed under the plant name and again further below under Plant Details. And also under the USDA Zone Map tab.
On many plant pages you'll find the zone listing and a zone map illustration under the main plant photo on the page.
So, when is the best time to plant?
To answer this question we'll use a specific variety of plant: the Professor Sargent Camellia, which is listed as hardy to USDA Zone 7a. So does that mean it's safe to plant this camellia variety year round in Zone 7? Yes and no...it will depend on your location and the time of year.
My general rule of thumb is that if you are in a full zone south of the northern most zone where a plant is listed as cold hardy it is safe to plant year round. For example, the Professor Sargent Camellia is listed as cold hardy to zone 7a. So, if you are in zone 8a or further south, you are safe to plant it year-round outdoors.
If you are in the northernmost USDA Zone where the Professor Sargent Camellia is listed as cold hardy, which is Zone 7a, and it is mid to late fall, I suggest waiting until spring or summer of the next year to plant. Reason being, a plant that has had a half or a full growing season to acclimate and establish itself stands a much better chance of surviving an unusually cold winter, and we never know when that might happen.
Another important factor...
When purchasing plants online at the time of seasonal transitions; from fall to winter and winter to spring, it's a good idea to know what location the plants are coming from. Reason being, let's say it's April and you live in Ohio Zone 6a and you are purchasing a plant from a nursery located in USDA Zone 8a or further south. The plant you intend to purchase is listed as cold hardy to Zone 5a, so you know the plant is known to be cold hardy in your area. That said, in April in Ohio Zone 6a there's still a very good chance of frost, even into the month of May. However, in Zone 8a, where the nursery is located that will be shipping your plant to your location, the temperatures have warmed and plants have already flushed out lots of fresh, tender new growth that can be damaged by freezing temperatures or frost. Therefore, to avoid cold damage to this new growth you would want to wait to order or delay delivery of the plants until a point in time that late frosts or freezes have passed in your area in Ohio.
Same goes for the fall (autumn) season. If it's October in Ohio and plants and trees in the landscape have gone into winter dormancy (are not actively growing) you will want to wait to order plants from a nursery located further south until a point in time when plants have gone dormant at the nursery location you are purchasing the plants from.
Helpful Tip: When placing your order for plants on WilsonBrosGardens.com we've made it easy for you to select a desired date of up to 3 months in the future for when your order will ship. We call this a "future shipping date" or "delayed shipping date." This is especially helpful for those who would like to purchase plants during winter or early spring but want to receive the plants at a later date for spring planting. Delayed shipping is also helpful to time delivery of an order around holidays or vacations.
Word of Caution: Some online "nurseries" aren't really nurseries. Instead, they are online businesses who simply list plants for sale on their website and then have nurseries from different locations around the US ship the orders. Needless to say, if an online business can't tell you what location your plants will be shipped from it might be a good idea to find a more reliable source to purchase from.
We hope this info was helpful. If you need more details or have any other questions don't hesitate to ask us. The team at Wilson Bros Gardens is at your service!
Plant Long & Prosper!
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