Autumn is a time to multiply plants

  • Before frost, carefully lift and pot small herb plants or large perennials you want to bring inside.

    Before frost, carefully lift and pot small herb plants or large perennials you want to bring inside. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted10/3/2021 7:00 AM

Fall is a great time to plant and transplant trees and shrubs. Fall conditions, which include warm soil, moderate air temperatures and rain, help plants re-establish their root systems.

In general, trees and shrubs do not need to be pruned when transplanted to compensate for loss of roots during transplanting.


• Evergreens benefit from planting early in the fall to minimize the chance of winter burn. Try to get them planted before the middle of October and continue watering them weekly or as needed until the ground is frozen.

They should not go into winter under stress from being too dry.

• Good soil preparation is important for a successful planting. It is best to amend the entire planting area or bed instead of individual holes. Evenly incorporate 2 to 3 inches of compost into existing garden soil.

• Mulch is also important to install for fall plantings. Use 2 to 3 inches of mulch for trees and shrubs and 1 to 2 inches for perennials and ground overs. It is best to keep mulch away from the crown (base) of the plants.

• Peonies are dependable, long-living, hardy perennials. Their neat foliage stays green from spring until frost, and follows large, showy blooms. They do best in full sun, although they can tolerate partial shade. Flowering is reduced if they are placed in the shade.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Autumn is a good time to plant peonies as well as divide and transplant existing ones. Lift roots carefully and use a sharp tool to cut the large, fleshy roots into smaller pieces. Be careful not to make these pieces too small; each section should have at least three eyes.

The eyes are reddish growing buds that emerge from the top of the roots. You will find them in spring and fall. Set these divisions an inch or 2 below ground.

• It is time to start thinking about the indoor herb garden. Before frost, carefully lift and pot small herb plants or large perennials such as rosemary or lemon verbena to bring inside.

After lifting them from the ground, you may want to keep them outside for a few days in a partially shaded spot with even moisture. This will help them adjust to a move indoors. The shock from moving plants from outside to inside can cause some yellowing of leaves. Once the plants are inside, keep the herbs in a sunny window.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.