Published on 11/01/12

Fall is the perfect time to plant shade-providing trees

By Frank M. Watson

The glaring summer heat may have you convinced to add more shade to your landscape. Fall is the perfect time to plant trees to create that needed shade.

Fall planting allows tree root systems to become established and supply the moisture needed for next spring's growth. This way your trees will get off to a great start.

Many ornamental trees provide a bountiful display of spring or summer flowers, too. Specimen trees attract attention because of their unique form and beauty.

Ask yourself a few questions

So how do you select the right tree for the right place? First ask yourself what you really need in your landscape. Do you need shade over the patio from a large tree with wide-spreading branches? Do you need a splash of color in the far meadow? Do you have the perfect place for an accent tree?

Next ask yourself if you have the space the tree will need. In particular, look at the room needed for the spread of the branches. Mature trees often reach out 20 to 30 feet in all directions, requiring a 40- to 60-foot open area.

Are there utility wires overhead? Wires limit headroom and may limit your selection to small trees or no trees at all. What about underground utilities and drain fields? Check with the utility company so you don't plant trees directly over these.

Then consider the strength of the wood and pest resistance of the trees you have in mind. Look for pest-resistant trees that require little maintenance.

How fast will it grow?

What about the tree’s growth rate? Are you planting for your own gratification or for the enjoyment of future generations?

Here's a short list of fast-growing trees from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. These are just a few of the lesser-known trees that can be planted in the fall.

* The red maple called October Glory is fast-growing with good, green summer foliage and bright red leaves in late fall. It's dependable year after year.

* The Shumard oak grows faster than most trees and has a nice, broad, oval crown. It has shiny, dark-green summer foliage and russet-red fall color. It quickly becomes a large, stately tree.

* Willow oak leaves are long and willow-like. It's a tough oak for moist or dry sites and makes a dependable large shade tree.

* Lacebark elm loses its bark in small, puzzle-like pieces, creating a delicate pattern on the trunk and larger branches. The small leaves are glossy green and pest-resistant. This tough tree is extremely drought-tolerant and is a dependable, fast-growing shade tree.

The fall color of trees' foliage brightens landscapes. Several of the more dependable trees for fall color are the brilliant yellow ginkgo, wine-red sourwood, red and orange sugar maple (southern sugar maple in central and southern Georgia) and Chinese pistache.

For more information about adding trees to your landscape, see the UGA Extension publication Shade Trees for Georgia on the Web at

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.

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