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When is the Best Time to Plant in Virginia?

It depends on the plants and where you are in our state!

Most people think gardening is best done in the spring and summer, but fall is actually a great time of year to plant — the cool mornings and warm afternoons provide the ideal growing environment for trees, shrubs, perennials and cool-season annuals.

It’s also the ideal time to sod and/or seed your lawn because that’s when cool-season grasses (like the tall fescue we recommend for lawns in Virginia) are vigorously growing. 

Here’s a quick primer on Virginia’s climate and the best plants to add to your garden this fall.

What hardiness zone is Virginia in?

The country is divided into different zones to help gardeners know which plants will thrive in their specific areas, and each plant is rated based on its hardiness.

Northern Virginia’s hardiness zone is anywhere from 6a to 7b, depending on your location. And if your garden is against a wall in a sunny location, it might be in what is considered a micro-climate, meaning you can plant things slightly above the zone you’re in.

This doesn’t automatically mean you can’t enjoy plants from different zones. If your zone is too cold for a plant rated for zone 9, you can still plant it, only it won’t be a perennial for you and will die over the winter (or plant it in containers and bring it inside for the winter).  

Some plants are extremely hardy and flexible and are able to thrive in multiple zones (like hostas, which do well in zones 3 to 9) while others are a bit pickier and only do well in a zone or two (like tropical hibiscus).

When to plant shade and ornamental trees

The cooler temperatures in the fall signal to trees to focus their energy on growth and establishing roots rather than producing seeds.  

Planting in mid-September is ideal because it gives the tree enough time to establish its roots before it goes dormant in the winter (although you can still plant until early November).

Some of the best ornamental trees for Virginia include flowering dogwood, Eastern redbud and American mountain ash.

For shade trees, you can’t go wrong with planting sugar maple, red maple or Northern red oak. 

Best shrubs for Northern Virginia

Fall is also the perfect time to plant shrubs. If you plant during September and October they’ll have a good six weeks to establish their roots before the ground freezes and they go dormant. 

There’s an endless variety of beautiful shrubs to choose from, but the ones we usually recommend to our clients are boxwood, encore azaleas, nandina and plumbago.

Best perennials for your garden 

In our zone things start to cool down starting in mid-September, the ideal time to plant your perennials. As an added bonus, many garden centers offer discounts on nursery stock after the blooms have faded. They might not look the best, but their roots are still strong and healthy!

Some of our favorites include heuchera (coral bells), sedum, and a variety of ferns.

Best fall annuals for your garden

Some annuals (like geraniums) perform well from late spring right to frost, but others have a hard time during the hot summer.

You can choose plants like mums or flowering kale, but pansies are the ones we love here at Brandon Rushing!  They’re vigorous, fast-growing flowers that come in a variety of bright colors and aren’t particularly fussy plants — all they need is to be kept fairly moist and fed some good-quality compost.

How to choose the plants that are right for your garden

When choosing plants for your garden, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Is the plant hardy in my zone? If the answer is “no,” and you absolutely love it, just consider it as an annual and enjoy!
  • How big will this plant grow? Read the tag so you know the full, mature size of the plant you’re choosing. 
  • Does this plant need sun or shade? Make sure the plant you choose will have the right amount of sun for optimal growth.

All of this information can be found on the care tag in the nursery.

Want some help designing and planting your garden?

Choosing the plants you’d like to see in your garden is only half the battle… the other half is doing the actual work to get them planted!

If you’d like help planning and managing your gardens this fall, contact us for a free quote.

We’d love to help make your lawn and gardens the envy of the neighborhood!

Written by Brandon Rushing, Founder & President

Posted on: June 22nd, 2022