Planting a garden or landscape in fall could raise some eyebrows.
But good reasons to do it are not hard to identify from casual observation. Here in this unheralded but productive Texas growing season, native and non-native adapted species roar into activity with colorful blooms and torrents of seeds.
The reasons why are technical but intuitive.
In October 2023, significant rains finally broke months of drought stress. The water signaled plants that had eked through the summer in dormancy to take advantage and pollinate.
The same mechanism gets triggered when Texas’ soaring summer temperatures subside. Since plants cool themselves through transpiration, or releasing moisture through their leaves, extreme heat and drought are a tough one-two punch.
Take either of those two stresses away, and you’ve got viable conditions for growing. In 2023, it all happened at once.
“Most of the species that grow here natively can handle one or two sources of stress at a time,” Maas Verde project manager Marc Opperman said. “Once they start adding up, that plant tends to have a harder time.”
He added that recent rainfall has supercharged local plant growth. At Maas Verde headquarters, recently planted seeds of multiple species have sprouted and are now advancing rapidly.
The conditions add up to an ideal time to install many Central Texas plants, especially larger specimens. Hot, dry weather doesn’t treat plants well when they’re trying to establish.
Growing demands resources. Trees and shrubs, particularly, can take more inputs to establish than smaller specimens. When the plant is getting signals to conserve moisture and nutrients in any possible way, progress can be marginal.
On the other hand, it’s a big advantage to transplant during an easier growing season, ahead of a period that induces fewer stresses. Many Central Texas natives grow best below 80 degrees, so planting now gives them the best chance to root and thrive.
“Transplanting itself does induce some stress. So with the amount of rain we’re getting right now and the better growing temperatures, it’s a great time to put plants in the ground,” Opperman said.
Featured image: Wild-growing Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides) under a fall sky at Maas Verde headquarters; (photo/Maas Verde)