The end of summer doesn’t mean you must stop gardening for the year. You can extend the growing season and prepare for next spring when you install these plants during fall. Since Boston falls into USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6, these plants are suitable for our growing zone. Just remember to get your plants in the ground before the first frost. Here are your best options for gardening in the fall. Happy planting!

Trees and Shrubs

Many species of trees and shrubs benefit from planting and gardening in the fall. The soil’s warmth allows their root systems to get established while they’re not experiencing top growth due to cooler air temperatures. No matter what the conditions are in your garden, there are shrubs and trees that are right for your property.

Some shrubs do well in parts of the garden that get some shade. A particular shrub that does well in shade is the oakleaf hydrangea. Its leaves put on a beautiful display of fall color. In the spring, clusters of small flowers appear. For spots in full sun, you may want to consider a spirea shrub. During spring, the spirea shrub becomes a vision of cascading flowers. Both types of shrubs need well-drained soil to thrive.

When planting any tree, it’s important to consider its height at maturity before you decide which tree species and where to put it. For example, a typical elm tree is 60 to 80 feet tall when fully grown. After being devastated by Dutch elm disease, elm trees are making a comeback. If your garden is large enough, you can play a role in its comeback by planting disease-resistant cultivars of the American Elm like Jefferson, New Harmony, or Valley Forge. For smaller gardens, you could take a look at trees like hawthorn (15 to 30 feet tall) or crabapple (15 to 25 feet tall).


Like trees and shrubs, perennials are great for gardening in the fall. It gives their roots a chance to develop before the spring growing season. We love the visual interest perennials bring to fall gardens. Many perennials have beautiful foliage during autumn and will provide colorful blooms next spring.

Also, it’s easy to find perennials that are right for your property’s growing conditions. If you’re putting your perennials in partial to full shade, plants to think about include hostas, astilbe, and bleeding heart. Hostas and bleeding hearts are well-known for being easy to grow, making them a good choice if you don’t believe you have a green thumb. (We think you have a green thumb.) Astilbe and bleeding hearts need moist soil. 

For planting in full sun, garden phlox, yarrow, salvia, and black-eyed Susans are good choices. Since these plants are also very attractive to butterflies, it’s great to already have them in place when the weather warms. 

Fall Planting Bulbs

If you’re new to gardening in the fall, you may not be aware that some plants must be installed as bulbs during autumn. However, they won’t bloom until next spring. Popular fall planting bulbs include tulips, daffodils (also called narcissus), irises, hyacinths, and alliums. These bulbs should be planted in an area that gets at least six hours of direct sun daily. Good bulbs for garden beds that receive less sun are crocuses and snowdrop flowers. All bulbs need well-drained soil to prevent rotting. 

Choosing and planting your bulbs isn’t difficult but it does require attention to detail. Your bulbs should be firm and not moldy. We suggest picking large bulbs over smaller ones. Large bulbs grow bigger plants with more blooms. The keys to success with bulb planting are choosing the right spot and planting the bulbs pointy side up. Also, bulbs should be planted soon after you buy them.

Is it time for your organization to upgrade its landscaping? At Cityscapes, we’re available this fall to help you with your corporate horticultural or plant installation and maintenance needs. Contact us today for more information.