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JAMES HODGES


Even with severe drought and heat, the fall foliage show of our forest and landscape trees was excellent in many places this year. It highlights one of the many benefits of trees in our landscape and forest areas. Today, the first Friday in December, is celebrated as Arbor Day the South Carolina.

Arbor Day was created to encourage the planting and care of trees in our communities. Yearly tree plantings ensure a continuous supply of young trees that will eventually replace those that die from old age or other problems.

Since many people often plant trees during the spring planting season, why would Arbor Day be in December? December is the best time to plant trees in our area because it allows newly planted trees to settle into the planting site and begin some new root growth during warm periods in fall and early spring. Fall planted trees are ahead of spring planted in root growth which supports new foliage, giving them a better chance to survive hot and dry periods during their first spring and summer.

The landscape industry and suppliers of trees have moved to more spring sales to match the public demand for all the other plant materials and associated products that entice people into stores as the weather warms up in April. Spring planting can work fine, but many people don’t realize that trees, unlike small annual or perennial liners, need regular watering all summer long their first year, especially in 2016 and years like it.

Many of our small landscape native and oriental trees often sprout from seed in our landscapes and can be transplanted during the fall season. Again, fall transplanting gives plants a better chance to survive the move. Native trees such as dogwood and redbud often come up from seed and 1- and 2-year-old plants can be moved if a good root ball of soil is included.

Japanese maples often reseed if more than one tree is planted. Young trees are easier to transplant during the fall. One caution though with seedling from red-leafed grafted cultivars, not all seedlings match the parent plant. Seedling will vary in color and some might have green leaves when they came from a red-leafed grafted plant.

If you would like to transplant Japanese maple seedling select the seedlings during the growing season if you are looking for red leaf (summer) plants. Most Japanese maples (even the green-leafed ones) will have various shades of red, orange or yellow colored fall leaves.

Correctly planting trees

Before you run out and purchase trees to plant or dig up that seedling plant in your backyard, take time to find a planting location that will suit the new tree. A good place to start is with HGIC Bulletin 1050, Choosing a Planting Location, which can be found on the Clemson site at clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/trees/hgic1050.html.

Choose a planting spot that will provide years of good growing space for your new tree. Here are a few tips on selecting trees for your landscape and planting them correctly:

-- Allow adequate space for new trees.

-- Use the HGIC bulletins to find out the basic soil, sunlight and space needs for different trees.

-- Avoid deep planting -- it can cause long-term problems.

-- Use a sharp shovel when digging up and transplanting a root ball.

James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.