Experienced gardeners will tell you that timing is everything when it comes to planting, especially for those species that need time to develop their root systems and acclimate to their new lives. You can give your Southern California tree its best chance at a long, healthy life by planting in the fall and learning a few of the peculiarities about some of the timing elements involved.
Wait for Summer to End
The best time to plant your new tree should be determined more by temperature than the calendar, but in general, you should wait until late September or early October. That’s because the hot SoCal summer should be mostly wrapped up by that time, and you can plant your tree in time to take advantage of any winter rain that comes your way. Plus, cooler temperatures mean that the soil stays wetter longer. Your waterings can sink farther into the dirt and allow the tree’s roots to penetrate deeply while establishing themselves for long-term success.
In addition to taking advantage of cooler temps at this time of year, waiting for fall can also help save your new little tree from extreme sunlight, which could burn its sensitive leaves. With a lower position and less time up in the sky, the fall sun is less stressful for your new tree.
Go for the Right Time
It is theoretically possible to wait until later on in the cooler months to plant your tree, aiming for early or mid winter. However, this gives your tree less time to establish itself in its new spot, so if you can avoid a winter planting time, you should. Early fall gives your tree a good five or six months to stretch its roots down into the soil, where it can have better access to water even during hot California summers.
You don’t want to plant too early, either, because this does not give your tree its best start. Remember that even if you’ve managed to beat Southern California’s drought through irrigation and other watering techniques, hot ambient temperatures encourage evaporation, so your soil won’t stay as moist for as long. If your young tree isn’t establishing good roots and is dealing with hot air and strong sunlight at the same time, it might become shriveled or otherwise show signs of stress. That’s why it’s best to wait for fall. This season optimizes all the different elements it takes to help your tree succeed.