Poplars, cottonwoods, aspens, and other Populus species are best planted in spring as soon as you can get into the ground. But some species are better planted in early fall, such as Amur maple, Norway maple, Barberry, Birch, Hackberry, Hawthorn, Russian olive, Honeylocust, Apple, Cherry, plum, apricot, Pear, Sumac, Willow, European Mt. Ash, Greenspire Little-Leaf Linden.
Whether you plant in spring or fall, plan ahead for the eventual size and care requirements of the plants you choose, and be sure to select varieties that will grow in your part of the state, says Gough. If you shop from catalogs, look for information, not pretty pictures. Most importantly, is the hardiness zone right?
In general, western Montana lies in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 & 5, eastern Montana in 3 & 4, and a large part of central Montana in 4. But this system is accurate to only plus or minus one zone, says Gough, and much depends upon elevation and site aspect.
The "Tree and Shrub Selection Guide," published by MSU Extension, is a resource for Montana landscaping projects and home reference. It describes the size, shape and ideal growing climate for 226 specific tree and shrub choices that are adapted to Montana growing conditions. It also includes basic planting instructions and lists possible pitfalls of each species, including details like sprawling or brittle branches, soil limitations, need for winter protection and even odor.
The 64-page booklet, originally written by George Evans and Alan Epps, and recently revised by Gough, sells for $10 and can be ordered through MSU Extension publications at (406) 994-3273 or through County and Tribal MSU Extension offices.
For additional help in picking out the right plants for your landscape, contact your local MSU Extension agent. They can provide information regarding which plants are right for your particular soil, as well as other free and low cost yard and garden publications.
The Montana State University Extension Service is an educational resource dedicated to improving the quality of people's lives by providing research-based knowledge to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well being of families, communities and agricultural enterprises.
Contact: Robert Gough (406) 994-6523, firstname.lastname@example.org