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Winter Watering

Colorado’s dry winters are the #1 killer of landscaped trees and shrubs. Take advantage of our Winter Water program to help valuable trees and shrubs grow and survive the winter.

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Colorado’s dry winters are the #1 killer of landscaped trees and shrubs. Take advantage of our Winter Watering program to help valuable trees and shrubs grow and survive the winter. This process is becoming more of a necessity due to our drought conditions over the past five years. It is very important to protect the costly investment of trees and shrubs.


Dry air, low precipitation, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of fall and winter. There often can be little or no snow cover to provide soil moisture, particularly from October through March in Colorado. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and lawns can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.

The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of trees and shrubs root systems. Affected trees and shrubs may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Trees and shrubs may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened trees and shrubs also may be subject to insect and disease problems.

Fall and Winter Watering During Drought

Limited summer rainfall and water restrictions can deplete subsurface soil moisture. Upon digging, people may find little moisture at 8 to 12-inch depths where most tree roots are located. Paying special attention to fall watering is important for trees to mature buds and enter dormancy in a healthy condition. Consider tree watering in addition to whatever general landscape sprinkling local water restrictions allow in fall months.

Colorado horticulture experts recommend watering underneath the branches within the circle bounded by the drip line. Water to a depth of 12 inches. Trees should receive ten gallons per inch of trunk diameter measured at knee height. This amount can be reduced by that supplied by general lawn watering or if rain or snow is received. Water trees three times per month in September. Cut back to one or two times per month from October through March, two times monthly for young trees and for evergreens.

Mulch within a circle bounded by the drip line to a depth of 4 inches allowing 6 inches of space between the mulch and tree trunk. A mulch circle of any area will be beneficial whether it extends to the dripline or stops short of that.

Water Application Methods

Consider soaker hoses, soil needles, or soft spray nozzles. On hard or compacted soils, soak, wait and soak again to avoid water runoff. Be especially careful with soil needles, also known as deep root feeders. Some people insert these well below a 12-inch depth, placing water out of reach of tree roots. Soil needles should be inserted at an angle to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Leave the needle in place for 3 to 5 minutes with the water turned on low to moderate pressure. Water the area under the branches in at least twelve sites for a medium-sized or larger tree. Disperse water sites evenly within the circle bounded by the dripline. For new trees, water all four sites at least 3 feet from the trunk (stem).

In dry years, established shrubs will need additional amounts of winter watering. Apply 5 gallons for a small shrub (less than 3 feet), and 18 gallons for a large shrub (more than 6 feet) on a monthly basis from October through March. Newly planted shrubs will require more winter water, twice monthly using these same amounts at each watering. Be sure to mulch shrubs to retain moisture.

Contact Front Range Arborists in Colorado Springs, CO

Based in Colorado Springs, CO, Front Range Arborists, offers arborist services including pest control and beetle prevention, fire mitigation, tree removal, tree trimming, and more tree services. Serving Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Fountain, Monument, Black Forest, Manitou Springs, and other surrounding areas. Call Front Range Arborists at (719) 227-1962 or use our online form for your free estimate today!