Know When Your Trees Need Water | Blog | Front Range Arborists

How to Know When Your Trees Need Water

Are your trees thirsty?

Smaller plants can show signs of dehydration within a few hours, with drooping stems and leaves that let you know that they need some moisture. Trees can be more difficult to monitor for their water needs, but just like young smaller plants, they may need you to provide water during their youth. Plus, the type of tree and its age can impact how often it will need to be watered, as well as the soil and climate where you live. Here are some tips on how to know when your trees need watering to help improve their growth and overall health.


Water Newly Planted Trees Immediately

When you first plant a new tree, it will need immediate watering. You should soak the root ball thoroughly right after planting to help it begin forming its root base. This should soak the ground around the tree, about 18 inches in diameter. Do not even wait a few hours before watering a newly planted tree. This first watering is crucial to its survival.


Young Trees Need More Water

When you plant a sapling or even a larger young tree, you likely will need to nurture it during the first few years of growth. Mature trees have deep, stretching roots that can forage for water and nutrients, while young trees are just finding their foothold in their new terrain. While a young tree is growing and establishing its root system, it needs more water. You should expect to water new trees 2-3 times per week during their first year, 1-2 times a week the second year and as needed in the following years.


How Much Water Do Trees Need?

While it can vary depending on the soil, climate and type of tree, a general rule of thumb for watering trees is 5 gallons per watering for young trees, with a total of 10-15 gallons per week. This is a deep soaking of the root ball that can help it thrive as it is growing in the initial stages. Older trees may only need watering a few times per season when it is dry but it is important that enough water is used to reach the deeper roots.


Checking the Soil

Since soil and climate varies, checking the soil around the tree is the best way to determine whether it needs more water. Too much water can be just as detrimental to the tree as not enough. Before watering a tree, dig into the soil around the trunk and check the moisture level. If the soil is dry a few inches under the surface, then it is time to water. If it is wet, check it again in a few days to determine if its ready for more water.


How to Water Trees

Sprinklers and regular irrigation for landscaping is not enough water for most young trees. These only wet the surface of the soil and trees need deeper moisture soil penetration. Instead of watering frequently with too little water, it is best to water 1-3 times per week with about five gallons of water to drench the root ball during the first year. You can fill a 5-gallon bucket or use a hose, timing how long it takes to fill a bucket to determine how much water to give your tree.  Some trees can benefit from a drip irrigation system that allows water to seep deeper into the soil versus only spraying the topsoil.


Signs of Too Little or Too Much Water

If a tree is thirsty or has too much water, it will not thrive. Unfortunately, both can have similar effects. Leaves may wilt or change color when the moisture level is not correct. With too much water, it is generally the lower branches and leaves that droop and may become yellow or brittle. Keep an eye on your tree and if there is wilting or leaves are changing color, check the soil around the trunk to determine if it needs water or has too much.


Mulching is Important

Adding mulch around the tree base is important to conserve water. Wood chips or other mulch can reduce water loss and will also help protect the roots during colder weather. Replace mulch as needed, usually about once a year but avoid allowing mulch or soil to pile up on the trunk of the tree; it should cover the surrounding soil, not stack up against the trunk.


There are variations on how much and how often certain trees need watering. To ensure your trees have the right care, consult one of our experts at Front Range Arborists, Inc. We can help you determine the best care for your beautiful trees to help them thrive and flourish. Call us today for information on tree care, including fertilizing, watering and pest control.