by Miao

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Several green shrubs with abundant light pink flowers blooming all along the branches.

Whether you have newly planted saplings or mature, established plants, providing them with the right amount of water at the right time is essential. In this guide, we will explore the best practices for watering shrubs and trees, helping you maintain a lush and thriving landscape. Let’s dive in!

When to Water Trees and Shrubs

Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs

For newly-planted trees and shrubs, proper watering during the establishment phase is crucial. After planting, ensure to water immediately and thoroughly to help the plants settle into their new environment.

In the first two weeks, check the moisture levels daily and water deeply if the top 6 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. Throughout the first two years, monitor the soil moisture at least once a week and water if the soil at a depth of 6 inches feels dry. However, be cautious not to overwater, as excess water can lead to root damage.

Mature Trees and Shrubs

Mature trees and shrubs have different watering requirements compared to newly planted ones.

It is important to water when the soil beneath the surface feels dry. Use a trowel, hand shovel, or screwdriver to dig into the soil to a depth of about 6 inches and check its moisture level. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water the plant thoroughly, focusing on directing the water to the roots rather than the leaves.

Watering in the morning is recommended as it allows the plants to absorb moisture before the heat of the day, reducing water loss through evaporation. Avoid watering during the heat of the day to minimize evaporation and late-day, overhead watering to minimize the risk of disease.

Evergreens

Evergreen conifer tree with green needles

Evergreen shrubs, such as conifers and broadleaf evergreens, have their own unique watering considerations. It is essential to deeply water them in the fall before the ground freezes if there has been insufficient precipitation. Evergreens continue to lose water during the winter, especially on sunny and windy days with temperatures above 40°F. If the soil is dry, the plants may become desiccated and turn brown, even if the symptoms only become apparent in the following spring.

How to Water Trees and Shrubs

Water Deeply

Deep root watering allows water to penetrate down to the root zone where it is most needed, encouraging roots to grow deeper into the soil. This helps plants become more resilient and less susceptible to drought conditions.

To achieve deep watering, it is important to ensure that water reaches a depth of at least 12 inches for shrubs and 18 inches for trees. This can be achieved through techniques such as:

Soaker Hoses: Place a soaker hose around the base of the plants, allowing water to seep slowly into the soil directly at the root zone. This promotes deep saturation and minimizes water loss through evaporation.

Tree Watering Bags: Use tree watering bags that wrap around the base of the tree trunk. These bags release water slowly over an extended period, allowing for deep root penetration.

Water the Root Area

Image of a shrub with pink and white flowers.

When watering trees and shrubs, it is crucial to focus irrigation on the critical root zone. Watering this specific area ensures that the roots receive the necessary moisture for optimal growth.

To water the root area effectively, consider using techniques that deliver water directly to the soil, such as drip irrigation. Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the root zone through small emitters. This targeted approach minimizes water waste and maximizes efficiency.

How Often Should You Water Trees and Shrubs

Determining the ideal watering frequency for trees and shrubs depends on various factors that influence their water needs. These factors include the type of plant, its age, and its size. Younger plants typically require more frequent watering as they establish their root systems, while mature plants may have more extensive root networks and require less frequent watering.

Soil moisture retention capabilities also play a significant role in watering frequency. Different soil types have varying water-holding capacities. Clay soils retain water for longer periods, while sandy soils drain more quickly. Understanding your soil type and its moisture retention capabilities will help you determine how often you should water your trees and shrubs.

To determine when to water your trees and shrubs, it is important to monitor the moisture levels in the soil.  Moisture meters and sensors can provide more accurate measurements of soil moisture. These devices can be inserted into the soil to provide real-time readings, allowing you to precisely monitor moisture levels and make informed decisions about when to water.

For even greater convenience and efficiency, consider using a smart irrigation controller. These controllers utilize advanced technology and data to automate and optimize your watering schedule. They take into account factors such as weather conditions, soil moisture levels, and plant water requirements. Smart irrigation controllers help to conserve water by ensuring that your trees and shrubs are watered precisely when needed, minimizing waste and promoting healthy growth.

How Much Water to Use for Trees and Shrubs

Boy with soaker hose, about to spray water

Different plant species have varying water requirements. Some plants, like certain types of shrubs, may naturally require more water, while others, like drought-tolerant trees, may have lower water needs. Research the water requirements of your specific plant species to gain insights into their individual needs. This information will help you establish a baseline for determining how much water to provide.

Larger trees and shrubs generally have more extensive root systems and therefore require greater amounts of water. Consider the size of your plants when determining the appropriate volume of water to use. A general guideline is to provide around 10 gallons of water per week for every inch of trunk diameter for trees, and for shrubs, provide approximately 1-2 gallons per week per foot of plant height.

Smart irrigation controllers offer an additional advantage for optimizing water usage. These controllers use weather data, soil moisture sensors, and plant-specific algorithms to deliver precise amounts of water based on real-time conditions. They adjust irrigation schedules and duration automatically, maximizing water efficiency and reducing waste.

The Best Way to Water Trees and Shrubs

Soaker Hose

Soaker hoses are designed with tiny pores that allow water to seep out slowly and directly into the soil. This ensures efficient water distribution, minimizing evaporation and runoff. Soaker hoses deliver water directly to the root zone, promoting deep root growth and reducing the risk of surface moisture-related issues.

Soaker / Bubbler Attachment

A soaker/bubbler attachment combines the benefits of soaker hoses and bubblers, providing flexibility in irrigation for trees and shrubs. This attachment allows for the controlled release of water, providing a gentle soaking effect. It is particularly useful for larger plants or areas that require more water. The attachment can be connected to a standard garden hose or a drip irrigation system.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a precise and efficient method for watering trees and shrubs. This system delivers water directly to the root zone, minimizing water waste and promoting optimal water uptake by the plants. Drip irrigation consists of a network of tubes and emitters that release water slowly and evenly along the root area. The components of a drip irrigation system include a backflow preventer, pressure regulator, filters, tubing, and emitters.

Mulch to Conserve Water and Promote Plant Health

White and purple flower with yellow center sitting on top of a pile of mulch

Mulching around trees and shrubs provides numerous benefits. Mulch acts as a protective layer that helps conserve moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation. It helps regulate soil temperature, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Mulch also suppresses weed growth, which competes with plants for water and nutrients. Additionally, mulch helps prevent soil erosion, protects roots from extreme temperatures, and improves soil structure as it breaks down over time.

Organic mulch materials, such as wood chips, shredded bark, or compost, are recommended because they improve soil health as they decompose. These materials also retain moisture well and allow for better water penetration into the soil. Avoid using mulch that is too fine or compacted, as it can hinder water absorption.

Watering Shrubs and Trees FAQs

A large shrub with pink flowers in front of a wooden door.

Q: How do you water shrubs with a hose?

When watering shrubs with a hose, use a gentle flow and direct the water at the base of the plants, near the root zone. Avoid watering the foliage, as it can promote the spread of diseases.

Q: What is the best time of day to water shrubs?

The best time of day to water shrubs is in the early morning. Watering during this time allows the plants to absorb moisture before the heat of the day, reducing water loss through evaporation.

Q: How can you tell if the shrub has enough water?

To determine if a shrub has enough water, check the soil moisture level by inserting a finger or a trowel near the root zone. If the soil feels moist or damp, the shrub likely has sufficient water. For more accurate measurements, consider using a smart irrigation controller with soil moisture sensors. These controllers provide real-time data to help optimize watering practices.

Q: How long can shrubs go without water?

The duration of shrubs can go without water depends on various factors such as plant species, soil type, and weather conditions. However, as a general guideline, it is best to avoid letting shrubs go without water for more than a week, particularly during hot and dry periods.

Q: How to water mature trees during droughts?

During drought conditions, it is crucial to prioritize watering mature trees. Provide deep, infrequent waterings to reach the deeper root zones and promote their resilience during dry spells. Consider using slow and deep watering methods such as soaker hoses or drip irrigation to ensure efficient water delivery.

Q: Should you water plants from the top or bottom?

It is generally recommended to water plants at the root level rather than from the top. Watering at the base of the plants allows the water to directly reach the roots, where it is needed most. This method reduces water waste through evaporation and also helps prevent leaf diseases.

Q: What not to do when watering plants?

When watering plants, avoid common mistakes such as overwatering. Overwatering can lead to waterlogged soil, root rot, and other detrimental effects on plant health. Additionally, refrain from watering during the heat of the day, as it increases water loss through evaporation.

Q: Can shrubs get too much water?

Yes, shrubs can get too much water. Overwatering can suffocate the roots, hinder oxygen availability, and lead to root rot. It is essential to find a balance and provide shrubs with the appropriate amount of water to avoid excessive moisture-related issues.