Water - Nothing lives without it.

Your trees are no exception. Because larger trees show stress symptoms slowly, a lot of homeowners completely overlook maintaining the water needs of the most valuable landscape investment they own. Proper, consistent watering is crucial to your tree maintenance strategy. Attractive and healthy trees need enough water at the right times. Your trees pull water from the soil and lose most of it through tiny pores in the leaves by evaporation (or transpiration). Since most tree roots are located in the top 3 feet of the soil, they can (and do) suffer during periods of extended drought. Deeper roots can supply some of the plant’s water needs during dry spells. Water stress is still a major maintenance concern with both recent transplants and established trees.

Starting them right:

Watering recently planted trees

Most garden centers water their trees a lot, even daily to keep them looking their best for customers. So, you should always consider the shock a new environment has on the tree's system and help it along with plenty of tree care and watering until its roots get firmly established. If you planted the new tree right, there is a transition zone of loose soil between the planting ball and the native soil of your property. At first, you need to provide extra water to the ball, while keeping plenty of water in the transition soil. To do this, build two shallow dikes or ridges 4 to 5'' high around the base of the tree: one slightly smaller than the root ball and the other about 30'' in diameter. For the first 2 to 3 weeks, water the inner circle every 1 to 3 days to assure the root ball has enough moisture. After the roots have penetrated the transition zone (4 to 6 weeks), you can knock down the inner dike. During this early phase, the outer ring will need less water, but do keep it moist.

Watering Established Trees

Established trees show water stress more slowly, but signs include wilting, change in leaf color, and premature leaf drop. The most important goal is to get as much of the water as possible to the roots of the tree. To accomplish this, eliminate runoff (don't apply water faster than the soil can absorb it); keep the water inside the drip line of the tree; and apply the water evenly across the whole area. Whether old plantings or new, when you give your trees the care they need through regular watering and maintenance, they give you beauty and growth in return.


  • Watering for tree maintenance is often overlooked because they show signs of stress very slowly.
  • Garden centers tend to water heavily.
  • Water new transplants heavily until the tree adapts to its new environment.
  • A double dike system around new plantings will help get water where it’s needed during establishment.
  • Older trees need water too.
  • Watch for signs of stress and provide the water needed to keep them healthy through drought periods

  For more information on proper tree care, contact your neighborhood Spring Green. We’re here to help you have the most beautiful lawn and landscape possible. We have many other resources regarding proper lawn watering techniques here on our site, as well.