Trees and Shrubs: Watering


While a "drought tolerant" plant is considered more likely to survive prolonged periods of heat stress, this does not necessarily mean it will thrive happily in these conditions.

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Typically, rain and snow do not provide sufficient moisture for your trees and shrubs. For healthy plants, follow our guidelines for year-round watering, regardless of the weather.

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Not all trees and shrubs have the same moisture requirements. The best way to know if your plants need water is by sticking a finger into the surface of the soil, one to two inches deep. If it feels moist, the tree probably isn't thirsty. If it's dry, water it. The following are our general guidelines for year-round watering.

In early spring

Start watering about once a week when the ground has thawed and soil can absorb moisture. Take care not to over-water, especially while your trees and shrubs are still dormant. Soggy soil indicates over-watering.

During the growing season

Thoroughly saturate the root ball and surrounding soil once a week from May through October. During this time, you can let the top 1 to 2 inches of soil dry out between waterings. Smaller plants need more frequent watering.

In late autumn

Water twice a week in November as trees and shrubs are starting to go dormant.

Through the winter

Water once every 2 weeks in December and once a month for the rest of winter. We recommend a thorough watering before a hard freeze to help insulate the root ball. Don't try to water when the ground is frozen, because the soil won't absorb the moisture.

Newly planted trees

Water 2-3 times a week for their first 2 growing seasons while they establish their root systems.


We highly recommend a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch year-round for moisture retention.

The "drip line"

As their root systems grow and spread, water your trees further from the trunk, following the circumference of the canopy, also known as the tree's drip line.

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