The Importance of Watering New Trees

Water is life.

Just like young children, trees require the most intensive care during their first few years of life. Newly planted trees should be watered immediately after planting and should continue to receive water daily for the first couple of weeks post planting. Between three and twelve weeks after planting, trees can be watered every 2-3 days. After twelve weeks, the tree can be watered weekly.

For the first two years of a tree’s life, it will focus on establishing its roots in the soil and adjusting itself to the landscape. Tree owners can assist the tree by watering it with 5-15 gallons of water per week for these crucial first two years. It is especially important to do this during the summer months when conditions are hot and dry. However, trees need water from the time the ground thaws until the first frost.

Due to the lack of rain and hot temperatures this spring, it is important that newly planted or transplanted trees have enough water going into the summer.

Intentional Watering

Owners should take care to water directly over the root zone of the tree. Keep in mind that the root zone will expand as the tree grows. The initial period after a tree is planted is an especially fragile time as the tree works to become established in the landscape. Careful maintenance and diligent watering are the most important steps for ensuring a tree’s survival.

Determining how much water a tree needs and how frequently it needs water are based on the area’s rainfall, moisture-holding capacity of the soil, and site drainage capabilities. Generally speaking, newly planted trees require an inch of rainfall every 7-10 days, including rainfall. For example, a five-gallon container-grown tree will need about 5-10 gallons of water per week when there is no rainfall.

Slowly soaking a tree is better than rapid heavy watering. Options for how to accomplish this include using a five-gallon bucket with a small hole drilled in the side near the bottom, or using a Gator Bag. These two methods will aim for the water to release where the roots are located.

Got mulch?

Spreading a layer of mulch over the base of the tree helps to conserve soil moisture, moderate temperature changes, and protects the tree from physical damage. Mulching should be done in a donut shape around the base of the tree with a gap left between the tree itself and the mulch.

For more information on planting resources and continued tree care, visit

The Soil Ribbon Test

Interested in learning how to determine & identify the type of soil that your tree is planted in? Preform the Ribbon Test! No equipment is needed besides soil and water. A spray bottle for watering is optional.

1. Take a small handful of soil (about the size of a golf ball).

2. Slowly add enough water to form a ball until the consistency is similar to putty.

3. Roll the ball into a cigar shape, about 1/2-3/4 inch in diameter.

4. Carefully press the cylinder between your thumb and pointer finger into a flat ribbon shape.

Determine Your Soil Type

<1-inch ribbons

1-2 inch ribbons

>2-inch ribbons

Feels gritty:Sandy loam
Feels smooth/
Silty loam
Feels neither:Loam
Feels gritty:Sandy clay loam
Feels smooth/
Silty clay loam
Feels neither:Clay loam
Feels gritty:Sandy clay
Feels smooth/
Silty clay
Feels neither:Clay

You can use the USDA soil texture triangle (pictured to the left) to determine the name of your soil combination. Soil texture can have a huge impact on well a plant will grow. An overall desirable soil characteristic has a lower clay content (>30%) and is not sticky, so that water is able to drain easily and aeration can occur.

Loam is a roughly even combination of sand, silt, and clay. Sandy soil has the largest sized granules and feels gritty. Silt has moderate sized granules and feels smooth, almost like flour. Clay has the smallest sized granules and feels very sticky to the touch. The ideal soil is also free of rocks and debris.

One thought on “The Importance of Watering New Trees

  1. I appreciate the valuable insights shared in the blog post “The Importance of Watering New Trees.”

    It’s refreshing to read about the significance of water for the early development of trees, drawing a beautiful parallel between water being the essence of life for both trees and young children. The detailed guidelines on watering frequency and amounts during various stages of a tree’s growth are particularly helpful.

    Reading about the need to water newly planted trees daily for the first couple of weeks and then adjusting the frequency over time gives me a sense of responsibility and care for my own newly planted trees. The emphasis on intentional watering over the root zone and the mention of factors like rainfall, soil moisture capacity, and site drainage further underscore the importance of understanding the unique needs of each tree.

    All in all, this blog post is a fantastic resource for tree owners, providing practical tips and reminders to ensure the healthy establishment and growth of new trees in our landscapes.

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