How Much Water Do Your Trees Really Need?

One of the questions we are most frequently asked by clients is, “how much water do trees need?” And subsequently, “how do I water trees?”

Honestly, there is no one right answer since different trees require different watering strategies; so, we chose to write this post on how to water trees to address the most common watering situations you will run into.


Much like when we discussed fertilizer FAQs, the answer is no. In the wild, when trees rely solely on nature for nutrients, the strongest survive and the weak die to make room for new, stronger trees to grow; that is not an ideal situation for your yard. You want the trees you have invested in to survive and, for safety purposes, you need to control where the trees grow.

In your yard, you can’t rely on rain to provide water for your trees because you will lose trees and lose control of growth.


Young, newly planted trees are the most difficult to water because your watering strategy needs to constantly adapt to the tree’s growing needs. For the first several months after planting, the trees roots will remain in the original “root ball.” The root ball is that chunk of soil you see surrounding the roots when you buy a new plant and take it out of the container to plant it.

For the first several months, you should focus your watering on that “root ball” area. Then, gradually expand the watering area to cover the entire area under the canopy.

Now for the really important question – how much water does a newly planted tree need? A good rule of thumb is that your watering radius (as described above) should always be moist – not dry and not sopping wet. Newly planted trees are incredibly sensitive to too much or too little water. Usually a steady stream of water from a hose for 30 seconds about twice a week should be sufficient. Increase to three times a week when the weather has been very dry.


Trees are not considered mature or established until the have been planted for about two full growing seasons. An established tree’s roots are vast; they do not end under the canopy like a younger tree’s roots. Instead, they extend out into the “drip zone” where the rain falling off the canopy falls.

When watering a mature tree, water the drip zone and the area under the canopy, but avoid watering the base of the tree to prevent rot. Because the root system of an established tree is so expansive, you need to really soak the soil. The water needs to seep about 10” down into the soil to reach all the roots.

Determining how long you need to water your mature trees will require some experimentation. Whether you are using a hose or sprinkler system, test how long it takes for the water to reach that 10” depth by frequently digging holes and feeling the soil. When you can feel moist soil at 10”, you have determined how long you need to water. Mature trees are more resistant to changes in the amount of water they get, but watering twice a week is a good rule of thumb.

Bonus information: To better insulate all your trees, use mulch. It will hold water in and act as a buffer for extreme temperatures.

Watering is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting your trees and keeping them healthy. Call us about our Plant Health Care services that include deep root fertilization, pest control, disease prevention and more.