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Watering Guide for First Year Plantings

It's critical to water your plants correctly; especially newly planted trees and shrubs. The first few years after planting, trees and shrubs exert most of their energy establishing strong root systems. Providing appropriate water to newly planted material will help ensure the growth and health of the plant.


  • Water slowly so that the water soaks in without running off. Apply enough water to penetrate deeply within the dripline. If the correct amount of water is evenly distributed it should produce the best plant growth for the least amount of water. Avoid frequent shallow irrigation practices by lengthening watering time and decreasing the rate of water output. Being impatient when it comes to watering can lead to plants that dry out faster and can be injurious by encouraging shallow rooting.
  • Many types of watering equipment are available. Each is useful depending on the situation. Sprinklers, as permanent systems or attached to mobile hoses will work, but be sure to provide adequate overlapping and keep the pressure low to allow soaking. Soaker hoses are especially useful for plant beds that include small shrubs, annuals and perennials. We prefer a slow trickle at the base of the plant.
  • A plant in need of water should be irrigated regardless of the time of day. It is better, however, to water in the early morning or evening. This allows the plant to take up more of the water before it is lost to evaporation.

“HEAT OF THE DAY WATERING? - DON’T DO IT, IT COULD BURN THE PLANTS” This is an “old wives tale” that is completely untrue!

  • Although you will lose some water to evaporation this can be the best time to water, especially new plantings and even established ones. Use an oscillating sprinkler over the total plants:
    • to create 100% humidity around the plants
    • to cool the plant
    • to cool the ground
    • to stop transpiration (loss of humidity) from the plant
    • the plant will actually absorb moisture through its needles, leaves and roots
    • EXAMPLE:It’s 90+ degrees, a hot humid wind is blowing, your sweating and dehydrating fast, Think how good it feels to be under a sprinkler. It’s even better for your plants!


  • If you don’t know how good your soil drains or if you have a heavy clay based soil, each time before you water, check the ground condition to the bottom of the root system. Most plants love drainage and hate to sit in water. They can drown and die much faster in a saturated clay soil than from drying out. Feel free to call us for plant suggestions if you have clay soil.
  • Be consistent with irrigation. Depending on the conditions, a cycle of 30-40 minutes per area, 2-3 times (2 in cooler temps or 3 during warmer times) a week, is sufficient.


  • New plantings need irrigation two to three times per week until they are established, although long, hot, dry spells will require supplemental irrigation for many plants regardless of age. The goal is to apply 1½” of water to the soil profile on a weekly basis. Water new plants thoroughly at planting and then maintain moist soil conditions during the first growing season following transplanting.
  • There is no universal formula for watering plants.You must use the environmental conditions of the site and the plants as a guide. Plants will wilt when they are too dry. It is better; however, to water the plant before it wilts, because by then damage may have occurred. A better way to determine when water is needed is to examine the soil area either with your hands or with a soil probe.
Are you planning to plant a new tree this year? Read our blog post, "Top Performing Dwarf Ornamental Trees."

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