Tree and Shrub Care Tips

Watering Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs

If you have new plants that die or develop dieback in the first two years, it is most often due to improper watering. Although pests can also contribute to plant decline, they are rarely the only cause. Nurseries are inspected on a regular basis, and any significant pest issues are usually addressed. Therefore, major infestations that could cause the death of new landscape ornamentals are rare.

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do for your newly planted tree or shrub bed is proper watering. The amount and frequency can vary based on three main variables:

Plant Species

Just like people, plants are diverse in their nutritional and hydration needs. Simply said, some plants just need more water than others. A good example would be a water lily compared to a cactus. Most landscape plants are not so extreme, but the differences are there. Get to know your plants before they are in the ground. Reading the information tag that comes with the plant or seed pack will give you great information on how to get your plant to thrive. A simple search on the internet will give you even more information. Surface rooted plants such as Eastern Dogwood and Rhododendrons dry out much easier than those that are more at home near wetlands like the Arborvitae, an evergreen coniferous tree.

Soil and Site Conditions

There is no question that a sunny, roadside bank with sandy soil is a lot drier than a ditch with afternoon shade. Avoid planting a tree or shrub in conditions that are contradictory to what it thrives in. By planting your tree or shrub in ideal conditions for that species, you are giving it the best chance to grow and mature.

Container Treatment

Container-grown plants are usually those that are, not surprisingly, grown in a container of some kind at a nursery. There are typically three types: container grown, bare root, and balled and burlapped. The first two will give you the best roots if properly maintained. Balled and burlapped means that at least 90% of the plants roots were cut off and left behind. These plants will need extra watering for the first three years to get them established in their new home.

General Watering Rules for New Plants

For new plants, under three years old, you’ll want to follow the recommendations below. You will greatly increase the survival rate of your valuable ornamentals by adhering to these tips. As always, please, do not hesitate to call us if you would like us to check on any problems you notice or concerns you have.

  • Do not plant more trees or shrubs than you can properly maintain.
  • Invest in enough length of dribble hose to give all of your plants coverage. Wrap it around the area above the plant’s root ball. A dribble hose is a porous, black hose that can be purchased in a garden store. The water slowly leaks out into the ground, concentrating in the root area instead of the foliage.
  • Turn the dribble hose on before you go to bed at night. Turn it off when you wake up the next morning. Do this twice a week when the weather is cool and three times a week in the summer heat. The only exception would be in clay soils with poor drainage. If water begins to pool up in these conditions, try omitting a day from your watering schedule.
  • Water throughout the fall, until the leaves of the plant turn color, or for evergreens, water until the ground freezes.
  • The only time when rain should replace watering is if it rains for the entire day. Brief showers and storms will not provide sufficient water.
  • Trees and Shrubs should always be watered at night (Unlike grass which should be watered in the early morning). This prevents evaporation and ensures that the plant absorbs as much water as possible. Do not water the foliage! This will encourage disease.

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