Let’s make sure your plants thrive! It is no mystery that proper watering is critical to your plant’s health. While it can be tempting to take a break from watering for just one week, regular watering can do wonders for your plants. Not only will they stay healthy, they will also grow faster and fuller!
So, after you have your plant in the ground, follow these tips for best results:
Handy Quick-Start Watering Guide
Water your plants every other day for the first 3 weeks and then twice a week until the end of December.
Put a hose at the base of the plant and let it run at a slow trickle, about the size of your pinky finger. This will provide a good, deep watering to encourage deep roots.
Watering Times Based on Plant Sizes
1-3 gallon pot: 10 minutes
3 – 4’, 5-10 gallon pot: 20 minutes
5’ – 7’, 15 gallon or larger pot: 30 minutes
8′, 1.75″ – 2.5″ caliper: 45-60 minutes
3″ or larger caliper: 60-80 minutes
Everything You Need to Know about Watering Plants
How to Water the First Year – It’s All About Keeping the Roots Happy!
Watering plants slowly and deeply encourages healthy, deep roots. Thriving roots mean thriving plants!
Methods of Watering
Most people have a regular hose at hand, or if not can find one at a local garden center. Place an open-ended hose at the base of the plant and turn on low to let out a slow trickle (about the size of your pinky). Leave it run for the amount of time listed above.
Soaker Hoses are porous hoses that are already designed to control water flow for slow watering. They should be wound through the planting bed, making sure they are placed close enough to each of your new plants. If you have trees they should be laid in a large circle around the trunks of the plants. The water comes out of the hoses very, very slowly, so they should be run overnight, 3 times a week for the first 3 weeks and then 2 times a week.
Tree Gator Bags are a great option when you have multiple trees to be watered. They are designed to slowly release water onto the root ball. The bags need to be filled as often as you would water with a hose. If possible, remove the bags during periods of rain. Tree Gator Bags become an umbrella over the root ball and do not allow natural rainwater to soak in.
Methods of Watering to Avoid
- Oscillating sprinkler
- Bucket method
While excellent for watering the grass, which has relatively shallow roots, a sprinkler does not provide enough water for deeper-rooted plants. Overhead watering also contributes to the development and spread of fungal diseases…something we definitely want to avoid.
Using a bucket for pouring water around the plant isn’t great either. The water is applied too quickly and may not soak in before most of it runs off. Also, if you’re not careful you may accidentally wash some soil away also, causing unsightly ruts in the mulch.
If you must use a bucket, make 3 small holes in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket using a drill or hammer and nail. Put the bucket next to the plant and fill it with water. The water will come out slowly from the holes at the bottom. You may need to use some small sticks or rocks under the bucket to make sure the bucket is level.
How Often to Water
If you are planting in spring or summer, you will water slightly differently than when you plant in fall.
Spring or Summer Planting
When planting in spring or summer, water 3 times per week for the first 3 weeks and then twice a week until the leaves fall off in autumn. If the plant is evergreen, keep up the twice per week watering until the end of December.
Deciduous plants (these plants lose their leaves in autumn)
When you plant in the fall, watering times will depend on whether the plant is deciduous or evergreen.
- If the plant still has leaves, follow the watering guidelines until the leaves fall off
- If the plant has already lost its leaves, soak thoroughly one time after planting
- Begin watering again in the spring when the new foliage appears, following the watering guidelines for spring or summer planting
Evergreen plants (these plants keep their leaves all winter)
- Follow the watering guidelines until the end of December
- Begin watering again in the spring when new growth appears, following the watering guidelines for spring or summer planting
When You May Need More Frequent Watering
Sites that may require more frequent watering:
- Windy locations
- Underneath overhangs
As wind travels over plants, it draws the water right out of its leaves and stems. Plants in windy locations will need more frequent watering to make up for this water loss. You can also help reduce water loss from wind by planting barrier trees or shrubs upwind from your plants to take on the brunt of the force.
Watering plants on a slope can be a bit tricky. While it is perfectly fine to plant on hillsides, plants on a slope will dry out more quickly because the water tends to run downhill, away from the plant roots. It’s best to place the hose at low trickle (or use a soaker hose) slightly uphill from the plant. These plants should be watered more frequently.
Overhangs create another situation where more watering is needed. As you can imagine, plants under overhangs do not receive much (if any) rainwater. You will need to water more frequently to make sure the plants get adequate water.
Your planting zone will also determine if you need to water more or less frequently. Hot, dry locations will require more frequent waterings.
Watering Guidelines For Plants in Ground Longer Than 1 Year
Fortunately, once your plants become established, you will not have to water them as often. Watering during dry periods will allow your plants to put their energy into growth, rather than just survival, so you will be rewarded with faster growing, lush plants.
How do you know if your established plants need water? There is an old tried and true method: Try to stick your finger about 3-4” into the soil. If the soil is dry to the touch, water. If it is moist, no need!
Here are a few tips for monitoring your plants:
- Observe the weather
- Consider the type of plant
- Consider the planting location
Observing the weather can be very helpful for figuring out how often to water. Is it a normal or an unusual year in terms of moisture or temperature? If it has been a very wet season, you will probably not have to water very often. If there are long, dry spells, you’ll need to water more often.
Consider the type of plant. Does it like dry conditions, normal moisture, or a lot of moisture? Different plants have different needs. Make sure your plant is planted in the right spot for its water and light preferences. For example, a shade-loving plant that is getting too much light will need more water than if it was planted in food shade. Siting plants correctly ensures that they will grow happy and healthy. If they are happy, less watering and maintenance is needed!
Trees and Shrubs
A few tips for watering with trees and shrubs:
- Water infrequently, yet thoroughly
- Water at the dripline
All trees and shrubs require more frequent watering from planting time until becoming well rooted, which may take two or more growing seasons. However, once established, they can then be weaned to tolerate less frequent watering. Taking care to go through this process will encourage deep roots and increased drought-tolerance.
Once trees, shrubs and groundcovers are established they need to be watered infrequently, yet thoroughly. In the absence of rain, most trees and shrubs benefit from a once-a-month thorough watering during the growing season.
Also, when watering trees and shrubs take note of their drip line. The drip line is the area directly below the outermost reaches of the branches. This is where the feeder roots of trees and shrubs are located, which are the roots that absorb most of the plant’s water and nutrients. It is best to water just inside and a little beyond the drip line. This directly feeds the roots and encourages further outward growth. Avoid focusing your watering efforts around the base of the trees or shrubs.
To water with a regular hose, simply lay it on the ground on a slow trickle and move it around the drip line as each area becomes saturated to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. For large trees, this watering technique may take several hours. You could use a soaker hose in this situation as well, placing the soaker hose at the drip line.