We all love our trees and we want to do everything that we can to make sure that they are in the best shape for the long haul. Watering practices are a big part of tree maintenance and can get a bit tricky if you aren’t properly prepared with the right information about how, when, and the amount that you should water your tree.
In reality, you don’t need to water your plants and trees every day. Watering plants daily can lead to overwatering, which can waterlog roots and limit the amount of oxygen and nutrients plants are able to absorb. Using mulch and watering once or twice weekly is best general practice for most plants.
While that rule above is a good general outline, sometimes plants and trees need to water more than other times and we want to help you feel the most well-equipped to face the different needs of your tree. Keep reading to learn why you shouldn’t water your plants every day!
Should You Water Your Plants Every Day?
Before you pick up a hose, set up a sprinkler system, or check the forecast for rain showers, consider if you should water your plants every day.
The answer to that question is no. You do not need to water your plants every day. You actually should not be doing this with any of your plants unless they are extremely new transplants or if you are in an extreme drought.
Other than those few exceptions, you should be watering your plants on a less frequent schedule to avoid overwatering.
If you have a specific tree that you’re wondering about watering, you can check out our simple tips for watering your oak tree here!
Do Your Plants Need To Be Watered?
Most likely, nature is going to take most of this responsibility off of your plate when it comes to established outdoor plants like trees, bushes, and even certain flowers. However, this is not always reliable so it is important to know how often, how much, and why you might need to water your tree.
Additionally, gardens, flowers, and smaller plants will need to be watered more frequently than a tree or shrub will. So, when you consider smaller plants, keep in mind that this advice does change slightly depending on factors like plant size, environment, temperature, and more.
Let’s talk about some alternatives that you can use to avoid watering larger plants like trees and shrubs every day. Who doesn’t love saving time, money, and effort?
9 Things To Do Instead Of Watering Your Tree Every Day
Since we now know that you should not be watering your plants every day, let’s get into what else you can do.
If a tree appears in any way to need water, you should water your tree. Some signs that your tree is not properly hydrated are curling or wilting leaves, off-colored leaves, or soil that is dry to the touch and does not stick to your finger when you dip it in the soil.
How though, do you keep a balance between under-watering and overwatering?
While there’s no real rulebook to follow here, it is safe to say that you should be able to touch soil a few inches down and see that it sticks to your finger but does not feel overly runny or saturated.
As you work with your plants, you’ll acquire a sense of their needs and how much water is the right amount based on your environment and weather.
According to The University of Hawaii Manoa, rainwater or irrigation should penetrate the soil deeper than the roots to effectively ‘recharge’ the water that remains underneath the soil.
1. Use Mulch Around Your Tree
Mulch will cut down on the evaporation that can be released from the soil around your tree.
For this reason, it is a great, simple, and environmentally-friendly way to keep your tree, flowers, and even some garden plants hydrated without being overwatered.
While trees may need a different mulch than house plants, you can opt for a Natural Cedar Shaving mulch that can act as a good option for most plant types. Especially if the goal is to keep moisture in the soil, any old sort of mulch does the trick.
2. Use A Water Storing Product
Yes, there is a product for that!
Often overlooked, water-storing products (mainly water storing crystals) are a great solution for plants both indoor and outdoor that may need some extra help retaining water.
These crystals can be mixed into the soil, whether that is potting soil, the soil around a tree, or newly laid soil around a flower bed, in order to swell and absorb water that will remain in that soil for a longer period of time.
Have you ever seen the infomercials for those glass bulbs that you can stick into house plants that slowly release water? These Besti Large Self-Watering Globes for Plants come in a 6-pack and are a fun way to add a pop of color next to your plants and take the stress out of watering!
The Miracle-Gro Water Storing Crystals do something similar. These crystals are added directly into the soil and allow plants to absorb extra water as needed. So, if you are looking to avoid visual clutter around your plants, or have primarily larger outdoor plants that need some extra help in the hydration department, this might be a better choice for you.
This type of product is especially helpful when you are looking to protect a plant from excessive heat, a drought, or any other extreme factors that could lead to a lack of hydration in your plant.
3. Use A Hose Every Week Or Two
If you are going to spend the time required to stand near your tree and water it with a hose, you’ll only need to do this every week or two, as needed.
The LETIME Expandable Garden Hose is 100 ft and has 9 different pressure settings so that you can either hold your hose and water each plant or use your hose as an irrigation system and leave it slowly running in a certain area while you take care of things elsewhere for a bit.
So many options!
4. Use A Sprinkler System Every Few Days
A sprinkler system is a great, and efficient way to keep the soil around your tree wet without allowing it to be soaked from overwatering.
You can use a sprinkler system as a replacement for watering manually. This is great for those who don’t have the time or bandwidth to always keep to a watering schedule and can bring peace of mind to those concerned they might under or overwater their tree.
Products like the Orbit 50021 Digital Hose Faucet Timer are a reliable way to save time, stress, and energy on watering your tree.
These sorts of sprinkler systems are wonderful when used correctly.
Let’s note that again: using a sprinkler system to water your tree is great as long as the system itself is properly set up, timed, and angled.
Something to consider when using a sprinkler is the placement and how that impacts the tree. Your sprinkler water should be going to the soil under the tree not hitting the trunk.
If water from a sprinkler system is constantly hitting the trunk of a tree you’ll begin to see damage to the trunk. This can appear in the form of peeling bark from a water pressure that is too high, decay due to too much water on the surface, and more ailments.
Certain species of trees, like the paper birch tree, already have peeling bark. So don’t mistake that with bark damage!
5. Don’t Water Trees As Much In The Winter
Trees are often dormant in the winter and, therefore, do not need nearly as much water as they would in their more active stage during the warmer parts of the year.
Your tree should be able to take in some natural precipitation from rain and snow thanks to the colder temperatures that allow the soil to retain more water as evaporation is lessened.
If you’re wondering how trees get by in the winter without water, take a look at our guide on how evergreen trees survive the winter and year-round!
Additionally, hardy trees like ash trees don’t require as much water when it gets towards the colder season!
6. Water During Winter But Only In A Drought
Now, we know we mentioned NOT watering your trees as much in the winter because of their dormancy, but we have a note to add to this point.
If the temperature is above freezing, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above, and there has been no precipitation, including snow, you might be in a position that requires you to assist your tree a little more than usual.
So, what’s the deal with this?
Well, if temperatures are consistently warm enough in the winter, whether that is because of regional location or due to a warm spell in the midst of winter, roots may reawaken and find that there is not enough water to sustain them in this non-dormant state.
If you live in an area in a drought but the ground is frozen at any point in the winter, do NOT water your tree. The water will not be able to successfully penetrate the soil, therefore writing off the roots, and watering at this point is not necessary.
Frozen ground means dormant roots that, even in a drought, do not need to be watered.
If you live in a warmer climate, you’re more likely to run into these drought issues. If you’re growing fruit, you can read our guide on how often you should water orange trees for tips on dealing with this climate!
7. Water Trees Early In The Morning
Water will not evaporate as much during the early morning and will have the opportunity to really soak down through the soil to the roots.
This will allow you to water even less frequently than you otherwise might have to!
8. Keep Fallen Leaves Under Your Plant
Yes, you saw that right! You don’t need to rake all of your autumn leaves. In fact, it’s actually better that you don’t!
Funnily enough, most people like to rake leaves, clean up fallen plant matter under flowers and bushes, and such that help the appearance of their yard.
Well, do we have some news for you!
Keeping fallen leaves, flowers, and anything else of the sort underneath your plant will help to create a layer that acts as a mulch, minus the cost and time it takes to purchase mulch!
It’s a win-win so far, wouldn’t you agree? Less landscaping and more pocket money!
Especially as trees and other plants begin to go dormant and lose their leaves, moisture will stay locked into the soil for a while, and eventually, when the leaves or flowers decompose, you’ll have a natural fertilizer.
How much better can it get?
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again- nature has some pretty cool systems in place to protect itself. We as humans just get to help out sometimes!
9. All Plants Benefit From Water During A Drought
As we mentioned above, all trees benefit from extra water during a drought.
This, however, is the exception to a relatively consistent rule of nature. Watering your tree extra frequently is not something that you should plan on doing every year, as that can be harmful under conditions that are more normal and not drought-like.
The South Dakota State University Extension confirms that there is no set rule to follow regarding the amount of water that trees in a drought need, unfortunately.
Drought-like conditions change everything, though. Plants are unable to get what they need from nature and that means that you as a plant owner have to step in to offer some extra support.
If you are in a drought during the spring, summer, or early fall months, you can frequently water your plants by hand or use an irrigation set to a slightly higher-than-normal level.
If you are in a drought during the winter months, you should keep your climate in mind and water once in a while. Perhaps once or twice a month is plenty during this time of year. Remember, watering a plant that is in the frozen ground could actually harm your plants.
Fertilizing Your Tree Impacts Water Absorption
In some instances, your tree might not be struggling because of the amount of water it is getting. There certainly can be other factors at play, like malnourishment.
Using a fertilizer can be an absolute game-changer when it comes to the lasting success of your plant, no matter what type it is!
If you’re unsure of where to start, you can always opt for a balanced fertilizer like this Joyful Dirt Premium Concentrated All Purpose Organic Based Plant Food and Fertilizer.
However, if you are looking to dive a little deeper into the world of fertilizer and learn what the best type might be for a specific one of your plants, let us introduce you to the world of NPK values!
Wait a second, what on earth is an NPK value??
NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are some of the main elements that plants tend to benefit most from. If you look up ‘what NPK value does my ___ plant need in a fertilizer?’ odds are the internet is going to lead you to just the right place, especially since it differs from plant and tree species.
It can sound intimidating to be searching for some seemingly random value, but just know that NPK values help us to easily see the balance of these key nutrients in the fertilizer. This should be the opposite of overhwhelming- after all, there are only 3 numbers to remember!
If an oak tree is your main focus, you can read our full guide on how to fertilize your oak tree (7 simple tips) here!
That’s A Wrap!
Outdoor plants, especially trees, may not need as much care as you’d expect, but a watchful eye is key! You want to make sure that your plants are thriving in the ways that you think they are.
Younger plants of any species especially need a little extra care, water, and attention. If you can commit to providing this in the early stages of a plant’s life, you will ensure success in its mature years to come.
Thank you for sticking with us and learning about more ways to keep your plants, not just trees, healthy and flourishing.
While you may be on more of a plant journey than a tree journey, we are happy that we can be here to help you along the way.
So, until next time!
Meade, G., & Hensley, D. L. (1997). Watering trees.
Young, R. F. (2011). Planting the living city: Best practices in planning green infrastructure—Results from major us cities. Journal of the American Planning Association, 77(4), 368-381.