Tree care

New Trees Need Water

It may go without saying that your tree will need water immediately after it’s planted in your yard. Without sufficient water, your tree will not survive! The most important question is, “How much water?” Newly planted trees do not like too much water, and they surely do not like drought conditions. Here’s a quick reference to help you out.

Check the Soil

The best way to know if your tree needs water is to check the ground below it.

One way to do this is to dig down along the root ball to check the consistency of the ground. If you discover that it’s cool to the touch and has a soft play-dough-like feel, you’re in good shape. If the dirt crumbles in your hand, it’s time to water.

Another way to check the soil is to take a long screwdriver (4 inches or longer) and poke it into the ground about 10 inches from the trunk. If the ground is moist, the screwdriver will go in pretty easily. If you can’t poke it in easily at least 6 inches, it’s time to water.


Slow is best. A soaker hose, for example, covering the whole root zone and turned on for about an hour should release the right amount of water. However, you also can place a container underneath the hose or sprinkler. When an inch of water is accumulated, you have watered enough for the week. In extreme heat, twice a week may be needed.

Remember to CHECK that soil as described above.

The following trees fall outside the general guidelines for watering as their needs are slightly different than typical trees. Please note if you have one of the following:

River birch

Prefer moist to wet soil, ideally where the soil around it never actually dries out. For optimal growth, be particularly vigilant in the first year watering consistently every week, using slow deep soaks delivered by a soaker hose, and maybe even more per week during very hot or dry spells.

Weeping Willow

If your weeping willow is not near a body of water, you must water the soil regularly to meet its moisture requirements. For optimal growth, keep the soil moist but not soggy. Newly planted trees require 10 gallons of water for every inch of trunk diameter 2 to 3 times a week. As a general reference, a 50 foot soaker hose would apply about 30 gallons of water per hour


Easy to overwater. Make sure the soil isn’t soggy and is in an area that is well drained. Checking the soil to see when it needs water is crucial to not overwatering.

Bald Cypress

bald cypress

Are naturally found near water and grow best if the soil remains evenly moist. it is important to ensure an adequate supply of water in dry locations, especially when the tree is young. Checking the soil is a must to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Proceed with general watering guidelines for amount and delivery.

Swamp Oak

Since swamp oak are naturally found growing in low-lying moist sites, along bottomlands and in swamps subject to periodic flooding, these are trees that also need consistently moist soil. Try not to let the soil dry out but if it is dry water following general guidelines for slow, deep soaks.


Though arborvitae need consistent watering when establishing roots in the first two years, they are Easy to overwater due to their small root balls especially if placed in areas where soil doesn’t drain well. Due to the heavy clay soils in Indiana it is paramount to check the soil to ensure proper drainage and not allow roots balls to sit in wet/soggy soil for extended periods of time.

white dogwood tree


Have Slightly less than normal watering needs as they prefer well-drained soil and won’t tolerate too much moisture around the roots. Keep an eye on the soil to determine if the soil is draining thoroughly.

Watch the Weather

Lastly, remember that the general guidelines need to be altered to compensate for weather. When there has been rainfall, take that into account and make sure you check the soil before watering. Likewise, be mindful of the temperature…. In extreme heat soil dries out more quickly so monitor water loss by checking the soil more frequently. Lastly, in winter months, trees still need water! Read through the comments below on winter watering, the whys and how, described by Amos Arber, Certified Arborist with the Water Resources Division for the Water Authority.

“The balancing act of watering your trees in the fall and winter is important. Newly planted trees (those planted within 1-3 years) are more susceptible to damage from dry conditions and should be watered more frequently than established trees. Try watering deeply three times a month in the FALL and twice a month in the WINTER.

Evergreen trees lose water through their needles in the dry winter air. They need more stored-up water going into the winter season to make up for that. Cold, dry winds can strip water from evergreens faster than their roots can absorb it, too. That is why it is especially important to provide enough water in the fall and during dry warm spells in the winter.

…Deciduous trees should also not get too dry in the fall and winter. Water acts as an insulator for both the tree and soil. Soil that stays moist will be warmer. Likewise, plant cells that are plump with water will be less susceptible to damage from the cold. Water deciduous trees deeply twice a month during the fall and once a month in the winter. When watering any tree, remember to apply water out to the edge of the tree’s canopy drip line. Some options for deep watering are: bury a soaker hose around the base of the tree trunk – the holes will keep the hose from bursting in freezing temps. Connect to a hose and water for one hour. Alternately, fill a 5 gallon bucket and slowly pour water out distributing as evenly as possible over the root zone.”