Water Your Plants
Don't forget to water your plants! Proper watering of a newly installed plant is critical to its establishment and future growth. Though watering may seem like a simple task, proper watering is a complex subject that does not easily offer a one-size-fits-all guideline for the quantity and frequency of watering. Search for your plant in our knowledgebase to learn more about your specific plant.
To never allow the soil around the roots of new plantings to be too dry and likewise never too wet.
Roots need water to survive and to supply needed moisture back above ground for the process of photosynthesis for the plant’s survival and growth. However, it is critical to understand that roots also need oxygen to survive and function.
While it is easy to understand why plants suffer when they are too dry, it must be understood that plants will suffer and perhaps die if they are too wet for a long time. Oxygen is not available in waterlogged soil as it occupies the same pore space as water.
How Often to Water Your Plants
Water your plants thoroughly when you plant them. Subsequent watering depends on whether the plant was balled & burlapped or in a container, weather conditions, soil type, and other factors.
Irrigation systems don't provide appropriate amounts of water at the required times for newly installed plants.
A rain gauge is a wise investment if you don't have one. We recommend 1-inch of rain (water) per week even for established plants.
How to Water
It's most important to water your plants immediately after planting. Set your garden hose (nozzle off) at the base of the plant and let it slowly trickle to completely saturate the soil. Water needs to penetrate to the bottom of root masses, which can be 12" to 24” deep or deeper. If water run-off is a problem, you may need to follow up with additional water later. An alternative method for larger areas is sprinklers—with a rain gauge or watering can—to measure the amount at 1-2-inches of water.
Here is a guide for the first growing season:
Balled and Burlapped Plants
*Typically larger field grown plants in the burlap/wire cages. 1. Water your plants thoroughly at the time of planting.
2. Water every 5 days for the first month.
3. From then on water once every week.
*Typically younger plants in the black or branded plastic pots. 1. Water thoroughly at time of planting.
2. Check the plant and soil daily during the first week.
3. After the first week, water twice a week for three weeks.
4. From then on water once every week.
Weather and Other Factors
Water your plants to replace evaporating moisture, but also to replace water that the plant is transpiring (water from the soil moving up the plant and lost as vapor from the leaves). These two processes in combination are called evapotranspiration. Temperature, humidity, wind, light, day length, weather, and mulching all affect the rate at which water evaporates. The faster the rate of water loss, the sooner the plants will need watering.
- Hot, Dry, or Windy Weather: Plants transpire at a faster rate. More water evaporates from the soil surface than during cool or humid weather. Plants in full sun transpire more rapidly than plants in shady locations. In addition, more water evaporates from the soil in a sunny site than in a shady one.
- Day Length: An important factor because plants transpire only during daylight. June is usually the month with the greatest water demand because it has the longest days, even though it may not be the hottest month of the summer.
- Mulching: Affects the transpiration rate. A thick layer of mulch keeps the soil cool and reduces the amount of water that evaporates from the surface. Watch the videos on our website for more information about mulch.
- Soil Type: is critical in determining how water is retained and transpires. Understanding soil types will help guide you in proper watering frequency. Essentially, sandy, well-drained soils demand a more frequent watering schedule. Plants in heavy clay soils, the most common in our area, have to be watered less frequently or you will over-saturate the soil, greatly limiting oxygen; this will suffocate and kill the roots and eventually the entire plant.
- Site Exposure: Shade vs. sun; north exposure vs. south exposure; high ground vs. low; flat vs. sloped; all can impact water retention.
Which type of plant do you have?
Not all plants are the same. Search for your plant in our knowledgebase to learn more about it.
- Moisture Loving Plants: can't tolerate drought. They thrive in soil that's moist but not wet. It's usually OK to water these plants when the soil is still damp.
- Average Water Plants: Water these plants when the soil is barely moist or dry.
- Drought Tolerant Plants: can't tolerate wet soil. Water them periodically.
Watering drought tolerant plants Check if the root zone is completely dry. Stick two fingers several inches into the soil, about 6-inches away from the base of the plant. Use the tips of your fingers to gauge moisture level. These plants are usually only drought-tolerant after their roots establish, and you should treat them as needing average water until then. It usually takes one to two full seasons for root establishment.
Checking Soil Moisture
- Damp Soil: Cool and wet to the touch but not muddy. When squeezed, water will not run out.
- Moist Soil: Cool and moist but doesn't dampen your finger. The soil is crumbly but not dry and dusty.
- Completely Dry Soil: Dry and no longer cool to the touch. Dusty.
Watch Your Plants
- Curling leaves are usually the first indication of stress. The plant is reducing its leaf's surface area to cut down on transpiration (loss of water from the leaves).
- Normally vibrant leaves can dull.
- New growth wilts or droops. Older leaves turn brown, dry up and fall off.
- Flowers fade quickly and drop prematurely.
In most cases, these symptoms signal a lack of water. The plant should recover if you water it soon enough and work to prevent it from happening again in the future.