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Watering Newly Planted Trees – How To Keep Young Trees Healthy!

How and when you water newly planted trees plays a huge role in not only a tree’s survival, but its long-term health as well.

The first few years of a tree’s life are critical in building and establishing a strong, healthy root system. A tree’s roots, much like any plant, are its major lifeline.

watering a newly planted tree
A newly planted tree requires frequent watering to establish a strong, healthy root system.

Not only do roots soak up nutrients and moisture, they also help to anchor the tree against mother nature. A weak root system leads to poor plant health, and one that will have trouble standing up against strong winds and storms.

Here is a look at how and when to water newly planted trees for success, along with how best to continue watering trees as they mature.

How To Water Newly Planted Trees

Whether it be a fruit tree, ornamental tree, or a classic shade tree, a newly planted tree requires frequent watering. And that watering needs to start right at the time of planting!

watering trees
All newly planted trees require frequent watering after planting to help set roots and keep stress levels low.

Transplanting is stressful for any plant, but especially so with trees. And it’s vital to keep the root ball well-watered to keep the plant hydrated, and keep that stress to a minimum.

Watering at Planting Time

When planting, the root ball needs fully hydrated before covering with soil. The best way to do this is to place the root ball into the hole and fill with water.

digging a hole
Before filling in with soil, the root ball should be thoroughly soaked.

Once the water has soaked in and drained from the hole, cover with soil and water in once more.

Watering Newly Planted Trees

Once trees have been planted, they should be watered every other day for the first few weeks. Trees are best planted in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, but if planted in the summer, daily watering may be needed for the first two weeks to combat the additional heat.

The amount of water should be based upon the size of the trees trunk. A good rule of thumb for newly planted trees is 5 gallons of water for every inch in diameter of the trunk.

watering newly planted trees
Watering bags are a great way to water trees with a slow, steady supply.

After a few weeks, cut back watering to once a week as the plant begins to set it’s roots. It is important to avoid over-watering at the point too, as it can prevent the roots from searching into the surrounding soil and taking hold.

One of the best ways to water young trees is with a 5 gallon bucket with a few holes poked in the bottom. The slow release lets the water have time to soak in, and not simply run off. Tree Watering Bags are a great solution as well, as they allow the water to release slowly over time.

Dormant Watering

One of the biggest mistakes made with new trees is not providing water to their roots when trees are dormant.

dormant tree
Watering during dormant periods is vital to a tree’s overall health.

Young trees, especially trees that have been in the ground for 2 or less years, require watering even when the tree is overwintering. As long as temperatures remain above freezing, water trees every few weeks through dormant periods.

If the ground freezes or temps drop below freezing, watering is not necessary.

Watering Year 2 And Beyond

As a young tree continues to grow and mature, proper watering is still vital to the trees overall health and success.

Trees that have been established for one to three years should still be watered during extended dry and or extremely hot periods. Most trees require an average of an inch of rain every week to 10 days. If Mother Nature is not providing that, it’s time to water.

Once a tree has matured a bit and has become fully established (usually around 4 to 5 years), it will rarely if ever require watering. The only exception would be during an extreme drought or extended heat wave.


Last but not least, mulch those trees! When it comes to conserving moisture around newly planted and young trees, mulch is absolutely critical.

Mulch immediately at the time of planting to help keep water in, and competing weeds out. The mulch should be 4 to 6 inches deep, and cover at minimum the extended root ball area.

Mulching newly planted trees is a critical step to success. Mulch not only suppresses competing weeds, it conserves valuable moisture.

Shredded hardwood is an excellent choice, but straw and other mulches will work too. Do not use rock mulches initially as they will heat up from the sun and dry out the soil below.

Here is to watering for success! For more on adding trees to your landscape, check out our article Adding Fruit Trees To Your Landscape.

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