Watering Guide for New Plants
In order to ensure your new perennial, tree or shrub gets a good start and will keep growing for years to come, you will want to give it essential moisture. Because soils, sites and weather conditions vary, there are no hard and fast rules to watering. However, here are a few guidelines that will help your new plants flourish. These watering guidelines are based on “normal” soil. If your soil has more clay, water less than suggested.*
• Water deeply to encourage a strong root system.
• Small new plants (especially groundcovers) have small roots systems and will need to be watered more frequently than established plants. The smaller the plant, the more frequently it will need to be watered. Give it a thorough watering at the time of planting, and check regularly for water as needed. This may mean watering every 1 to 3 days for the first few months if it is hot.
• Newly planted perennials don’t need constant attention but you still need to check them every day. Put your fingers into the soil a few inches deep and feel if it is wet or dry. Water only if needed. Too much water can kill a plant as readily as too little!
Newly planted shrubs need 1 inch of water per week. Place a slow-running hose at the base of the plant for about 20 minutes once a week. Water twice a week if things are looking tough (if it hasn’t rained in 3 or 4 days and it has been hot..)
• Newly planted trees should receive 1 inch of water per 1 inch tree caliper every week — thoroughly soak using a slow dripper or a Gator Bag™. (If it hasn’t rained that week, put out the hose for an hour or so!)
• Evergreens should be watered continuously until the ground freezes (into December if necessary.)
Use common sense. If it hasn’t rained in a few days and it has been above 80 degrees, check and see if your garden needs your attention. Keep watering trees, shrubs, and perennials that have been planted in the last five years.
DO NOT water so frequently that the soil is constantly wet. Allow the soil to partially dry between waterings!
* Many groundcovers, perennials, hydrangeas and roses benefit from the addition of mushroom compost to the soil, which helps retain moisture.
** Exceptions: Water-loving Plants Endless Summer® Hydrangea often requires daily watering during the summer of the first year of planting. Hydrangeas often “wilt” or droop in the heat of the late afternoon on hot days, but recover when the air cools. If it is wilting at 6:00 or 6:30 pm, the plant is telling you it needs water!
Redtwig dogwood, chokeberry, and sweetspire (itea) are examples of shrubs that like water. These may need to be watered more frequently.
River birch should be watered for at least 2 hours with a dribbling hose, twice a week during the initial growing season after planting. This tree thrives with sufficient water. Even established trees will look better and still require sufficient moisture, so plan to water during any dry spells.
In the fall, as the days start to shorten and the heat generally starts to let up, plants can be watered less frequently. Generally by the end of October, watering of perennials has been discontinued, deciduous trees and shrubs is down to every other week but evergreens (both trees and shrubs) continue to need to be watered once a week until Christmas (unless the ground has completely frozen) or there is snow on the ground. IF THERE IS A WARM SPELL IN JANUARY, PLEASE GIVE YOUR EVERGREENS A COLD BUCK OF WATER — THIS WILL HELP TO PREVENT WINTER BURN. In the spring, when leaves begin to break bud, start watering trees and shrubs once a week.
BE ESPECIALLY ATTENTIVE DURING HOT, DRY SUMMER MONTHS & INCREASE WATER AS NEEDED