Where’s the RAIN for My Newly Planted Tree?


As a designer, I am seeing more and more people complaining that trees and shrubs are dying. If tree roots dry up before the plant is established, the tree will perish, simple as that. If it is due to transplant shock, they are easily susceptible to drought, insects, diseases and other problems.

It may take two to three years, but if it does not get watered deeply twice a week, it will dry up. The crown is capable of losing water faster than it can be absorbed by the limited root mass. Transplant shock will last until the natural balance between the root system and the top or crown equals out. Most trees die during the root regeneration stage. Three years is the magic time, past this time period trees are better established to live on what nature provides.


People don’t realize that newly planted trees and shrubs that come from the growers have had their roots severely pruned (up to 90% of the absorbing roots are chopped off) to be balled and burlapped.  Balled trees are always kept moist at the growers. With a big canopy of flowers and leaves to support, a tree is under quite a bit of stress.

Newly planted small caliper trees need about 15 gallons of water at each deep watering minimally per week throughout summer and fall to establish and maintain good growth. When you dig the hole for the tree and plant it, you need to water it very well at the time of planting, then water it every four days for two months. When the temperatures cools, you can cut it to once a week. Spring and/or Fall are good times to plant most trees since the weather is cooler.


Over-watering can reduce soil oxygen availability which will be just as stressful as lack of water. Soils high in clay accept water slowly, often as little as 1/4 inch per hour, so judge deep watering accordingly. Those feeder roots need to start growing. Research indicates that approximately one year of recovery is needed for every inch of tree diameter.


Did you know thinner leaved plants need more water to stay alive than the thicker leaved plants which need less?

While there are ways that a tree can show you it’s thirsty, a tree can also be suffering from drought stress without showing any symptoms at all. When trees don’t get enough water, the fine hairs in the root system die. With damaged roots, the tree can’t draw up nutrients. The tree can live off stored energy and look fine for now, but the tree may fail one or two years down the road.

Drought stress symptoms can include curling leaves, leaves with burnt edges, wilting leaves, and premature dropping of leaves, especially interior leaves. These symptoms could also be signs of other problems, such as insect damage. However, that could be tied back to drought stress, too, because drought stress can leave trees more vulnerable to insect damage.

Dying trees is not only the newly planted trees. Drought has been a real concern on established trees and quite a few are stressed beyond from what they can recover. Fall is a great time to plant most trees. Winter allows the trees to put out root growth without the energy expenditure of seed or leaf production. Plus cooler temperatures are most advantageous to newly installed trees.

I am away from blogging at this time. See, Why I Am Taking Off From Blogging to know why.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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