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How to water shrubs & trees

Watering Instructions: Maryland Shrubs and Trees

Check the soil before watering;

both overwatering and underwatering are harmful.

Temperatures in Maryland play a huge role in the need for water. On Maryland’s scorching hot days, water in the soil will evaporate quickly, and plants will require more attention. In cooler weather, water will remain in the ground for much longer periods.

Don’t be afraid to stick your hand under the mulch and feel the moisture content of the soil around several plants before watering to determine if watering is even necessary.

Signs of overwatering are wilting and yellowing of the foliage.  Signs of underwatering are shriveled foliage, brown edges on leaves, and dieback at the top of the plant.

Water in the morning or late in the afternoon as the sun starts setting.

  1. Water plants with an open hose end with your thumb or a shower head nozzle only. Sprinklers and soaker hoses do not work.
  2. Start with the first plant and water until water runs away from the crown (base) of the plant.
  3. Move to the second plant and water the same way. When water from the second plant runs away from the crown move back to the first plant and water again.
  4. Repeat the process for all plants.

Watering Guidelines

These are estimates based on plant size.

Container plants:
1-3 gal. pot: 10 minutes
5-10 gal. pot: 20 minutes
15 gal. or larger pot: 30 minutes

Balled and Burlapped plants:
1.75″ – 2.5″ caliper: 45-60 minutes
3″ or larger caliper: 60-80 minutes

Planting in summer heat:

  • Water 3 times per week for the first 3 weeks, whether it rains or not.
  • After the first 3 weeks, water twice per week, whether it rains or not.

Fall watering directions:

Deciduous plants

  • If the plant still has leaves, follow the watering guidelines until the leaves fall off.
  • If the plant has lost its leaves, soak thoroughly one time after planting.
  • Following the watering guidelines, begin watering again in the spring when new foliage appears.

Evergreen plants

  • Follow the watering guidelines until December 31.
  • Again, following the watering guidelines, begin watering again in the spring when new growth appears.

Trees and Shrubs

Plants need more frequent watering from planting time until becoming well rooted, which may take two or more growing seasons. Once established, plants can then be weaned to tolerate less frequent watering.

Proper weaning develops deep roots and makes the plants more drought tolerant.

Water established trees, shrubs and groundcover infrequently but thoroughly.

In the absence of rain, most trees and shrubs benefit from a once-a-month, thorough watering during the spring, summer, and fall.

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