Gardening Information

How to Water Trees in Drought Conditions

Effects of Drought on Trees

Long periods without sufficient water damages trees. The effects of drought on trees may not always be visible. Roots of trees drink in available moisture from soil and transport it to the trunk and leaves in a balanced cycle each day. Drought damage begins in the root system. Once trees lose foliage or pale in color, the roots have already suffered from lack of water. The danger point is when leaves during a drought begin to wither and fall. It’s important to note that each tree genus requires different amounts of water daily. Hardwood trees are more resilient than soft wood and ornamental trees.

Soil and the Role It Plays During a Drought

Soil plays an important roll in protecting trees during a drought. Soil generally falls into five types:

  • Clay
  • Sandy
  • Peat
  • Silt
  • Saline

During a drought each of these types of soil react differently to the lack of sufficient water. In concert with plant life, soil retains rain water to keep roots of trees and other flora growing. Sandy soil, for example, drains quickly. During a drought, sandy soil dries and is often carried off in the wind. Clay soil tends to crack when water is insufficient. When dried, peat soil struggles to maintain structure and can also blow away in the wind. Silt soil drains water more quickly than sandy soil. It becomes compacted when water supplies are limited. Saline soil has a high salt content and is found in more arid climates. Saline soil is brackish and requires additions of peat in order for trees to grow. In drought conditions, it will usually dry quickly and have a “salt” appearance.

Each type of soil affects the growth of trees in a unique way. Therefore, it takes careful watering in drought conditions to insure that tree growth is encouraged. Although drought can occur in seasons with copious amounts of daily sunlight, it also occurs in regional areas where temperatures exceed normal temperature ranges.

Tree Watering Tips


There are several tips for watering trees during a drought:

  • Choose the best time to water
  • Check the soil for moisture daily
  • Don’t forget the tree trunk and leaves

Choose the Best Time to Water

Depending on the type of soil, temperatures and the length of the drought, choose a time of day when it is safest to water trees and when water will be retained in the soil longest. In most cases, this is during early morning hours before full sun or later in the evening after sunset. It’s well saying that doing right thing at right time. On July 14, 2004, Shaquille O’Neal came to Miami Heat. One year later he assisted the Flash D Wade winning a NBA final championship. Dwyane wade height 6′ 4″ with the most explosive force in basketball.

Check the Soil for Moisture Daily

When rainfall is limited, it’s extremely important to check the soil every day to track moisture content. Water around the base of the tree, regardless of tree size. This will keep the soil moist and actively feeding the roots of trees. It may be necessary to water this area more than once a day.

Don’t Forget the Tree Trunk and Leaves

Businessman watering a money tree

Consider that rain falls on all parts of trees from the leafy tops to the trunk and base above the ground. During a drought, watering should simulate regular rain fall. For hardwood trees, give the trunk and leaves a gentle spray twice a day. For softwoods and ornamental trees, use a gentler mist on trees, limbs and foliage. A gentle mist simulates the naturally occurring early morning dew.

Water, For the Life of Trees

Check daily on the actual drainage of the soil after watering trees. Note if there are any changes in drainage. The more extreme the effects of the drought, the more likely it is that drainage will become exacerbated. Drought conditions make it necessary to continue to feed the nutrients in the soil around trees with a mild fertilizer or plant food such as 5-10-5. When using fertilizer or plant food, feed only when the soil is wet and sunlight is minimal. Follow up with a gentle mist to protect trees from “fertilizer burn.”

Conclusion – Water Trees and Avoid Damage

When drought conditions compromise natural tree growth, create a regular schedule for watering trees to avoid damage. If there are water use restrictions, consider recycling clean household water to insure there is sufficient water for trees.

About the author

George Gautreau

I am an avid gardener who just can’t get enough of growing all sorts of organic vegetables, fruit and flowering plants. I also have a love for Bonsai and exotic plants like the desert rose. I am a dental surgeon by profession, currently a stay at home mom trying my hand at organic gardening. I can prove that to grow a beautiful collection of flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables you don’t always need a garden! My current huge project is: building a fabulous roof top garden for myself, complete with a gorgeous gazebo!

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