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Tree and Shrub Care Tips

Watering Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs

Improper watering is the primary cause when new plants die or develop dieback in the first two years. Pests can also contribute to plant decline, but they are rarely the only cause.
One of the most important things you can do for your newly planted tree or shrub bed is proper watering. The amount and frequency can vary based on three main variables:

Plant Species

The nutritional and hydration needs of plants can vary. Some plants just need more water than others. A good example would be a water lily compared to a cactus. Most landscape plants are not so extreme, but you get the idea. Learn about the plants you are considering before putting them in the ground. The information tag that comes with the plant or seed pack will give you great information on how to plant and care for your plant. A simple search on the internet will give you even more information. Surface rooted plants such as Eastern Dogwood and Rhododendrons dry out much easier than those that are more at home near wetlands like the Arborvitae, an evergreen coniferous tree.

Soil and Site Conditions

There is no question that a wide open sunny expanse of lawn with sandy soil is a lot drier than a low lying corner with afternoon shade. By planting your tree or shrub in ideal conditions for that species, you are giving it the best chance to grow and mature.

Container Treatment

Container-grown plants are usually those that are, not surprisingly, grown in a container of some kind at a nursery. There are typically three types: container grown, bare root, and balled and burlapped. The first two will give you the best roots if properly maintained. Balled and burlapped means that about 90% of the plants roots were cut off and left behind. These type of trees or shrubs will need extra watering for the first three years in order for them to establish a new root system in their new home.

General Watering Rules for New Plants

Some general recommendations for new plants, under three years old, are listed below. You will greatly increase the survival rate of your valuable ornamentals by following these tips. As always, please, do not hesitate to call us if you would like us to check on any problems you notice or concerns you have.

  • Do not plant more trees or shrubs than you can properly maintain.
  • Trees and Shrubs should always be watered at night (Unlike grass which should be watered in the early morning). This prevents evaporation and ensures that the plant absorbs as much water as possible. Do not water the foliage! This will encourage disease.
  • Invest in enough length of dribble hose to give all of your plants coverage. Wrap it around the area above the plant’s root ball. A dribble hose is a porous, black hose that can be purchased in a garden store. The water slowly leaks out into the ground, concentrating in the root area instead of the foliage.
  • Turn the dribble hose on before you go to bed at night. Turn it off when you wake up the next morning. Do this twice a week when the weather is cool and three times a week in the summer heat. The only exception would be in clay soils with poor drainage. If water begins to pool up in these conditions, try omitting a day from your watering schedule.
  • Water throughout the fall, until the leaves of the plant turn color, or for evergreens, water until the ground freezes.
  • The only time when rain should replace watering is if it rains for the entire day. Brief showers and storms will not provide sufficient water.

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