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Ask Extension: How do I water my trees?

Ask Extension: How do I water my newly planted trees?

Young Newport cherry trees need daily watering the first two weeks after planting.

I have two newly-planted trees (cherry and plum). How should I water them? How much and how often?

The larger the tree, the more water it needs! Trees take up water via their feeder roots - those fine roots in the top 5-6 inches of soil - and transport the water along with nutrients from the soil throughout the tree. 

Our Extension webpage, Water wisely: Watering newly planted trees and shrubs, provides guidelines on the quantity and frequency for watering newly planted trees and established trees along with other information on tree care. In brief, newly planted trees require 1-1 ½gallons of water per inch of stem caliper at each watering. When watering newly planted shrubs, apply a volume of water that is 25-30% of the volume of the container that the shrub was purchased in. As roots grow and spread, you’ll need to apply more water.

How often do you water? Your newly planted trees and shrubs require more frequent watering than established trees and shrubs. This is because transplanting can “shock” a plant. It will take a while for the tree to start actively growing again and re-establish their roots in the new planting location. Watering regularly will help ease the shock and get those roots growing.

Newly planted trees should be watered at planting time and at these intervals:

  • Every day for 1-2 weeks after planting.

  • Every 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks after planting.

  • Weekly for 12 weeks until the roots are established.

Newly planted shrubs are considered established when their root spread equals the spread of their canopy. In Minnesota, this will take one to two years. While many people would love an “instant landscape”, younger trees will become established faster than larger, more mature trees and require less water (and work) for a shorter amount of time.

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator

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