Watering 101: How to Water Your New Plants

How to water your new plants…it isn’t as simple as you think!

New plants, just like new baby chicks, or a puppy, take some additional care. Watering your new plants is part of that “extra” process. If you’ve been following along on our spring blog series you’ve already found the perfect tree, planted it in the perfect spot using the perfect method and now…..just turn on the sprinklers or emitters and I’m done, right?  Nope, not quite. It’s time to learn how to perfectly water your newly planted trees and plants.

New trees and shrubs need to be watered deeply and regularly through the first 2 growing seasons. This helps new plants get enough water to those new roots. Until a plant is established with a full root system, sprinkler water or drip systems do not provide a deep enough soaking to saturate the root ball properly.**

Proper watering will allow the plants to establish a deep and strong root system. The bonus is that when you establish good habits now your tree or plant will require less water long term.  But, in the short term, it is incredibly important to follow a good watering protocol. This will ensure those new plants get the best start possible.

The First Year

Growing season #1 – new plants need regular deep soaking.

Water your new plants with the deep soakFirst, we should establish what “deep soaking” is.  Turn your hose on a slow trickle and place it 4-6” from the base of the plant.  Let the hose run between 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of the root ball. Deep soaking is the best way to water your new plants.

Deep soaking of a plant in its first year can be broken down into 5 phases.

Phase One

The first week after planting, the tree (or shrub) will go into a bit of shock.  The plant has been getting watered daily in the nursery and now it has been moved, transplanted, and it is in need of some extra water. This will help keep the roots healthy while they start to grow into the soil around the rootball.  For this first week, we recommend deep soaking the new plants every day, saturate the entire rootball so it can feed the tree.

Phase Two

The second week after planting, the plant has started growing into the soil. A pro tip for training the roots to grow deeper is to start adjusting the watering.  Deep soak them every other day so the soil can dry out between waterings. The drying out is necessary for the root system as it helps drive the roots deeper to seek new water sources.  Plus, the time between waterings allows the roots to breathe (and yes, roots breathe!).  Oxygen is as important in plant roots as it is in our lungs. Want to learn more? Check out this great article from Science Line.

Phase Three

The third week, and through the rest of the first growing season, the plants will need to be deep soaked twice per week. You may need a third deep soaking if it’s especially hot during the heat of summer.

Phase Four

Fall watering can be reduced further once the temps start to drop to 1 time per week.

Phase 5water your new plants in winter with ice

Winter watering is essential. Some people think that snow will be enough water for plants, but that’s not true! We do not get enough snow in our area to saturate the rootball when temperatures creep above freezing.  We’ve got a fun pro tip to help you keep your newly planted trees watered in the winter.  Fill a large cup (16 oz or more) with ice. Dump the cup of ice on your trees and shrubs. The ice will slowly melt and water your tree. How often you add ice depends on how warm of a winter it is.

The Second Year

Growing season #2 – plants still establishing, deep soak but less often

Phase 1.1

As temperatures start to warm up in early spring, it is a good time to start deep soaking your trees and shrubs.  The ground will likely be dry after winter, so a routine of 1 time per week is good to start in March.

Phase 2.1

Keep deep soaking your new trees and shrubs 1 time per week throughout this growing season. When the temperatures heat up in the summer you can add a second soaking.

Phase 3.1

Winter watering will still be necessary. Use our pro-tip ice trick and the same routine as last year.

sprinklers aren't enough to water your new plants**Sprinklers are designed to put out water in a manner that is wide but shallow watering.  This is fine for the grass or small plants but is not deep enough for trees or shrubs. The saturation from sprinklers only goes about 2-3 inches deep, but a rootball depth is between 8-20 inches.

Drip or emitter systems put out an average gph (gallon per hour), but this is not necessarily an accurate measurement of how much water is getting into the soil.  Emitters have a tendency to get clogged very easily.  Additionally, the water pressure through the drip system might be less than required to hit that gph, so even if you have increased the time it is running, it still might not be as many gallons as are needed.

So, that’s the 411 on the 101 of watering.  Give your new plants the best start for establishing now and you’ll have a healthy, vibrant tree (or shrub) for years to come.

And, as always, let us know if you have any questions.  We are here to help.


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Other useful links and resources:

Watering Guide – 3 quick tips!

5 Ways to Reduce Water Waste in Utah

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