watering plants

Knowing when to water plants

When it comes to watering new plants, we often hear a lot of questions from clients about when to water plants, how to water plants, and how to know if they are overwatering plants. Properly watering plants is extremely crucial in their growth and overall health, especially when the plant or tree is new.

After a plant or shrub is initially planted, its root system will begin to grow underground. This growth will spread much wider underground than what is seen above ground. This spreading is how the tree establishes itself. During this “establishment phase”, consistent and frequent watering is necessary to foster growth, and eliminate stresses.

At this point, you may be wondering how long it takes for a tree or shrub’s roots to establish, and how to know when it is considered established. New plants are considered established when their root spread equals the spread of the above ground canopy. The best way to gauge whether your tree is established or not is by measuring the trunk’s thickness (or caliper). Depending on this measurement, the establishment phase can be as short as one and a half years, or as long as ten years.

Here is a good schedule to follow for watering plants after they’ve been put in:

  • 1-2 week after planting – water daily
  • 3-12 weeks after planting – water every 2-3 days
  • Until established – water weekly

When watering established trees, it is important to extend the soaking past the area beneath the tree canopy to reach roots that have spread.

How much water:

The amount of water used is most curial during the early stages of your tree’s life. During this time, you should apply around 1 – 1.5 gallons of water per inch of the stem caliper each time you water.

Overwatering plants:

Just as much as not enough water during this stage is dangerous to the health of your tree, so is too much water. Overwatering is a very common tree care mistake made by homeowners that can easily be avoided. Make sure that your soil is moist but not soggy. A damp soil will allow for adequate oxygen to infiltrate the soil.

overwatering plants watering plants how to water plants

Where to water:

Water should be applied directly over the root ball. When a plant is new, you may want to consider creating a circular mound of soil about 3-4 inches high around the plant at the edge of its root ball to create a reservoir. This is a great way to allow water to slowly infiltrate into the root ball.


Trees, shrubs, and plants on your property are constantly in competition for nutrients, water, and space. To help optimize root production, water supply, and establishment, it is important to:

  1. Remove weeds from the base of the plant to decrease nutrient competition.
  2. Consider applying mulch in a layer around three inches extending several feet beyond the tree or shrub’s canopy.
  3. If you are applying mulch, start the application at the outer edge of the root ball.

Mulching is beneficial because it helps to insulate the soil and keep it moist, as well as improve overall soil health.

The professionals at Red Cedar can help to determine which trees are best to plant on your property and help to maintain their health! Our plant health care programs encompass key maintenance components like watering plants, fertilization, pest and disease evaluation, and mulching to ensure your plants are thriving. Contact us today for your free consultation and begin transforming your property!  

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