Signs a Tree Needs Water: What a Thirsty Tree Looks Like

Summer heat can dry out the yard. It’s not uncommon to see wilting plants in desperate need of a drink when the summer days turn scorching hot for extended periods. But do our trees need the same sprinkler treatment we give our gardens? After all, trees are hardier than flowers and vegetables, right?

Learn more about what trees can live through just fine and when to break out the hose.

Signs a Tree Needs Water

While most trees native to your area are well adapted to your usual dry and wet seasons, there’s always a chance the weather is just too dry for your tree to stay healthy.

Whether you’re in a full drought, or just hitting a stretch summer with no rain, look for these signs your tree needs a drink:

  • Dry, crumbly dirt. Testing the dirt is the easiest way to tell if your trees need a pick-me-up watering. Gently and carefully dig six inches under the surface layer at the base of your tree for a pinch of soil and roll it between your fingers. Is it dry and crumbly? Then your tree will benefit from being watered.
  • Affected leaves. Leaves often show the first and most obvious signs of dehydration. Your tree’s leaves or needles may wilt, curl, droop, turn yellow or brown, or even start showing fall color early. Some species of tree – including linden, ash, hickory, and black locust – may drop their leaves early.
  • Shrinking growth. Look at the leaves, needles, stems, fruits, and roots on your tree. They may shrink or have stunted and off-color growth if your tree needs water.
  • Radial cracks. As the wood of the trunk dries and shrinks, cracks can form just under the bark layer of some species, radiating inwards toward the center of your tree. Make sure you don’t overwater in response, which causes its own problems.

How Much Water Does a Tree Need Per Week?

The amount of water a tree needs every week varies depending on species, size, age, soil type, and other factors. For example, a tree in sandy soil may need more frequent watering because the soil drains so quickly. Newly planted trees need more watering than mature trees do.

When you determine that your tree does need water, how much do you give it? Trees prefer a thorough soak to a quick water dump. Instead of filling a bucket or putting the hose on blast, leave your hose trickling a few feet from the base of the trunk until the soil is thoroughly damp. If you find yourself needing to water frequently, try investing in a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.

Do Mature Trees Need Watering?

Regularly, no, you won’t have to add any additional water to your mature trees. However, if conditions are dry enough that your trees haven’t gotten rain in a couple of weeks, even well-established trees will benefit from a little extra water. As a rule, most mature trees need about one inch of water a week.

When to Water New Trees to Help Them Thrive

New trees should be watered thoroughly every few days for the first several months after they’re planted. Thoroughly soak the ground within the radius of the tree’s branches. This should allow most or all the establishing roots to get a good drink.

Drought and Trees: How a Lack of Water Affects Your Trees

Why be on the lookout for parched trees during a dry spell? Drought and dry soil can cause a variety of issues in trees, especially over an extended period. Your heat-stressed trees may produce smaller and weaker growth. Any weaknesses or problems from improper planting can be exacerbated by a lack of water. Drought stress can even change your tree’s hormone levels, leading to fewer buds and flowers in the following years.

Root systems may be damaged or die off as roots shrivel and wither from lack of water. Non-woody roots in the first 15 inches of soil are the first to die, but even more established roots can be harmed if dry conditions continue. Damaged roots can’t pull water into the rest of the tree, leading to a deficit from the trunk to the treetop.

Root damage is particularly devastating in young and newly planted trees, which have the shallowest root systems.

Protecting Your Trees from Heat Stress

If you notice any signs of stress in your leaves and branches, contact your local Monster Tree Service. We’ll inspect your trees to tell you the exact cause. Since many of the signs of water deficiency overlap with signs of tree diseases, it’s a good idea to get an expert opinion on your tree’s condition. We can recommend a regular fertilizer schedule to support your tree through thick and thin and cable and brace your tree to support any branches weakened by drought stress.

Support Tree Health with Help from Your Local Tree Care Professionals

While we can’t control the weather to make it rain more often, Monster Tree Service is here to support your trees during extended dry spells. We’ll help you give your trees the care they need to make it through the most stressful conditions. Call (888) 744-0155 today or request a free estimate to get started.