A browning oak leaf

How To Water Your Trees in a Drought 

Watering trees can seem perplexing. While most of us are used to irrigating lawns, gardens, and potted plants, a tree can look like a bigger project. But now that most of Central Texas’ trees are far thirstier than usual, effective watering matters that much more. 

For instance, did you know it’s more important to water some trees from the dripline outward than at the trunk? 

As always, Maas Verde’s experts are ready to take any and all arbor inquiries. In the meantime, here’s our list of best practices for watering your trees during dry seasons. 

Always water slowly and deeply for the best results.  

Superficial watering like what you accomplish with a hose-end sprinkler is ok for trees, but they need more to thrive. Just like any plant, trees will reach deeper into the soil to source water farther below ground if they’re dry. 

If you’re using a hose, try turning the water pressure down to penetrate more deeply without disturbing the soil surface. If you have an irrigation system, bubbler heads work best for trees. 

Water for survival, not maximum growth.

During dry conditions, watering your trees should prioritize survival, which can look a little gnarly. 

You’ve probably noticed lots of leaves dropping early this summer. It’s not necessarily a death knell. In many cases, the plant is implementing a survival strategy. 

Basically, more leaves mean thirstier plants. The reason for this is transpiration, a moisture exchange process that dictates a tree’s leaf load in response to water availability. When a tree drops its leaves, it can be preparing to go dormant to save water — not die. 

a mexican sycamore in two stages of progressing dormancy
A Mexican sycamore (Platanus mexicana) in two stages of dormancy. Photos were taken approx. one month apart.

To spot the difference, monitor canopy thickness and browning patterns on the leaves. A tree approaching dormancy will usually thin out and start showing patchy leaves. A dying tree will typically turn brown all at once.

(If you’re not sure which is which, we’re here to help.)

Established trees need water at the dripline — not the trunk. 

It can seem counterintuitive, but you don’t necessarily need to water trees older than saplings at the trunk.

Instead, start at the dripline (the edge of the leaf canopy) and work your way outward. 

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You can’t create root growth without telling the roots where to go. Any plant will grow toward its water source. If that source is right at its base, radiating growth will be slow. 

Maas Verde consults on any arbor or irrigation project of any size and scope. Keeping Central Texas trees healthy is in our DNA.

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