Tree Watering

Water is critical to the success of any tree or shrub planting. Tree roots, especially the small, water-absorbing roots, are easily damaged during transplanting.

For sufficient water uptake to occur, the root ball of a newly planted tree must be kept moist, but not saturated. Monitor the moisture in the root ball daily, and water as needed so that the root ball does not dry out. The area outside of the root ball also should be watered to encourage root growth into the surrounding soil. Avoid overwatering, which is a major cause of tree failure in many Nebraska communities. Heavy clay soils that have been compacted during construction activities severely restrict the movement of water and commonly lead to saturated conditions.

In areas with fine-textured soils, such as those containing high levels of clay or silt, newly planted trees should receive no more than 1 inch of surface water per week during the growing season. Supplemental watering is not necessary during periods of adequate rainfall. Water no more than two or three times per week for a total of 1 inch. Operating automatic lawn irrigation systems for 20 to 30 minutes per day often results in continuously saturated soil, which may cause severe root damage and tree death.

In sandy soils, water drains more easily, and up to 2 inches of water per week may be necessary to keep the soil moist. Carefully monitor the moisture level in the root ball of balled-and-burlapped trees planted in sandy soils. Water from the fine-textured soil of the root ball does not drain easily into the surrounding sandy soil, so the root ball may become saturated.

For more information, contact: Nebraska Forest Service: 402-472-2944