Help Your Trees Survive the Drought

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Trees and water are both precious resources. Trees make our houses feel like home– they also improve property values, clean our water & air, and even make our streets safer & quieter. When we water wisely and maintain our trees carefully, we enjoy a wide range of benefits at a low cost and with little effort. If your trees are no longer being watered by sprinklers or other irrigation, most trees will need supplemental water during the dry season to survive. Watering less often but more deeply will give your trees the moisture they need while still following local watering restrictions.

Be Water-Wise

The Right Amount: Water young trees twice per week (about 5 gallons) and mature trees once per week (the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 inches of rain).

In the Right Place: Water within the “drip zone,” the area directly beneath the foliage and shaded by the tree. Also, add a three- to four-inch layer of mulch to lower soil temperatures & reduce water evaporation.

The Right Way: During drought, water directly with a hose or 5-gallon bucket.

The Right Depth: Deep watering helps deep root growth and healthier trees.

The Right Time: Water early in the morning or after the sun has set, as this is when trees replace the water they’ve lost during the day. Also, less water is lost to evaporation at these times. Mulching your tree will also keep soils warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Conserve & Recycle Water:

  • Inside: Place buckets in the shower to collect warm-up water. Recycle water from the dehumidifier, collect air conditioning condensation, & “save a flush” to conserve.
  • Outside: Convert irrigation systems to drip, low-flow, or micro spray and fix leaks.

Don’t Waste Water: Water slowly so that it soaks into the ground rather than running off into the drain.

Drought Care by Tree Type

Young Trees: The roots of young trees are less established & need easier access to water to establish deep root systems

Mature Trees: Mature trees require more water when growing near heat traps such as driveways and foundations.

Deciduous Trees: The critical time for water is during bud-break in spring when new buds and leaves are forming.

Exposed Trees: Water loss is greater where trees are exposed to hot afternoon sun and strong or constant wind.

The Right Choice: Plant native or drought-resistant tree species that require less water. Choose trees over lawn as trees are a long-term investment.

For more information on tree care during drought visit the California Urban Forests Council at

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