Help Your Trees Beat the Summer Heat With a Little Water

Young Trees Especially Need Extra Attention During the Hot Summer Months.

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI — July 3, 2024

If you planted any trees within the last couple of years, it may be time to bring out the garden hose. Hot summer conditions such as those Michigan has experienced recently mean your newly planted trees will likely need a drink.

“If your trees are not getting at least 1 inch of rain per week, water them until regular rain returns,” said Kevin Sayers, Urban and Community Forestry Program manager with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Deciduous trees – those that lose their leaves in fall – show drought stress through curling or drooping leaves. Leaves may “scorch,” or turn brown at the edges, fall off early or exhibit early fall color. Evergreen needles may turn yellow, then red or brown.

A sprinkler arcs streams of water droplets over a green suburban yard.

Watering and Care Tips

It’s important to water trees correctly. When watering, prioritize newly planted or high-value trees. Here are some tips:

  • Sprinkler: Place an empty container or rain gauge nearby while watering; stop when it measures about 1 inch of water.
  • Hand watering via hose: Let water run slowly until the ground is saturated 10-12 inches deep and moist near the base of small trees or at various points under the canopy of large trees.
  • 5-gallon bucket: Most newly planted trees need 5 to 10 gallons of water each week, so give them a bucket or two.
  • Soaker or trickle hoses: These types of hoses provide slow watering. This is important to provide moisture deep into the soil, where roots need it most.
  • Don’t water during the middle of the day. Much of the water applied at the hottest or windiest time of day is immediately lost to evaporation.
  • Mist sprinklers aren’t effective for trees. As much as 70 percent of water may evaporate into the air.
  • Lay off the fertilizer. Fertilizer salts can injure tree roots when soil moisture is limited.
  • Try mulch. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and save water. Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch under the tree canopy, around but not touching the base of the trunk. You want the finished mulch pile to look like a doughnut, not a volcano..
  • Check out MSU Extension’s guidance on watering.

Plant a tree recently? Pin it!

The DNR pledged to plant 50 million trees by 2030, but we need your help. After you plant, pin your new trees on the interactive map. You can also get tree planting and care tips on our Mi Trees challenge webpage.