Johnson's Landscaping logo
Rated 4.6/5.0 on 130+ Google Reviews
Multiflex logo

Call us Today

Keeping Your Plants Healthy in Heat and Drought

Aug 1, 2023 | Gardens

Summer is a season of fun. Yet, with the rising mercury, it’s not just us humans who feel the heat; our green friends in the garden do too! As the sun blazes down, plants can wilt, droop, or even perish. But fear not! Just as we have our summer survival strategies (hello, lemonade and wide-brimmed hats!), our plants can thrive with extra care and attention.

Watering Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs

Watering is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of gardening. Proper hydration can be the difference between a thriving plant and a withering one, especially during the warmer months. For newly planted trees and shrubs, establishing a solid watering regimen is crucial for their health and longevity. Let’s delve into the importance of keeping these plants moist throughout their first year and how to best do it.

1. The Importance of Consistent Hydration Newly planted trees and shrubs are in their most vulnerable stage. Their root systems are not fully developed, making it harder for them to extract the water they need from the soil. Consistent moisture allows these roots to grow deep and strong, anchoring the plant firmly into the ground and enabling it to access the nutrients it needs.

2. Structured Watering Regimen The first six weeks after planting are vital for root establishment. A robust watering schedule helps in this:

  • First Three Weeks: A deep soak three times a week ensures the roots remain moist. It’s crucial to penetrate the soil thoroughly, allowing water to reach deeper root zones. This frequent watering cycle supports the initial shock a plant goes through when transplanted into a new environment.

  • Weeks Four to Six: As the roots begin to establish, you can reduce watering to twice a week. This still provides ample hydration but encourages the roots to grow deeper in search of water.

  • Balance of the Year: For the rest of the year, a weekly thorough soak is generally adequate. However, this does not negate the importance of keeping an eye on the soil’s moisture levels. Even if it rains, do not skip this watering, as rainwater may not sufficiently penetrate the soil to reach the deeper roots.

3. Over-watering: A Rare Issue The concept of “over-watering” is a bit misleading. While it’s possible to give plants more water than they need, it’s rare, especially with young trees and shrubs. What’s more important is ensuring that the soil drains well, preventing water from stagnating at the roots. If you’re unsure about the moisture level, it’s better to err on the side of providing more water than less.

4. Wilting: An Alarm Bell Wilting leaves are nature’s SOS. It’s often a clear indication that the plant isn’t receiving enough water. If you notice any wilting, act immediately, giving the plant a thorough soaking and then adjusting your watering routine accordingly.

Watering in a Drought Situation

Watering is best done with an open-ended hose at a slow trickle or with the use of a soaker hose. Water should soak down around the deep roots of the plant. This takes a varying amount of time depending on the condition, slope, etc. of the soil around each plant. Ten to twenty minutes of a slow trickle may be necessary to attain deep watering. Check the soil down deep to be sure water is not just running off in another direction. Watering in the early morning and/or late afternoon (after 4:00 pm) is generally best.

Another faster and better way to water is to poke a hole in the soil next to the root ball of the plant. Root balls vary in size depending on the maturity of the plant. Average root balls being 12″ to 18″ in diameter. You should attempt to make the hole large enough and deep enough to insert a garden hose into the hole so there is no appreciable run off. Continue to use a slow trickle but this will allow you to water most plants in 5 minutes or less. You may have to use two or more holes for watering depending on the size of the plant.

The Reason for and Importance of Deep Watering

As plants begin to dry out the roots always seek moisture. If the plants are watered on the top two or three inches then the roots reach toward moisture at the surface. Then when the surface ground dries out, the roots become damaged and weak. If the plant is watered deeply at the bottom of the root ball and below, the roots go downward seeking the moisture and the plant root system becomes stronger. Note: Do not use any fertilizer at this time.

Claim a Free Consultation

About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

20% OFF September SALE!
20% OFF All Landscaping Projects that Start in September 2023

Offer is valid for all new planting and new construction projects over $2,500 that start by 9/30/23.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


50% Off Your First Month of Landscape Maintenance

50% OFF your first month landscape maintenance 


Offer is only valid on new landscape maintenance contracts that run through December 31, 2023.
Cannot be combined with other offers.


Save 100% with your FREE Landscape Consultation!

We answer phones Monday-Friday 8-5. If you have questions, please call (301) 656-6414.

Get in Touch


Social Media

Mailing Address

PO Box 459 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832

Johnson's Landscaping logo

Our Locations

7201 Brookville Road
Chevy Chase, MD 20815


5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Olney, MD 20832