Watering 101

Watering is Arizona can be a challenge. We all want to do our part to conserve water in this hot dry climate. Here we have listed some tips to keep your plants, trees and cactus healthy and hydrated.

Where Should I Water?

The soil surrounding the plant’s roots(root zone) is a storage tank from where the plant draws moisture.  Most of the roots spread 1-1/2 to 3 times as wide as the plant’s canopy and usually penetrate 2-3 feet deep, depending upon the size of the plant. Shallow or compacted soils can cause shorter and wider root zones so make sure you saturate the complete root zone each time you water.

How Much Should I Water?

Be sure to completely fill the root zone every time you water.  A good way to test how deeply you have watered is to stick a thin metal rod into the ground soon after you water.  The rod should easily slide into the ground.

How Long Should I Water?

The amount of time needed to sufficiently water your plants depends on three things: (1) type of watering method used (2) size of the root zone (3) type of soil.  Monitor how quickly the water soaks into the ground, using the rod method.  Repeat the watering steps appropriately with every watering.

How Often Should I Water?

The trick to watering is how often you water.  We at Acacia Nursery suggests watering established plants no more than three times per week in the summer and no more than every week in the winter.  There is an establishment period of 1-2 years for all newly planted trees and shrubs.  The watering of an un-established plant varies greatly but generally needs more frequent watering. A newly planted tree should be watered every day for two weeks.  Make sure that the root ball gets well saturated.  How often your plant needs water depends upon the weather, the type of plant, the maturity, the root depth, and soil type.

Weather Factor – Plants use 3-5 times more water during the hot, dry summer as they do during the winter.  Adjust your watering schedule with the season and when there are significant changes in the weather.

Plant Maturity and Type – To prevent wilting, young plants should be watered more often than older plants. Water consumption rates vary greatly among plant species. Ask Dana how often your young plant needs watering he would be happy to assist.

Root Depth – Root depth also has a major impact on how often plants need water. The deeper the roots, the less frequently you will need to water. Encourage a deep, drought-resistant root zone by watering deeply. A good rule of thumb is to irrigate when the top third to half of the root zone is dry.

Soil Type – If your soil is shallow, compacted, or sandy you will have to irrigate more frequently.

Here are a few tips on what to look for.

Over-Watering :

Soil is constantly damp

Leaves turn a lighter shade of green or turn yellow

Young shoots are wilted

Leaves are green yet brittle

Algae and mushrooms are present

Under-Watering :

Soil is dry

Older leaves turn yellow/ brown and drop off

Leaves are wilted

Leaves curl

Tips for Efficient Watering :

Apply 3-4 inches of mulch under the canopy.  Mulch retains soil moisture and discourages weeds. Crushed rock is also another form of mulch and is a popular ground cover in Arizona.

Avoid sprinkling tree and shrub leaves with water.

Control weeds, including turf grass, that compete for your plant’s water.

If you water by hand, install a faucet timer and use a soaker hose.

Once or twice a year, water twice as long as you normally do to help leach the salts out of the root zone.

Expand the area you water as the plant grows.

Prevent run-off!  Retain the water in a basin around the plant or water at a slower rate.

We hope this has covered some commonly asked questions. If you have other concerns please call or stop by Acacia Plant Nursery in Tucson.  We would be happy to assist you.