How Can I Help My Trees During a Drought?

How Can I Help My Trees During a Drought

Droughts can be incredibly challenging for trees, causing significant stress and potentially leading to long-term damage or even tree loss. As a responsible tree owner, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to support your trees during these dry periods.

In this article, we’ll explore the key strategies you can employ to help your trees weather the drought and emerge healthy on the other side.

Watering: The Lifeline for Thirsty Trees

Proper watering is the foundation of drought-resilient trees. During a drought, it’s essential to ensure your trees receive enough water, reaching 12-18 inches deep into the soil. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as using a soaker hose, sprinkler system, or drip irrigation. Avoid using saline water for irrigation, as it can exacerbate the drought conditions and further stress your trees.

When watering, it’s crucial to focus on the area beyond the dripline of the tree, as this is where the majority of the roots are located. Aim to water your trees every 10 days to two weeks, mimicking a typical summer watering schedule. Remember to water during the cooler hours of the day to minimize water loss through evaporation.

Mulching: The Moisture-Retaining Superpower

Mulching is a highly effective way to conserve moisture and protect your trees’ roots during a drought. Apply a 4-inch layer of organic mulch, such as bark chips or pine needles, around the base of your trees. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the tree trunk to prevent rot.

The mulch acts as a barrier, slowing down evaporation and keeping the soil cool. This helps retain moisture and ensures your trees have access to the water they need. Regularly maintain the mulch layer by adding more as needed to ensure it remains effective.

Drought-Resistant Tree Selection

If you’re planning to plant new trees, consider choosing drought-resistant species that are naturally adapted to withstand dry conditions. This can make the maintenance and care of your trees much easier during a drought. Some examples of drought-tolerant tree species include:

Tree SpeciesDrought Tolerance
Live OakHigh
Crape MyrtleHigh
Bald CypressModerate to High
GinkgoModerate to High

By selecting the right trees for your climate and soil conditions, you can ensure your new plantings have a better chance of thriving, even in the face of a drought.

Avoiding Fertilization During Drought

Refrain from fertilizing your trees during or immediately after a drought. Fertilizers can contain salts that can further stress the roots and exacerbate the drought conditions. Instead, focus on providing your trees with the essential water and nutrients they need to survive the dry spell.

Monitoring for Signs of Stress

Keeping a close eye on your trees for signs of drought stress is crucial. Look out for early indicators such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or premature defoliation. If you notice these symptoms, act promptly to address the issue and provide your trees with the necessary care.

Proper Planting Practices

When it comes to planting new trees, it’s best to avoid doing so during the summer months when drought conditions are most prevalent. Instead, wait until the later fall months when rain is more likely to occur. Newly planted trees require consistent irrigation to establish their root systems properly, so it’s essential to provide them with the necessary water during this critical period.

Mulch Management: Maintaining the Moisture Barrier

Regularly maintaining the mulch layer around your trees is crucial for conserving moisture. Periodically add more mulch to ensure the 4-inch depth is maintained. Be mindful of not allowing the mulch to become too compacted, as this can impede water penetration and prevent the roots from accessing the moisture they need.

Watering Schedule: Mimicking Nature’s Rhythm

During a drought, it’s recommended to water your trees every 10 days to two weeks, following a typical summer watering schedule. This frequency helps mimic the natural rainfall patterns and ensures your trees have access to the water they require to survive the dry spell.

Remember to water during the cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or evening, to minimize water loss through evaporation. This will help maximize the effectiveness of your watering efforts and ensure your trees receive the maximum benefit.

Balancing Priorities: Protecting Established Trees

When faced with limited water resources during a drought, it’s important to prioritize the care of your established trees over newly planted ones. Mature trees have deeper root systems and are generally more resilient to drought conditions, making them a higher priority for water allocation.

Newly planted trees, on the other hand, require more frequent and consistent watering to establish their root systems and become drought-tolerant. By focusing your efforts on the established trees first, you can help ensure their survival and maintain the overall health of your landscape.

Collaboration with Experts: Seeking Guidance

If you’re unsure about the specific needs of your trees or the best course of action during a drought, don’t hesitate to consult with local arborists or horticulture experts. Milwaukee Tree Care can provide valuable insights and recommendations tailored to your local climate, soil conditions, and the unique characteristics of your trees.

By working closely with experts, you can develop a comprehensive plan to support your trees and ensure their long-term resilience in the face of drought.


Caring for your trees during a drought requires a multifaceted approach, but the rewards are well worth the effort. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can help your trees thrive and emerge from the dry spell stronger and more resilient.

Remember, your trees are an invaluable part of your landscape, providing shade, beauty, and environmental benefits. By taking proactive steps to support them during times of drought, you’re not only ensuring their survival but also preserving the long-term health and vibrancy of your outdoor spaces.

So, let’s work together to help your trees weather the drought and continue to flourish for years to come.