How Much Water Do Arborvitae Need? [With Regards To Its Life Stage]

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Arborvitae is a coniferous tree that includes five species of different sizes, seen as hedges grown widely as ornamental trees. The cone or thin pyramid shape is a typical shape for Arborvitae, popular for its low maintenance. Arborvitae is hardy, but some basic care is required. Part of this basic care to consider is watering needs. We’ve researched the care needed for Arborvitae to get this detailed report on how much water your tree needs at all points of its life cycle. 

Arborvitae need enough water to keep the well-drained soil around them moist; 10 gallons (37.85 liters) of water per inch of the tree’s diameter is recommended for established trees. The amount of water needed to attain this constant moisture depends on the climate, the age of your tree, and when it was planted. 

Ensuring your tree is getting the right amount of water is as important as correct soil drainage. Read on as we discuss how much water is recommended for newly planted and established arborvitae and signs that indicate your tree needs more water. 

A withering arborvitae tree photographed up close, How Much Water Do Arborvitae Need? [With Regards To Its Life Stage]

How Much Water Do Arborvitae Need?

Whenever you are watering your Arborvitae, think about how you can keep the moisture in the soil for the longest periods. Dried out soil can lead to dried out roots, which can leave your tree in bad shape. Watering in a low and slow style is very beneficial for this type of tree.  Add small amounts of water over time to achieve consistently moist soil. 

A woman watering her arborvitae

To keep up with the climate, you will have to add more water in dry periods and water a little less in wet or cold seasons. Moderated water is a key point in the care of Arborvitae. Maintaining proper water management is what will give you beautiful, green Arborvitae all year round. Drying out or drowning both bring up problems for this tree. 

A man water his small arborvitae t ree

Are you worried that your tree is getting too much or not enough water? It’s a valid thing to worry over. One rule of thumb used to water Arborvitae is, you need 10 gallons (37.85 liters) of water for every inch of diameter of the tree. There are some guidelines for watering to follow that are unique to the age of your tree or when it was planted. Let’s discuss these guidelines in more detail. 

The video below shows a quick guide on how to water your Arborvitae:

Read more on our blog post, “Arborvitae Tree Going Brown And Dying — What To Do?”

How Often Should You Water Newly Planted Arborvitae?

Newly planted Arborvitae require thorough watering to help settle soil around the roots and remove any air pockets. A weekly soaking is recommended during the first year after transplant, especially if you planted in a dry climate. If you are in a wet climate, nature may take over this responsibility. 

The slow drip of water is ideal for newly planted trees. A drip can be created just by allowing a garden hose to drop a few drops of water per minute over the span of hours. Right after planting, it is ideal to allow a water drip for 2-4 hours every day. After two weeks of daily watering, you can reduce the drip to 2 hours every other day. The longer your tree is in the ground, the less water it will require. 

Read more on our blog post, “How Fast Do Arborvitae Grow?”

How Often Should You Water Established Arborvitae?

Established Arborvitae should have firm roots that do not need to be watered every day. These adult trees can even survive periods of drought, although it is ideal to keep consistently moist soil at all stages of life. If you are using the drip method, you can decrease watering to 2 hours of dripping once a week after your tree is in the ground for 6 weeks. 

An arborvitae hedge properly trimmed

In most cases, an established Arborvitae in the ground should have water needs taken care of by rainfall. If you live in a particularly dry climate, or you are experiencing a long period of drought, then you will have to provide some supplemented irrigation. Checking the foliage of your trees often for signs of dehydration is a good idea to catch under watering early. Let’s discuss what these signs look like. 

How Do I Know If My Arborvitae Needs Water?

If you are taking a peek at your trees every day, it will be easy for you to know when something changes. It is good to know the difference between normal signs of aging and signs of underwatering or dehydration. 

A withering arborvitae tree photographed up close

It is normal for interior branches of Arborvitae to turn color and fall off in Autumn. Do not confuse this process with drought stress. Flagging or drought stress will appear on the outside branches of this tree. You will see this exterior foliage turning yellow or brown. Other signs of under watering include needle drop and loss of vigor

If you notice signs of dehydration, remove or prune affected branches. After an in-depth prune, you can keep consistently moist soil through drip irrigation and consider fertilizing at this point. 

The video below showcases how to troubleshoot a symptomatic Arborvitae tree:

Read more on our blog post, “Should You Fertilize Arborvitae?”

How Do I Know If My Arborvitae Is Overwatered?

Symptoms of overwatering your Arborvitae can be similar to those of underwatering. You may see this change to yellow or brown colors in the branches and needle drop. Too much moisture or insufficient drainage can also lead to root rot. In this condition, your Arborvitae is susceptible to infections or fungal infestations. 

When the soil around your tree is compacted or your tree is planted in a low spot, the risk of overwatering due to rain increases. Alongside discoloration and dieback, you may also see edema or wet and wilting leaves in an overwatered Arborvitae. 

If you have an overwatered Arborvitae, let the soil dry out a bit before watering again. If fungi or other pests overran your tree in this period, you will need to treat these conditions to get your tree back into a healthy state.

A detailed photo of an arborvitae leave

Maybe you can’t get the soil to dry out due to rain or site placement. At this point, you will need to aerate the soil or add a drainage system to keep up with the water coming in. Properly drained soil is critical for the health of these trees. 

Read more on our blog post, “How Long Do Arborvitae Live? [By Type]”

Is It Better To Water Trees In The Morning Or Evening?

The time of watering does affect how much of your water supply makes it to your tree. Watering your plants in either the early morning or night does reduce the amount of water that gets lost through evaporation. So, which is better, morning or evening? 

Early morning is the best time to water your Arborvitae. These are the hours before temperatures begin to rise and winds are less strong. Providing water in the early morning creates a reservoir that your tree can draw from later in the day when temperatures and sunlight increase. 

Small arborvitae trees planted for a proposed hedge, How Much Water Do Arborvitae Need? [With Regards To Its Life Stage]

What if you missed early morning or your schedule doesn’t allow time for watering then? The next best thing is to water in the evening, at least 2 hours before dusk. This will give your leaves ample time to dry off. Watering too close to dark can increase the chances of your tree being too wet for too long. This leaves your Arborvitae susceptible to root rot, fungal infections, or other pests. 

Learn more on our blog post, “How To Get The Best Vertical Garden Watering System.” 

Concluding Thoughts 

The rule of thumb when it comes to Arborvitae and the water needed is, you need 10 gallons (37.85 liters) of water per inch of diameter of the tree. How you provide this water is done best through a slow drip or a weekly soak, and the water needed changes depending on the age of your tree.

Your newly planted trees need a bit more attention, and irrigation provided every day. Your established or older Arborvitae need a bit less attention but should be checked regularly for signs of over or underwatering. We hope you found this article helpful when it comes to caring for your arborvitae. Happy planting! 

Looking for further information on Arborvitae? Take a look at our blog post, “Do Arborvitae Have Invasive Roots?”

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