Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - August 08, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Trees
Title: Defining drip line on trees from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

When you say that trees should be watered at the "drip line," do you mean that literally? I assume that the drip line means at the outside edge of the leaves or branches. Does that mean that watering closer to the trunk won't help the tree, even if the grass or plants underneath do benefit?

ANSWER:

Sorry, we get so used to using certain catch words, we forget that not everyone speaks the same language. Watering anywhere around a tree during the kind of weather we are having is beneficial. When a tree is small and new, we recommend sticking the hose in the soil around the base and letting it drip slowly until water comes to the surface, at least twice a week. With a mature tree, not only would it be difficult to get that hose in there with all the roots, but there are roots extending far beyond that which need the moisture, too. Using the phrase "drip line" is just a quickie indicator, and not totally accurate. Remember that the roots of a large tree will often extend out a distance at least comparable to the height of the tree, which is usually much farther out than where the edge of the shade from the tree, or drip line, is established. Yes, run the sprinkler under the tree and not under the tree but still over the roots. The only caution we would make is to avoid getting the bark of the tree too wet, as this can invite fungi and diseases.

 

More Watering Questions

Premature browning of bald cypress needles in summer
July 15, 2011 - I have several 10m high taxodium distichum trees in the lawn, with drip irrigation twice a week, and same soil content, and on just one of them, several leaves have started turning brown, it seems to ...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in desert willow in Austin
November 09, 2011 - We planted a desert willow 5 days ago. It came in a 15-gallon pot but the tree is quite large (~10 ft) with a wide spread. We watered thoroughly during planting but have not watered since (light rai...
view the full question and answer

What fertlilizer for live oaks under drought conditions?
July 01, 2011 - In your June 7 answer about helping live oaks survive the drought, you state that additional fertilization may help as well. What kind of fertilizer to you recommend and how should it be applied? Th...
view the full question and answer

Overwatering and fertilization of whiteleaf manzanita
July 27, 2007 - Hi, I have an Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd, southern California coast, several years old, 10 feet, that has a few large branches with yellowing and spotted leaves... also dropping many. causes? remedy? sh...
view the full question and answer

Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
September 14, 2012 - The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for ov...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.