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Watering Instructions

Proper watering is directly related to plant survival. The roots should never become completely dry or waterlogged. If necessary, the soil should be amended to solve drainage or moisture retention problems.  To water adequately, the water must reach the bottom of the root ball.  That is why deep, frequent watering, at a trickle, is so important, especially in the beginning and especially for trees. Once the root ball is fully watered, it should remain moist throughout with proper follow-through watering.



Soil sampling
Dig down 2-4” just outside the root mass of the plant and water only if the soil feels dry.  Feeling the soil for moisture content is the BEST method for gauging dryness.  Only sampling can tell you when the soil is adequately moist, too dry or too wet.



Corralling the water
“Well” all newly installed plants by creating a circular berm of soil (a 3” or 4” high saucer edge) around each plant.  This allows for both easy measurement and placement of water at the root zone.



Keeping track of water volume with Trees & Shrubs:
When planting, first thoroughly soak the hole and allow it to drain.  After planting, the plant should be “welled”, mulched and thoroughly soaked.


The following chart is a guideline for the amounts of water needed to maintain newly planted trees and shrubs, based on plant size.  Plant species have varying water requirements. Before watering according to the chart, check actual soil moisture and the moisture requirements of your plants.



Plant Size   Amount of Water per Application
Small shrubs (< 3’)       4-5 gallons Large shrubs (> 3’) 7-10 gallons
Small trees (< 2” caliper)         7-10 gallons Larger trees (> 2” caliper)     10-20 gallons



Water measurements are made by using a watering can, bucket, water meter, or by calculating the gallons per minute flowing through a hose at a known setting.  When watering with a hose, turn on the water at a low setting (take note of the setting), and measure the amount of time it takes to fill a one-gallon container. Multiply that amount of time by the number of gallons you need for your plant.  For example, if it takes five minutes to fill a gallon jug at a slow trickle and you need to water a “larger” tree, then you need to let the water trickle over the root mass for 35-50 minutes each time you water (5 min. x 7-10 gallons needed per application = 35-50 minutes).


Gator Bags on trees help gauge the application of water.  Drip irrigation needs to be evaluated frequently.  You need to make sure that lines are not clogged.  Hand watering is the preferred method.



Perennials and groundcovers may need watering every other day for the first month, then weekly.  These plants may be watered by irrigation or overhead sprinkler.  Early morning or late afternoon watering is best.



Evaluate Frequency
Newly installed shrubs and trees should be checked and watered every other day for two weeks, taking into account any rain. Once the soil is saturated, limit watering to 2-3 times a week if less than one inch of rain falls during the week. Your plants need to be watered throughout their first full growing cycle in order to establish roots in the new soil and put on top growth.  A full growing cycle includes a fall and a spring season.  Late fall watering, until the ground is fully frozen, is essential for the survival of newly planted trees and shrubs. Four-and-a-half inches of soil moisture should be present at the time the ground freezes hard.



Maintaining a 2-4” layer of organic mulch greatly reduces water lost to evaporation.  Mulch should be tapered too, but not touching, the plant base.


How and when to prune your woody ornamental plants


When to Prune


Timing is important in knowing what, and when, to prune. One rule of thumb is that varieties that bloom from mid-June on (from buds that form in the spring) should be pruned at the end of winter or early spring. Varieties that bloom in early spring to mid-June (from buds that formed last summer and fall) should be pruned immediately after they’re done flowering. (See the chart for specifics.)


Most needled evergreens are best pruned at the end of winter and again in June, if necessary. Boxwoods, privets and Japanese hollies can also be pruned at these times. Light, neatening cuts on evergreens can be made again up until mid-July if needed.


The worst time to prune is late summer and fall when cuts will encourage new growth that may not harden off in time for winter. It is also not a good idea to prune in a drought because you don’t want to encourage new growth when the plant is struggling just to keep its current growth alive.

If you can’t wait until spring, you can prune in winter, once the leaves drop. Keep the cuts to a minimum because each cut is an area where moisture can escape.



General Guidelines (exceptions exist)


  • Pruning Do’s and Don’ts
  • Don’t cut off any more than 25% of a plant’s growth in a single year.
  • Don’t “top” trees by shearing off all growth from the tips back. It will encourage lots of weak new twiggy growth.
  • Don’t use tar, paint or similar wound dressings after pruning. That can encourage rotting and disease.
  • Don’t climb trees to prune – especially not with a chainsaw in hand! Hire a pro if your bigger trees need work.
  • Don’t let plants get so overgrown and out of control that you have to cut off big branches. Big wounds don’t heal as well as small ones.
  • Do leave those branch collars intact.
  • Do trim hedges so that they’re wider at the base than at the top.
  • Do try to prune plants so that about half of the total growth is in the lower two-thirds of the plant.
  • Do use the right tools. Don’t try to cut big branches with little hand-held pruners. Keep your blades sharp.
  • Do step back and look often while you’re pruning. Remember, once you cut a branch off, you can’t glue it back on.
  • Do select the right size plants for your site up front. It’ll save you lots of needless pruning later.

If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact Stonegate Gardens. We will be glad to help!

When to Prune Specific Woody Plants

Late Winter/Early Spring







Burning Bush

Butterfly Bush

Clematis (summer blooms)


Crepe Myrtle


Fruit Trees





Inkberry & Japanese Hollies

Oak Trees





Rose of Sharon

St. John’s Wort



Virginia Sweetsprie




Immediately After Bloom





Clematis (spring blooms)





Flowering Almond








Mock Orange

Mountain Laurel