How Does Drought Affect Trees?

Selecting trees or landscaping plants that are tolerant of low water situations is a good first step if you have the chance to plan the vegetation on your lot. For instance, pines require less water than spruce and they provide similar benefits. Putting trees in groups of similar water needs allows you to irrigate strategically to meet their water needs. “Xeroscaping” your property is an increasingly popular way to mitigate drought stress on your trees. It involves planting very low water needing species, eliminating the need for supplemental irrigation.

Many landowners in the Front Range have the benefit of existing trees and therefore need to be able to recognize the symptoms of drought stress. Trees exhibit wilting, curled leaves and yellowing in the leaves; evergreen trees generally show brown needles. Drought symptoms can take years to show or happen all of a sudden, monitoring the trees on your property is essential.

During a drought and water restrictions, fight the urge to give water to your lawn over your trees. Turf grass irrigation differs from tree irrigation needs, the existing sprinkler system likely will not be able to supply enough water to your trees. A good rule of thumb is that trees need about 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. Mulching around the base of the tree reduces moisture loss, try to use wood chips or pine needles because stones actually increase moisture loss by raising temperatures. Do not pile mulch up against the base of the tree. Newly planted trees and those with a restricted root system (near sidewalks or buildings) should take priority for watering. Keep your trees healthy by proper pruning, remove dead and broken limbs which can weaken a drought stressed tree.

Consulting Tyler at Willis Timberworks and following these tips will give your landscape trees a fighting chance to tolerate drought conditions. Staying proactive and monitoring their condition will ensure their longevity for years to come. Tyler can recommend specific drought resilient species to meet your needs.