Summertime in Virginia comes with hot and, at times, dry weather that can be very stressful for trees. Heat stress and drought conditions can make trees more susceptible to insects and disease problems. Trees have become increasingly important in the face of a changing climate and caring for them strengthens the resilience of communities. Trees provide us with shade, improve our air quality, reduce stormwater runoff, and sequester carbon from Earth’s atmosphere.

James River Association staff members water young trees (one to three years old) planted through the Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative on a weekly basis during the summer months. Young trees that are establishing themselves generally require a minimum of 15 gallons of water each week, and keeping them properly hydrated is critically important in the first three years after they are planted. Established trees, while typically more resilient than younger trees in hot and dry weather conditions, still benefit from supplemental watering. Street trees are especially vulnerable to stress caused by hot and dry weather conditions. If street trees are in proximity to your home, consider giving them a drink this summer.

Tips for keeping trees hydrated:

  • Water on a weekly basis, May through October. Watering trees at least once a week, especially on weeks when less than an inch of rain falls, is a good rule of thumb. Trees that are establishing themselves benefit from being watered two to three times a week from May through October.


  • Water in the early morning or evening. The best times of day to water trees are early in the morning or in the evening. Watering during these times reduces evaporation.

  • Slowly water trees to soak the soil and prevent runoff. Use a garden hose, soaker hose, or five gallon bucket to water trees to thoroughly soak the soil around the tree. If using a five gallon bucket, consider drilling holes into the bottom to allow water to slowly drain into the soil. If a tree has a Treegator® slow release watering bag attached to it, fill it up on a weekly basis. 
  • Ensure trees are properly mulched. Mulch helps soil retain moisture by preventing evaporation and reducing weeds. A ring of organic mulch two to three inches deep and located three feet from the trunk of the tree is preferred. Avoid “volcano mulching” by not mulching within three inches of the base of a tree’s trunk.

Did you know rain barrels are a great way to harvest rainwater for watering trees? The James River Association is offering rain barrel workshops this fall. Sign up to be notified when registration for workshops opens by clicking here.