The first tell-tale sign of a plant needing watered is wilting of the leaves. Left alone plant leaves will actually burn from the edges back trying to save as much leaf mass as possible. We are often asked how often or how many times a week you should water. Each day is a different day with different atmospheric changes.
The key is to water thoroughly when a plant is dry. Deep waterings establish healthy root systems that help sustain plants during periods of inadequate rainfalls. Frequent light waterings provides plants with surface roots because all plants will grow roots where the water is.
Deep waterings mean to really soak a plant. Turn a hose on a 1/4″trickle and let it soak a plant anywhere from 5 minutes for small shrubs to an hour or more for large trees, A slow trickle is best as the plant or tree will have time to absorb the moisture rather than most of the water running off. The best time of day to water is morning before major evaporation occurs in the hot sun of mid-day. If a plant is wilting, it needs water no matter the time of day. Try to avoid evening waterings because disease loves wet leaves and cooler nights.
Now on to the flip side of watering: Watering too much! Plants will tell you when they are getting too much water by filling up their leaves with water, yellowing and dropping them. They are trying to shed excess moisture.
This is why we advise planting any tree or shrub elevated from surrounding soils so the roots have ample drainage. Clay soil holds moisture, and if soil is amended properly and plants are raised an inch or two high, they tend to thrive more.
A tip to tell if your plants are watered well or in need of soaking is to take a coat hanger and bend it straight. Push it into the root ball of the plant or tree you wish to check. Pull out and examine the hanger. If it is muddy, the plant is too wet. If you can’t seem to push the hanger in because the root ball is so hard, water immediately. If you examine the hanger, and a little soil is clinging to it, that’s perfect. Don’t do anything.
Mulch your plants with 2-3’’ on top of roots. This will aid in keeping weeds down and moisture in plants.