Signs of an overwatered tree: Overwatering your tree can cause a slew of issues. Keep an eye out for discolored bark, drooping limbs, yellowed or missing leaves, wilted leaves, and moss or fungus growth. You may also notice that you have standing water around your tree, or you may have soft, muddy soil around your tree’s base.
In addition, overwatered trees may begin to get root rot, which can attach the roots of your tree. Eventually, root rot and loose, wet soil can even cause your tree to topple over. So if you notice that your tree is beginning to lean, it’s best to check the soil. Consider having your tree cabled or braced to ensure that it doesn’t fall over (we provide tree cabling and bracing services too!).
The easiest way to gage whether your tree is receiving too much water is to test the soil. If your soil is spongy, soggy, and wet, or if you’ve noticed mold or fungus growing around the base of your tree, it’s likely that the soil is overwatered. You may not be able to tell if your tree is overwatered just by examining the surface of the surrounding soil — digging a few inches into the earth will give you a better gage of the amount of water in the soil around your tree’s roots.
Signs of an underwatered tree: Often, trees suffer from dehydration — and occasionally we’ll discover some form of obstruction (for instance, saplings, clay, or excess mulch) that is keeping water away from your tree’s roots.
Saplings can suck away all of the moisture that would otherwise supply the trunk and larger branches of a tree. Clay can actually prevent water from penetrating the surface of the soil surrounding your tree, which can cause dehydration. The same is true of thick mulch, or matted down thatch (often grass clippings or leaves) that has accumulated around the trunk of your tree. If you have a layer of clay that is keeping water from leaching into the soil, we may recommend that you till the earth around your tree with gravel or topsoil to provide better water penetration. If you have thatch around the base of your tree, it may just take a quick raking to bring moisture into the soil.
Take note, while too much mulch can keep water from reaching your tree’s roots, some mulch is a good idea. Mulch actually holds in moisture, providing a longer, more consistent supply of water for the soil beneath the mulch. Plus, mulch slowly leeches extra nutrients into the earth around your tree, which can actually improve the health of your tree. So, you should be wary that mulch may not be the culprit if you think that dehydration may be the issue. We recommend installing 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the bases of your trees to provide the right moisture content for your soil.
In addition, your tree may simply be getting too little water. While rain is common here in Houston, dry spells can leave your trees parched. In these circumstances, we’ll recommend a watering schedule, and it may be best to install a sprinkler or drip line to consistently provide water to your tree. Be wary that trees that are exposed to direct sun throughout the day are more likely to be underwatered. Also, newly planted trees may require a bit more water as their roots recover from transplantation and grow into the new soil surrounding the root ball.
Again, if you suspect that your tree is underwatered, the best test is to dig a few inches into the soil to check the moisture levels of the earth that surrounds the roots of your tree.