Drought Tolerant Trees for Southern California

Plant Health Management in Our Drought

Have seemingly endless water restrictions left you thirsty for another solution to your irrigation shortfalls? Proactive tree care in our drought can cut down on water use. Keep your irrigation needs in check with these tips for responsible water management.

Preserve Water with Mulch

Natural wood chip mulch guards against evaporation, holding in water, and protecting roots from extreme temperatures. Mulch also offers the added benefit of releasing nutrients into the soil as it breaks down, supporting healthy, vigorous plants and trees. To remain effective and keep competing weeds at bay, it should be about 6 inches thick. Avoid “mulch volcanoes,” piled up against tree trunks, which can cause decay diseases like fungi. Mulch out – not up – beginning 4 inches away from tree trunks. Avoid combining mulch with rocks or weed cloth, which causes runoff.

Monitor Soil Conditions to Reduce Unnecessary Watering

Instead of relying on a timer to water your landscape, monitor soil conditions. Avoid watering when soil is wet, waiting until it is hard and dry. Add moisture slowly to prevent runoff and waste with slow watering methods like drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or low-output oscillating sprinklers.

Repurpose Grey Water

Reusing gray water is an excellent way to stretch your water resources. Be mindful, however, to use nontoxic, biodegradable soaps if you plan on repurposing water for landscaping, avoiding detergents that contain harmful chemicals like chlorine bleach and boron. 

Learn How to Water Your Trees

  • Mature trees 5+ years old

Water away from the trunk, at and just beyond where branches extend. Use a soaker hose, drip irrigation, or low output oscillating sprinkler, watering slowly for several hours to reach roots 12-18 inches below, soaking as much of the root zone as possible.

Note: Talk to a knowledgeable local arborist before using this method on native trees like valley oaks, which additional watering may harm.

  • Young trees 1-5 years old

Check soil conditions before watering young trees. Water trees surrounding the trunk and out to the edge of the branch canopy, where you’ll find the shorter roots of most young trees, two to three times a week, applying about 5 gallons each time. Water slowly using a soaker hose, aiming to reach roots 12-18 inches below the soil. Expand your coverage outward as trees grow.

Carefully Time Landscape Maintenance

Avoid fertilizing during a drought. Fertilization encourages growth – which requires more water. Instead, save your fertilizing and tree pruning for the winter, before natural spring growth occurs.

Are you struggling with plant health management in our drought? Uncover new ways to control water use on your Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Hayward, Sacramento property with help from Arborwell Professional Tree Management. Contact us at to schedule a consultation with an arborist in your area today.

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