Pine trees make great evergreen plantings in your landscape and thrive in the most extreme climates. While they are highly drought tolerant, pine trees can only survive for a short time if overwatered.
Providing the correct amount of water will help your pine tree grow for years to come!
Can pine trees get too much water? Yes, pine trees can become stressed if they can receive too much water. In most cases, a pine tree should receive 1 to 2 inches of water per week until fully established. Overwatering your pine tree may cause anoxic soil conditions, reducing soil health and suffocating the roots of the tree.
While the amount of water needed depends on the weather and size of the tree, there are some key signs of overwatering and underwatering that will help you accurately adjust the amount of water your tree needs.
This article has everything you need to understand more about the watering requirements of a pine tree and some tips to help your tree thrive!
Watering Pine Trees – What To Know
Pine trees are unique with their small needles that can last on the tree for up to 20 years! These small leaves have a thick cuticle that prevents water loss compared to large broad-leaf varieties that can wilt quickly in heat because of evapotranspiration.
Since pine trees are tolerant of extreme climates, they do not need copious amounts of water and prefer drier soil over wet soil.
How Much Water Does a Mature Pine Tree Need?
Most established mature pine trees do not need to be watered; however, sometimes intense drought or heat may make them require supplemental watering.
For trees older than 25 years or 12 inches in trunk diameter, soak the tree with 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter every 2 weeks or more if the tree needs it.
How Much Water Does a New Pine Tree Need?
New pine trees are likely watered regularly at the nursery and will require an adjustment period after planting.
Water your tree with 1 to 2 inches of water per week until established, and then taper the watering after a year or two of growth to help it acclimate better to periods of drought.
How Long Can Pine Trees Go Without Water?
Pine trees are extremely drought tolerant and are able to handle months without water if well established.
On the other hand, newly planted landscape species will begin to show signs of drought stress after 2 to 4 weeks without water.
Watering Pine Trees in Drought
During long periods of drought, pine trees will need supplemental watering to keep them from fully drying and eventually dying. If your pine tree begins to show signs of drought, begin to water it more.
Be sure to still allow the soil to dry between waterings, but it is good to soak the tree more than normal to replace the increased water loss.
Signs of an Underwatered Pine Tree
Underwatered pine trees will show signs of browning needles or have a dull, wilted appearance to their green needles. The needles will begin to dry and will feel brittle to the touch.
It may begin dropping its green needles with no sign of browning beforehand and slowly lose branches if the lack of water continues.
Signs of an Overwatered Pine Tree
If your pine tree is overwatered, it will begin to drop its needles, and lower branches will show signs of completely dying beginning from the base of the tree.
Observe the needles and branches. They may be wilted, droop, or be brittle, but the biggest indication of it being overwatered is the soil saturation level.
Why Pine Trees Do Not Handle Overwatering Well
Pine trees prefer long periods of drought rather than long periods of saturation because the soil has plentiful air in it.
It is easier for a tree to reserve its water resources and live in a drier environment with air rather than saturated soil with no air. Roots need oxygen to live, and without it, the tree will die quickly.
Do Pine Trees Need Water in Winter?
Since pine trees are evergreen, they do need to be watered year round. In warmer climates, continue to water your pine tree normally anytime the temperature is above 50℉.
If the temperature drops under 50℉, begin to water the tree less, and if the ground is frozen, there is no need to water.
Best Way To Water Pine Trees
Pine trees will thrive when watered deeply and infrequently. Watering once a week should be plenty if you soak the tree for a few minutes.
The best way to understand the moisture level of the soil is to feel the soil 1 to 3 inches deep. If it is dry, water it more, and if it is wet, don’t water it.
How To Save an Overwatered Pine Tree
As soon as you notice symptoms of your pine tree being overwatered, stop watering it. Letting the soil dry out is the first and best thing you can do.
Once the soil has dried, be sure to only water it when necessary, and always check the soil moisture a few inches deep to determine if it needs water or not.
How Long Does It Take for a Tree To Recover From Overwatering?
Depending on the severity of overwatering, it will usually take a few weeks to show signs of new growth to replace the damaged growth.
The sooner the soil reaches an equilibrium of air-to-soil-to-water ratio, the sooner the tree will recover from overwatering. A tree should fully recover the following season if stressed significantly this season.
How To Revive an Underwatered Pine Tree
Being a very drought-tolerant species, pine trees can bounce back from underwatering fairly easily. If you notice your pine tree is showing signs of underwatering, like crispy, brown, and dropping needles, begin to water the tree more.
Water the tree until the soil feels wet, and continue to monitor the soil moisture and tree, adding more if necessary but being cautious not to overwater.
Do Pine Trees Need Fertilizer?
Since pine trees don’t drop their needles like deciduous trees, you may think they don’t require as many nutrients. While this seems plausible, it isn’t true.
Evergreen trees do require plentiful nutrients to grow their best! Look for specifically formulated blends for pine trees and evergreen varieties (I recommend Espoma’s organic evergreen blend), and apply them seasonally.
Do Pine Trees Need To Be Trimmed?
A pine tree usually has a defined shape it grows into naturally, so pruning isn’t necessary. However, in many cases, a tree will grow into an area it shouldn’t and may cause a hazard.
Prune any branches that are dead, diseased, dying, or have grown into areas they shouldn’t to help maintain the aesthetic of the trees.
With their ability to grow virtually anywhere, you may be surprised to find out that pine trees can be overwatered! But don’t worry if you have an overwatered pine tree.
Simply allow the soil to dry, and regulate the soil moisture as best as possible moving forward. Since they are a hardy species, they should show signs of recovery quickly!