Do Trees Need Water in Winter? - Backyard Boss
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Do Trees Need Water in Winter?

With temperatures dropping and winter well on its way, gardeners are avidly preparing outdoor plants for winter. Everyone wants to make sure their garden is healthy when spring arrives so there needs to be a plan. Though garden plants tend to get the spotlight when it comes to winter prep, it’s important not to forget that trees need care throughout the winter months too! After all, trees are a popular addition to many gardens.

Trees create a focal point for outdoor landscaping and provide structure to the soil with their roots. Amid harsh winter weather, it is essential to ensure that your trees are able to thrive. In this article, your questions will be answered – do trees need water in winter? Keep reading to learn more and make sure your trees are healthy all winter long!

How do Trees Get Water in Winter?

A snow covered tree in a backyard
Image credits: Gino Castillo via Unsplash

First, let’s take a look at how trees start to prepare for the winter months. When autumn arrives, trees start to slow down growth ahead of the coming winter temperatures. Other varieties like oak and maple show a bright display of autumn colors before they lose their leaves and become bare. This process helps them to conserve their energy as they enter a seasonal state of dormancy. With fewer demands on the tree’s growth, by the time winter arrives trees are already used to using less energy. But, they’ll also need less water to survive when the ground approaches freezing.

While the trees look lackluster above ground, there’s an amazing process happening below the soil. Trees actually prepare for winter water requirements themselves! Their cells gather up any excess sugar that has been made during the warmth of summer. At the same time, the cells push out excess water. When temperatures drop, this cycle prevents any water from freezing the cells and causing damage. If temperatures warm up and thaw, then the cells will reabsorb the water to stay hydrated.

This is the tree’s way of protecting itself in harsh winter weather. It also ensures that the tree will have the water it needs to begin growing vibrantly come spring.

Should You Water Your Trees in Winter?

Watering freshly planted fruit tree in garden. Senior man gardening at his backyard during springtime. Using watering can after planting tree
Image credits: encierro via Shutterstock

While trees are excellent at ensuring their own survival, there are still cases where trees do need water in the winter months. Here’s when to give your tree a helping hand in winter:


If your region has had a particularly dry summer and autumn then the trees in your backyard may need extra water throughout winter.

When the ground is already exceptionally dry, it is difficult for trees to store up the water they need on their own. In a drought, the combination of dry air and dry soil prevents trees from absorbing enough water through their roots or leaves. It doesn’t give them a lot of options!

In this case, watering your trees deeply and thoroughly before the ground freezes can be a top-tier way to help them survive harsh winter weather. However, it is important you only water them above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Read the next section to learn why.

If Temperatures Stay Above 40 Degrees Fahrenheit

You should only water your trees if the air temperature is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Depending on where you live this could be as late as the end of December or much earlier. Check an outdoor thermometer to make sure.

Once the forecasted temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, stop watering your trees. As temperatures drop below this point and start getting much closer to freezing your tree will stop absorbing the water. When the temperature is freezing, watering will only create a sheet of ice around the tree.

How Often

A watering can on a deck for watering trees in winter
Image credits: Jonathan Cooper via Unsplash

If it is a dry winter and temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit then you should water them at mid-day. During the winter, this will give the ground and air time to warm up in the morning. On the flip side, it will give the soil time to soak up the water before temperatures drop at night again. You should water your trees once or twice monthly until spring.

Not sure if your soil is too dry or already moist enough? A simple test is to take a screwdriver and insert it into the soil approximately 18 inches. If your screwdriver goes in that deep easily, the soil is moist enough and does not require additional watering. On the other hand, if your screwdriver gets stuck just a few inches in, then the soil is dry and will need a helping hand with a watering can.

To add an additional layer of protection to the tree, you can cover the base of the tree with mulch after you have watered it.

Water You Doing?

So to wrap it up, do trees need water in winter? Yes, sometimes! If the summer and autumn have had adequate moisture then your tree is fine. It has already stored enough water for winter. However, if you have been experiencing a drought and temperatures continue to stay high then water your tree one to two times a month.

Have you ever watered your trees during winter before? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

Then, don’t forget to share these essential winter tree care tips with your friends on socials!