Showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis); Image: Amina Sharma

Native plants are already adapted to winter rainfall and summer dryness, but they still need additional irrigation, especially when they are growing roots in the winter. Winter watering also helps plants develop deeper roots to survive dry summers.

New plants need more water to grow roots. Deep soaking is important. When you add supplemental water to established plants, try to water like nature. That means watering deeply and infrequently.

Timing Watering Interval
First month after planting Once a week, a deep soak, depending on your soil type and size of the plant ~30 minutes. Longer for sandier soil and shorter for clay. Larger plants may need a little more time to encourage deep rooting.
Second and third month Every other week, deep soak, depending on your soil type and size ~30 minutes
Fourth to six months Once a month, deep soak, depending on your soil type and size ~30 minutes
After six months Every other month ~30 minutes during the dry seasons and drought, depending on the size of plant (Oaks don’t like summer water).

Be sure to check the soil around your plant before watering. If the soil is dry, water deeply. Monitor how your plants respond to how often you water and how much water you’re giving. It’s a good idea to keep a journal to track your watering schedule and adjust accordingly.

Water the soil for the root to uptake the water.


Soils hold water differently.

Water in the early morning

Watering in full sun on a hot day can damage your plants, and you’ll lose water to evaporation. Instead, water when the sun isn’t at full strength. Watering before the sun hits your yard will give your plants and soil the best chance to use the water.

Water around the plant

Target where the furthest leaves reach (the “drip line”), not by the stem or trunk. Remember that you are watering the soil so the plant’s roots can drink in the water.

Irrigation Controllers

Irrigation systems can be useful for watering your garden when plants are new and during times of drought. It’s important to adjust your irrigation schedule for seasonal changes. 

Many irrigation controllers can be set to work with native plants by using features that allow you to set the timing on a schedule days or even weeks in advance. This will allow you to program a longer cycle and deeper soak. The goal is to follow the chart above on your irrigation program.

Credit David Ballew.
Image: David Ballew from Unsplash