Can a Tree Recover from Drought Stress?

Can a Tree Recover from Drought Stress?

With temperatures soaring across the US, the ground is dry. Some states are in the midst of a drought, affecting water supplies. In the Omaha area, MUD asked customers recently to limit water use. As a result, your garden might not be getting enough water to survive. It’s easy to identify flowers that have a hard time with drought conditions, but what about the trees? Some tree species do better in dry conditions than others. Can a tree recover from drought stress? Or will it wither and die?

Can a Tree Recover from Drought Stress?

Identifying a Drought-Stressed Tree

When a tree experiences drought stress, it produces signs that it’s in trouble and needs watering. Gardeners must pay attention to the health of the trees on their property to identify the signs of drought stress.

Some indicators a tree is dealing with drought stress include the following.

  • Leaves wilting, curling, and drying out.
  • Foliage or needles on evergreens experiencing yellowing.
  • Premature leaf drop.
  • Stunted growth.

While these symptoms of drought stress are commonly associated with a lack of water, they can also be a sign of other issues. If your landscape has gone without water for a few weeks and temperatures are in the 90s or 100s, you’ll need to step in to help the tree recover from the effects of drought.

If the weather forecast shows hot temperatures ahead, be proactive and water your trees deeply before the warm weather arrives.

Many Tree Species Go Dormant During a Drought

Some tree species go dormant in warm weather. Deciduous trees usually adopt this behavior in warm climates, and it’s not good for tree health. They’ll drop leaves and sometimes go through color changes you expect to see in the fall, not the summer. The dormancy cycle stops photosynthesis, with the tree losing its ability to produce food.

How to Bring Back a Dying Tree

If you have drought-stressed trees in your yard, you may or may not have time to save them. Some trees rebound from drought stress, while others never recover. Evergreen species have a hard time recovering, and if their foliage turns yellow, it’s all but tickets for the tree. Evergreens don’t have the same capacity to replace their foliage as other species after long periods of drought.

If you’re uncertain about whether the tree will recover or not, call a professional for an assessment of the scenario. Frequently, drought-stressed trees become prone to disease and insect infestations. A professional can determine if the tree is salvageable or whether it’s time to send it to the woodchipper.

If your tree is experiencing rapid leaf drop, don’t assume it’s too late to help it recover from the drought stress. Keep watering for a week or two to see if there’s any change. Don’t give up on it completely; there may be a chance to save it.

Some professionals will recommend products to help your tree recover. For instance, they add beneficial fungi to the root system to assist trees with trapping and holding moisture in the ground around the root system. This treatment helps the tree become more drought resilient.

However, this strategy isn’t a cure-all, and there’s a chance the tree is too far gone to save. That’s why hiring a certified arborist to assess the tree is the best way to ensure you save your tree and your time.

How to Water Tress During a Drought

The deep watering method can help soak the ground, providing the tree with the water it needs to survive high temperatures and drought stress. The deep watering technique involves watering with drip sprinkler systems arranged around the base of the trunk. The water continually trickles around the roots, penetrating deep into the soil, thus improving soil conditions.

Deep watering penetrates below the surface level, providing the roots with moisture that won’t evaporate during a heat wave. Watering around the base of the trunk also stops water from getting onto the foliage, which causes the growth and spread of disease.

Deep watering systems are available as pre-built irrigation setups from gardening centers. However, you can achieve the same effect with a piece of hose.

Wrap it around the base of the trunk and poke holes in the hose every two inches. This strategy creates the same trickle-watering effect as a professional irrigation system. It’s ideal for clay soils where heavy watering might produce pooling and lack of water absorption into the ground and the roots.

Additional reading: MUD customers are asked to limit outdoor water use (July 2023)

Tree Services of Omaha

Tree Services of Omaha, Nebraska is a full-service tree care provider that offers a wide range of arborist services including but not limited to: Tree Removal Services, Tree Trimming, Tree Pruning, Tree and Shrub Shaping, Stump Removal, Stump Grinding, Arborist Consultations, Systemic Tree Injections.

Contact us today for a free estimate!