Hand Watering Roses and Maple

Q: I planted five roses growing in five-gallon pots and a balled and burlapped maple in April. I have been watering by hand every day or so and now once or twice a week. It’s July, so how long do I have to keep this up? 

A: Your plants will tell you. Your goal is for the plants to grow enough feeder roots to extract water from the soil efficiently. The more efficient the roots are, the longer you can wait between waterings. It’s hard to tell anything by digging beside the plant, but there are other ways to tell if a plant is making new roots. The best is the ‘shake test’. I know the roses have grown a bit but as best you can try to gently rock each one side-to-side. Watch the soil around the plant. If it cracks and moves with the original root ball, the plant is not well-rooted. It should feel solid and resist your rocking. Grab your tree trunk at chest height and gently rock it. It too should feel solid, with no cracks or soil movement. You have probably already noticed some leaf wilting during the day. This means your plant hasn’t yet grown enough roots to keep up with leaf needs. Continue watering, keeping the soil moist but not soggy, and you’ll probably find that you can skip a day or two between waterings and keep the leaves from drooping.

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