Watering New Plants — A How-to from Grumpy

April 27, 2010 | By | Comments (10)

You’d be amazed how many homeowners haven’t the slightest clue about how to water so that new plants will live. They think that waving a nozzle over the plants for 1.2 seconds a day will magically supply all the moisture their petunias and begonias need, leaving them free to down a pitcher of margaritas.

THIS IS WRONG, so with the help of formerly clueless co-worker Erin Street, whose new plants I am trying to save, here’s an instructional video on watering for beginners. The video’s a little shaky at the start, just like me, but it gets better. Please ignore the airplane noise. Air Force One was just coming in for a landing. I’m meeting with the President later today to discuss my brilliant idea of changing the spelling of the days of the week so that they all begin with the letter “W.” Talk to you again on Widay.

So what have we learned today?

1. Water does a plant no good unless it reaches the roots.

2. Watering for 2 seconds is not considered “thorough.” Soak the dang thing.

3. Do not use sprinklers or an irrigation system to water new flowers, trees, or shrubs. Lawn sprinklers are OK for grass. They’re not OK for anything else.

4. People generally prefer drinking margaritas to watering plants. Grumpy asks, “Why should these endeavors be mutually exclusive?”


Guide to Essential Southern Plants

Take advantage of the Grump’s incredible knowledge about growing azaleas, camellias, blueberries, dogwoods, and other must-have Southern plants. Just click here and learn!


  1. jen j

    thanks for the recommendations, been nervous to try anything under those thirsty pines!

    April 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Grace)

    Sorry I didn’t cover that in the video, but Erin is very stingy with her time. You can generally tell that a plant is established when it starts growing actively and doesn’t wilt when things get a little dry. Depending on conditions, this can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
    Oakleaf hydrangea would be a very good choice for under your pines. You could also try red buckeye, bottlebrush buckeye, camellia, nandina, and holly. Two excellent evergreen ground covers for dry shade are lenten rose and epimedium.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm
  3. jen j

    hey Grumpster, how long do I need to water plants until they are established, I’m guessing it varies from plant to plant, but are there any signs to tell if it is established?
    Also, What shrubs or plants could you recommend for zone 7b that would do well under established pine trees, I have a 20×20 or so space with pines in it that I would like to garden in, but I don’t know what could handle the acid soil + thirsty tree roots. Could I do oakleaf hydrangea?

    April 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm
  4. Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings

    GG, you are so funny. I think you sometimes write what we all want to say. Yes, water deeply and the plants will thrive.~~Dee

    April 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  5. UrsulaV

    I usually water in the morning, but now I’m thinking that both the plants and I might benefit from moving my watering schedule to after five ‘o clock. Where’s the tequila–it’s time to water the plants!

    April 29, 2010 at 10:37 am
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Grace)

    I have found that one can substitute mojitos for anything. And I do.

    April 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm
  7. Erin Street

    Thank you for showing me the ways of watering. I spent more than an hour properly showering each and every one of my precious new plants tonight, counting to ten on each one. My neighbors seemed to squint because they’d never seen me do such a thing. The times they are a changing.
    Now, pass the margaritas. We have a yard to grow!

    April 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm
  8. Rhonda

    This is indeed a national problem, but I have a question…Can I substitute Mojitos for Margaritas?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Grace)

    It was Erin’s fault. She forced me to use inferior equipment.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm
  10. Dorothy

    Grumpy, although I do appreciate the watering advice – which I have been doing for years – the thing I enjoyed the most was learning that your watering wand also leaks at the connection to the watering hose. Some evil gremlin comes to my house each time I buy new ones and makes them leak by at least the second time they are used.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

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