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How can you tell if evergreens need watering?

‘Yoshino’ Cryptomeria

With our June drought still going strong and no rain predicted, let’s cover the trickiest plant group of all to water correctly – evergreens that don’t warn us of their impending demise by drooping, as so many deciduous plants do.

Some are more drought-tolerant than others, of course – thankfully! – so we don’t worry too much about junipers or nandinas, to name just two.

But care instructions for the glorious Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria) usually say they like “even moisture” and that’s a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.  Same goes for ‘Otto Luyken’ cherry laurels, one of which I did lose during a drought because of my own neglect.

So I asked woodies buyer Miri Talabac how to tell if evergreens need watering, and here’s her advice:

“Well, evergreens that don’t wilt are in double trouble, in a way – they can just as easily be overwatered by over-compensators who know they don’t wilt when dry. The best way is what I tell everyone asking about when to water – check the soil with your finger (or for the squeamish, a sharpened wood pencil).

Several inches down, in the root zone, if the soil is cooler and moist, sticks to your finger a bit and/or wets the pencil wood, then you’re probably fine. Drier, and the plant should be soaked thoroughly. Water deeply but infrequently, that’s the best method to keep plants healthy.”

‘Otto Luyken’ cherry laurels in front of my house.

by Susan Harris

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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