Summer Irrigation of Established Oak, Madrone, and other Trees

Excessive summer irrigation of oak and madrone trees may promote fungal diseases such as the oak root fungus (aka armillaria root disease, Armillaria mellea) and crown rot (Phytophthora spp).  Irrigation near the base of the tree is especially risky, and trees growing in poorly drained soils are at higher risk.  Root disease symptoms include undersized, discolored, and/or prematurely dropping leaves, branch dieback, and eventual tree death. 

However, while these species are drought tolerant, they may benefit from supplemental summer irrigation during prolonged droughts.  The key to irrigating them is to keep the water at least 10 feet away from the tree’s root crown, or applied to the outer 2/3 of the root zone.  Infrequent, but deep watering is more beneficial than frequent, light watering. 

Note that other trees, including conifers, are also subject to problems with excessive irrigation and poor soil drainage.  Problems may include asphyxiation (drowing) of roots, preventing water update, and increased susceptibility to root disease. 

More information about Armillaria root disease

More information about water management in landscape trees

More information about irrigating oak trees



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