Surviving the Drought: How Trees Adapt and Thrive in Challenging Conditions

Apr 25, 2023 | Tree Care

I have seen how drought can wreak havoc on trees. Trees are essential components of our ecosystem, providing shade, oxygen, and beauty to our environment. However, drought conditions can cause significant damage, leading to stunted growth, leaf loss, and even death. As a result, it is crucial to understand how trees adapt to drought and how to care for them during challenging conditions.

Introduction to Drought and its Effects on Trees

Drought is a prolonged period of dry weather that can severely affect trees, especially those in arid and semi-arid regions. During drought, the soil becomes dry, and the tree’s roots cannot absorb enough water to meet its needs. This can lead to water stress, where the tree’s tissues lose water faster than they can be replaced. As a result, the tree may lose leaves, reduce its growth rate, and even die.

How Trees Adapt to Drought Conditions

Trees have developed several adaptations to survive drought conditions. One of the most important adaptations is the ability to reduce water loss through transpiration. Trees can close their stomata, the tiny pores on their leaves, to reduce water loss. They can also shed leaves to reduce the surface area for water loss. Additionally, trees can store water in their stems, roots, and leaves for future use during drought.

Types of Drought-Resistant Trees

Choosing drought-resistant trees is essential in areas prone to drought conditions. Some of the most drought-resistant trees include:

  • Mesquite trees: These trees are native to arid and semi-arid regions and have deep roots that can access groundwater.
  • Palo Verde trees: These trees are native to the southwestern United States and have small leaves that reduce water loss.
  • Acacia trees: These trees have small leaves adapted to hot, dry conditions.
  • Olive trees: These trees have deep roots and can survive prolonged periods of drought.

Water-Saving Techniques for Trees

A man watering a plant

Water is essential for trees, but it can also be a scarce resource during drought conditions. Water-saving techniques can help trees survive during drought conditions. 

One of the most effective techniques is deep watering, which is applied slowly and deeply to the tree’s roots. This encourages the roots to grow deeper, making them more resilient to drought conditions. Watering during the early morning or late evening can also reduce water loss through evaporation.


Tree adapts to weather condition

Mulching can help trees retain moisture during drought conditions. Mulch helps reduce water loss through evaporation and regulates soil temperature. Mulch should be applied around the tree’s base without touching the trunk. Organic mulches, such as wood chips or leaves, are the best options for tree mulching.

Fertilising Trees

fertilise soil in a shove

Fertilising trees during drought conditions can help them survive and thrive. However, it is essential to use the right type of fertiliser and apply it correctly. Slow-release fertilisers are the best option, as they release nutrients slowly over time, reducing the risk of fertiliser burn. Additionally, fertilisers should be applied to the tree’s roots, not the leaves.

Pruning Trees

Arborist pruning a branch of the tree

Pruning trees during drought conditions can help them conserve water and reduce stress. Pruning can remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches, reducing the tree’s water needs. Additionally, pruning can improve air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal diseases that can thrive in hot, humid conditions.

Tree Care During and After Drought

Tree care during and after drought conditions is essential for their survival and recovery. During drought, trees should be watered deeply and regularly. After a drought, trees may need additional care to recover fully. This may include fertilising, pruning, and providing extra water.

The Role of Trees in Mitigating the Effects of Drought

Trees play a vital role in mitigating the effects of drought. Trees can reduce soil erosion, regulate soil temperature, and improve soil structure. Additionally, trees can help to reduce the urban heat island effect, where cities are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas.


Drought conditions can be challenging for trees, but they are adaptable and can survive with proper care. Choosing drought-resistant trees, using water-saving techniques, and providing adequate care during and after a drought can help trees thrive. 

You may contact The Tree Doctor if you have any questions or need help when it comes to tree maintenance. 

Contact Details:

  • Phone Number: 02 9631 5899
  • Fax: 02 9631 3280 
  • Email Address:
  • Address: 80-82 Beresford Road, Greystanes NSW 2145
  • Other Locations: Glenmore Park (Penrith), Kemps Creek, & Shanes Park (Llandillo, Richmond)

Trending Articles


Back To Blog