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How Much Water is Required to Keep Trees, Plants & Grass Alive in Drought?

Fossil Creek Nursery

As we enter a year facing a drought like we haven’t seen for nearly ten years, water will be on the top of everyone’s mind. One thing is for sure; while watering is being limited, you’ll want to make sure that you can keep your plants and grass alive so they don’t have to be replaced. You don’t want your lawn looking like the one above!

As you might have seen, Fort Collins just instituted water restrictions for the Summer yesterday. With that fresh on the mind, we have compiled some information from some different sources as well as 40 years of our own experience on the Front Range to create this watering guide. The guidelines below detail the amount of water in inches that different types of plants would need in an average year in northern Colorado in addition to the natural rainfall. Use this guide to help make educated decisions when selecting new plants and developing a watering schedule for those you already have planted.


Watering Guidelines for Grass


Type of Grass Inches of Water Needed
Amount of Water Needed
Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye 24” High
Tall Fescue 22” Moderate
Streambank Wheatgrass, Crested Wheatgrass 10” Low
Buffalo Grass, Blue Grama 5” Very Low

View Fort Collins 2013 Water Restrictions


Watering Guideline for Ornamental Plants & Trees


 Water Amount Needed: High                Inches of Water Needed: 20”

Trees: Aspen, Birch, Cottonwood, Fir, Non-native Maple, Colorado Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, Willow, Buckeye, Alder, Ginkgo

Shrubs:  Winged Euonymus (Burning Bush), Holly, Hydrangea, Quince, Cranberry Viburnum, Willow, Yew, Snowball, Rose of Sharon, Arborvitae

Perennials:  Cardinal Flower, Fern, Foxglove, Hosta, Meadow Rue, Primrose, Sweet Woodruff


Water Amount Needed: Moderate                  Inches of Water Needed: 14”

Trees:  Western Catalpa, Crabapple, European Mountain Ash, Hawthorne (Other than Russian), Golden Rain Tree, Honeylocust, Linden, English/Red/White Oak, Redbud, Apple, American Ash, Calleryanna Pears, Elm Varieties, Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, Sour Cherry

Shrubs:  Spreading Cotoneaster, Currant, Honeysuckle, Lilacs, Potentilla, Spirea, Barberry,  Mahonia, Dogwood, Mugho Pine

Perennials:  Ajuga, Bleeding Heart, Candytuft, Chrysanthemum, Columbine, Orange Coneflower, Daylily, Iris, Lupine, Peony, Periwinkle, Shasta Daisy, Ornamental Grasses


Water Amount Needed: Low                Inches of Water Needed: 8”

Trees:  Green Ash, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Hackberry, Russian Hawthorn, Douglas Hawthorne, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Ginnala/ Bigtooth/ Rocky Mountain/ Tartarian Maple,  Burr/ Gambel Oak, Ponderosa Pine, Austrian Pine, Boxelder, Serviceberry,  Black Walnut, Princess Kay Plum, American Plum, Purple Robe Locust, Japanese Lilac Tree, Bristlecone Pine, Limber Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Chinese Lacebark Pine, Fernleaf Buckthorn

Shrubs:  Junipers, Siberian Peashrub, American Plum, Shrub Rose, Western Sandcherry, Serviceberry, Three-leaf Sumac, Rock Spirea, Thimbleberry , Fernleaf Buckthorn, Pygmy Peashrub

Perennials:  Basket of Gold, Bishop’s Weed, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Knotweed, Lamb’s Ear, Mountain Bluet, Perennial Flax, Purple and White Coneflower, Rockcress, Snow-in Summer, Yarrow


Water Amount Needed: Very Low                   Inches of Water Needed: 4”

Trees: Pinyon Pine, One Seed Juniper, Rocky Mountain Juniper, New Mexico Privet, Buffaloberry

Shrubs:  Apache Plume, Buffaloberry, Cliffrose, Mountian Mahogany, New Mexican Privet, Rabbitbrush, Sagebrush, Saltbrush, Fernbush, Yucca, Leadplant, Winterfat,

Perennials:  Cacti, Gayfeather, Hardy Ice Plant, Poppy Mallow, Pussytoes, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Russian Sage, Sages, Sedum, Sulfur Flower, Wooly Thyme


NEXT: Enhance Your Backyard With An Outdoor Fire Pit

Sources: Fort Collins Water Conservation Department, Pawnee Buttes Seed, Colorado State University Extension Service, Fossil Creek Nursery

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