How Often And How Long To Run Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation lines running through rows of corn seedlings
(Image credit: deaw59)

A drip irrigation system is the most efficient way to get water where it needs to be, as well as to reduce runoff. How long to water with drip irrigation though? It depends on whether you are watering trees, shrubs, annuals, or perennials. Also consider whether they are xeric or native plants, which will require less water. Here are tips on how often and how long to run your drip irrigation system. 

Learn How Long to Water Plants with Drip Irrigation

Once your system is set up, you can use these general guidelines to water your new and established plantings. Always check the soil to see if you are watering enough or too much. 

The question, “how often should I run drip irrigation,” is often asked. Newcomers to drip irrigation often overwater. Typically drip irrigation systems are set up to run one hour per week. Plants needing a moister soil may need to be watered twice per week. Porous soils such as sandy soils will also need more frequent watering because the water flows through the soil quickly. Xeric or native plants, which consume less water, may only need to be watered every two weeks. 

How Often and How Long to Run Drip Irrigation

How long to run drip irrigation for trees

A newly planted “whip” may require only 1 to 2 gallons (3.78 to 7.57 l.) per week, whereas a 2 inch (5 cm.) caliper newly planted tree may need 10 to 12 gallons (37.8 to 45 l.) per week. You can figure the amount for an established tree by multiplying its trunk diameter by 10 gallons (37.8 l.). For example, a tree with a 2 inch (5 cm.) diameter trunk will need approximately 20 gallons (75.7 l.) of water per week. 

How long to run drip irrigation for shrubs

A medium sized shrub, for example, one growing in a 5 gallon (18.9 l.) nursery pot, could use about 6 gallons weekly. A large sized shrub may need 12 gallons (45 l.) of water per week. If the shrub needs moister soil, you can add more emitters around the plant. Conversely, if the shrub is xeric, you can reduce the emitter flow size.

How long to run drip irrigation for vegetables

Start with 2 gallons (7.57 l.) per week and adjust if needed. 

How long to run drip irrigation for flowers

Initially, start with 2 gallons (7.57 l.) per week for annuals and perennials. Xeric perennials can be started with 1 gallon (3.78 l.) per week. 

It’s important to keep an eye on how well the plants are being watered and to the correct depth. Adjust the emitter sizes and number if needed, as well as the time watering. 

Susan Albert

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.