How Do You Take Care Of Arborvitae Trees?

How To Care For Arborvitae Trees

Arborvitae or Thuja are very popular evergreen hardy trees or shrubs that are very easy to care for. They are popular because they provide privacy when planted around the fence. They belong to the evergreen family and are native to North America and Eastern Asia.


It is a versatile plant that tolerates a wide range of climates and soil types. It can be grown in a pot or in the soil, depending on your needs. You should know how to care for new arborvitae for the

m to thrive.


Though Arborvitaes are low maintenance, they do require some amount of care. We have listed here a few care tips to encourage growth in these trees in their early years. This guide will tell you everything about how to care for arborvitae trees.


Jump To

  1. How To Care For Emerald Green Arborvitae?
  2. How To Care For Green Giant Arborvitae?
  • How To Care For Arborvitae In Spring?
  • How To Care For Arborvitae In Winter?
  • Why Are My Arborvitae Turning Brown And Dying?
  • FAQs

    Wonderful Arborvitae Trees

    The shapes of these trees depend on the cultivar. They are easily identified by their small, scale-like leaves. Arborvitae come in a wide range of varieties including Globe Arborvitae, American Arborvitae, Chinese Arborvitae, Green Giant Arborvitae, North White Cedar, Western Red Cedar, Emerald Arborvitae.


    American Arborvitae is conical in shape, while Globe Arborvitae is spherical and broad and Pyramidal Arborvitae is a thinner and taller variety.


    Arborvitaes are most popular as foundation plants. They are a perfect choice as fencing plants providing privacy to your garden or as windbreak trees, thanks to their thick foliage and fast growth.


    At the same time, they are an attractive addition to landscaping. They can be pruned into ornamental hedges or can be grown in containers. Also, they are used in a number of varieties to provide vertical evergreen color in landscaping design.


    They grow three feet a year and can go up to 60 feet at maturity. If you prefer trees with a narrower spread, American Arborvitae would be ideal. The average life of arborvitaes is 50 to 150 years.


    How To Take Care Of Arborvitae Trees?

    How do you take care of arborvitae defines its healthy lifespan. If you want to learn how to properly care for your arborvitae, read further.


    A. Planting

    Most arborvitaes are planted when they are not actively growing. Plant your Arborvitaes in early spring when the earth is thawed or in fall before the ground starts freezing.


    B. Soil

    Arborvitaes grow the best in well-drained, moist, slightly alkaline soil with a pH level between 6 and 8. They can adapt to other types of soil.


    C. Spacing

    While planting arborvitaes, it should be ensured that they are planted 3 to 4 feet apart from each other to avoid crowding and competition of nutrients and water.


    D. Water

    In the first few years of planting your Arborvitaes, how to take care of arborvitae’s watering needs? In the first few years, you will have to water them to keep the soil wet. After this, there is no need to water them quite often. Just water them during dry periods. Make sure that you water them every few weeks during dry periods so that the soil around the plant is thoroughly soaked but ensure that there is no standing water.


    The drought damage is not visible in these plants. If you don’t know how to care for arborvitae trees the arborvitae gradually starts turning brown in the fall. If your arborvitae is damaged by drought, ensure that the damaged branches are pruned and extra water is given in the coming summer.


    E. Light

    They need full sunlight to partial shade to grow well.


    F. Fertilizer

    Use arborvitae fertilizer on your plant annually in the first few years. In late spring or early fall, you should feed your arborvitaes a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.


    You should fertilize these trees in their initial stages of growth. Once the plant is mature, it does not usually require fertilizers. Stop fertilizing a month before your first frost. Fertilizing also helps when your plant is affected by insects or diseases or to encourage new rapid growth.


    G. Humidity

    Arborvitaes grow well in sunny and humid climates. If they do not receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight, they will have stunted growth. If your area has hot summers, your arborvitaes would need little shade in the afternoons for it to survive.


    H. Pruning

    Pruning your plants will maintain the desired shape and size and will also help to rejuvenate them. Avoid over-pruning them, as they won’t grow new branches if they are cut back too much. Light pruning in any season helps.


    Tree pruning is recommended to improve the structure of the tree and enhance its lifespan. The broken or diseased plant is removed through pruning so as to prevent fungi from infecting other parts of the tree. It also allows increased exposure to sunlight and air circulation.


    It is advisable to prune these trees in fall or early winter because if they are pruned in summer their tips may start turning brown. Make sure to never prune more than ¼ of a tree’s crown. It is good to remember that the side branches should be at least 1/3 smaller than the diameter of the trunk.


    Fun Fact! Did you know the name Arborvitae comes from Latin form of the French word l’arbre de vie, which means tree of life.


    How To Take Care of Arborvitaes From A Particular Variety?

    Read about some of the common varieties of arborvitaes and how to care for them.


    1. How To Care For Emerald Green Arborvitae?

    Emerald Green Arborvitae is highly valued as a screen plant or a hedge plant in colder climates. It is also planted as a landscape specimen plant. Developed in Denmark, the plant is known for its striking green foliage.


    It is considered to be a semi-dwarf variety, which grows in a pyramidal shape and reaches up to 12 feet at maturity. Emerald Green Arborvitae retains its vibrant color and form in all seasons. The tree tolerates dry spells and cool temperatures. They are disease tolerant and low-maintenance trees.


    While planting arborvitae, make sure to leave a spacing of 3 to 4 feet between each tree. Heavy snow can break them, so they should be brushed after a storm. All the broken limbs should be pruned off.


    Arborvitaes should be grown in full or partial shade. They should be given at least six hours of direct sunlight. However, too much sun can burn the foliage, while too much shade can reduce the density of the foliage.


    The soil should be well-drained with a neutral to alkaline pH level. Since these trees do not like soggy soil, make sure to apply heavy compost or mulch around the roots every year to retain the moisture.


    For the first few months after pruning, they should be watered twice weekly. They do not do well in humid conditions as they get infected by fungal diseases. To avoid this you can plant them at least 3 to 4 feet apart so that they get proper air circulation.


    Light pruning in spring can be helpful to encourage new and thicker growth. Leafy branches should be trimmed, but make sure not to cut the bare wood. Dead branches or diseased ones should be removed so as to prevent decay and improve air circulation.


    2. How To Care For Green Giant Arborvitae?

    If you want to plant a Green Giant Arborvitae in your landscape, first you need to know how to take care of arborvitae trees.


    Green Giant Arborvitae is one of the most distinguished landscape trees. They are one of the largest trees that can go up to 3 feet every year until they are fully mature. These trees are also a popular choice as privacy screens and sound barriers due to their dense, dark green foliage.


    While planting Green Giant Arborvitae, you need to know how to care for an arborvitae and plant them 5 to 6 feet apart to form a security screen or privacy hedge. Plant them further apart in groups as specimens. They are useful in defining property lines and shielding rough wind or noise. These trees also emit amazing fragrances.


    Green Giant Arborvitae needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and some amount of shade. They thrive well in different types of soil. They prefer moist, fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Avoid exposure to salt or spray.


    Once they are planted you should emphasize how to care for arborvitae trees, and make sure to water them regularly. During summers, water them thrice a month. If you live in a place where there is extreme heat, water them more. They don’t do well in standing water, so avoid places with too much water.


    Mulching is also equally important. In the first year after planting, do not fertilize them. In the early years, give them plenty of water and fertilizer to promote vigorous and continuous growth. Mulch them at least 3 inches at the base of these trees to retain the moisture.


    Use a slow-release fertilizer at least twice a year. Make sure to fertilize them in early spring or before the final frost. If your tree is doing well without fertilizer, there is no need for any fertilizer. Most of the time, arborvitaes if growing close to other shrubs and plants do not need fertilizer as they do not compete for nutrients.


    These trees do not need to be pruned. If needed you can cut them slightly to give them their desired shape and size.


    How To Care For Arborvitae In Spring?

    You may be wondering how to care for new arborvitae in spring season? Spring is a good time to fertilize the arborvitaes before new growth happens. Arborvitaes should be fertilized once a year if you see that they are not thriving and doing their best.


    Make sure to fertilize them with a granular fertilizer that releases nutrients slowly over time and also has a variety of nutrients.


    How To Care For Arborvitae In Winter?

    Winter is a tough time for most plants. It is a challenging time for plants to survive.
    Heavy winds, snow and ice can bend and break your Arborvitaes. Although they are frost-tolerant, harsh weather can be pretty bad for these trees. Snow can peel them apart and bend their limbs. Once the limbs are bent, it is difficult to bring them back into shape.


    So, how to take care of arborvitae during difficult weather?


    To save them in such weather conditions, you can tie the branches with a thick rope or rubber straps from top to bottom. Tie the rope in such a way that it holds the branches. Avoid using wire or string as they can cut into the foliage and break the bark. Clean the snow or ice off the trees quickly after the snow using a broom. Gently brush or shake the snow off the branches. If you notice any bent branches, tie them and use a stake to reinforce the plant if necessary.


    Why Are My Arborvitae Turning Brown and Dying?

    There are many reasons why your arborvitaes may be turning brown. Damage from cold winds, broken braches or sun scorch can, over or under watering also make them brown. If you notice that the leaves of your arborvitaes are turning brown or dying, your plant can also be susceptible to common pests and diseases.


    It is important to know how to care for new arborvitae because pests like bagworms, scale, spider mites, leafminers can affect your plant. Occasional diseases like tip blight also occur. When your plant is under stress, it is a good idea to fertilize them on regular basis.


    When it comes to pruning, ensure that the tools used for pruning arborvitaes are sanitized before and after use as it helps prevent the spread of diseases from one plant to another. You can also sanitize the tools by dipping them in a common cleaner like chlorine bleach, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, or Lysol.
    Related: Western Arborvitae Varieties

    FAQs About How To Care For Arborvitae Trees

    Let us look at some of the common questions regarding how to care for an arborvitae.


    Q. Are coffee grounds good for Arborvitae?

    A. Coffee grounds are acidic in nature. Applying coffee grounds can help your Arborvitaes if they lack acidity. To check the acidity level of your soil, use a pH meter before adding applying anything to your soil.


    Q. How do I know if my arborvitae needs water or when it’s overwatered?

    A. If your arborvitae gets yellow leaves on the lower branches or toward the inner side of the canopy or if they get brittle green leaves, your trees are being overwatered.


    To know how to take care of arborvitae and maintain their water requirements, see the topsoil. If it seems dry, it is time to water the plant.


    Q. When should you water your plants – early morning or evening?

    A. Morning is the best time to water your plants as this is the time when the soil will soak up the water.

    During the daytime, water evaporates from the soil very quickly leaving very less water for plants as the soil is warm and the sun speeds up the evaporation process. In some plant species, leaves get scorched up by the sun if they are wet.