The arborvitae has an illustrious history dating as far back as the 16th century. Royals and aristocrats used these shrubs to adorn grand and extravagant gardens as a means of advertising their wealth and status.
Today, we’re a bit more practical when it comes to these leafy monoliths. Not only are they beautiful but they are also highly functional. Whether defining property borders and entryways or sculpting into whimsical and elegant shapes, understanding what they need to thrive is the best way to ensure their health and vitality. And that includes finding the best arborvitae fertilizer for your particular shrubs and growing conditions.
- 1. Jobe's Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes 13-3-4
- 2. Miracle-Gro Fertilizer Spikes For Trees & Shrubs 15-5-10
- 3. Vigoro Tree, Shrub & Evergreen Plant Food 16-4-8
- 4. Maxicrop Seaweed Extract Organic Concentrate 6-2-4
- 5. Miracle-Gro All Purpose Shake N' Feed 12-4-8
Top Two Arborvitae Fertilizers
If you’re in a hurry, the two Arborvitae fertilizers I have highlighted below offer high-quality nutrients that are perfect for use on Arborvitae and other evergreen trees.
Best Fertilizer Spikes
1. Jobe’s Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes 13-3-4
Feed your evergreen trees all season long with just two fertilizer spikes. Super convenient, outstanding results.
Best Top Dressing
2. Vigoro Evergreen Tree Food 16-4-8
A top-dressing ideal for giving your evergreen a nitrogen boost in spring and late summer, without the risk of fertilizer burn.
Choosing The Best Fertilizer for Your Arborvitae
Arborvitaes are evergreen conifers that produce cones directly from swelling buds. Since they neither flower nor fruit, the primary focus of all absorbed nutrients will be trunk, branch, and foliage growth.
In all plants, nitrogen is the driving force in this effort and provides the building blocks for cell production. So, the NPK you choose for your evergreens should be rich in nitrogen. This is why I prefer to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (13-3-4) for evergreens. However, nitrogen can’t do its job without the help of phosphorus and potassium. An all-purpose fertilizer 10-10-10 will also do a decent job, as will a general tree fertilizer 4-2-4. Supporting secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur (arborvitaes prefer acidic soil) round out this highly effective alliance.
With that being said the best fertilizer is not just about meeting the tree or plant’s nutrient requirements. It’s also about how the fertilizer works for the tree and you. I always suggest a slow-release fertilizer in either spike form or a granular feed to be used as a top dressing. With spike, you can feed once every 8 weeks offering a continuous supply of nutrients through the most important growing periods. A granular top dressing can be applied twice per year, once in spring and again in fall.
Fertilizer N-P-K Ratio for Arborvitae
Arborvitaes thrive with the right percentage of each macro and micronutrient in a combined NPK. The “Big Three” are nitrogen (N) – for consistent healthy growth, phosphorus (P) – for strong roots and lush foliage, and potassium (K) – supporting the efficient circulation of nutrients and moisture as well as promoting disease and pest resistance.
As mentioned, these statuesque topiaries do need more nitrogen to maintain elegance and structure in your garden. Higher amounts help them absorb other nutrients more efficiently. So, look for a higher first number (example: 15-5-6) when choosing an N-P-K ratio.
Granular vs Liquid
Whether to use a slow-release (granules and spikes) or a quick-release (liquid) is purely a matter of preference and what makes your gardening experience easier and more pleasurable. There are pros and cons to each. So, let’s take a look at the difference between them.
Quick-release liquids are economical, especially ones versatile enough to use in your entire garden. Some liquids formulated specifically for arborvitaes may not be. The greatest benefit is how fast nutrients reach the roots. Liquids also help to keep the soil pH level balanced. Yet, caution is recommended, as accidental over-feeding could lead to root damage.
Slow-release granules give you more freedom to focus on other things knowing that your plants are being well-fed. Heavily concentrated, granules provide consistent, hand-measured nutrients for three to six months with no extra water needed to activate. Plus, a granular option is also less likely to leach away from the plant’s roots.
I find slow-release spikes to be very practical. Fewer applications are needed because they release nutrients slowly over time. Pre-measured and compact for easy storage, they carry far less risk of run-off and root burn. Not to mention less work for you. Watering them in is not necessary either, as nutrients are released by microorganisms that naturally live in the soil.
Arborvitae Fertilizer Reviews
After wide-ranging research, here is a complete list of the 9 best types of fertilizers for arborvitaes. Allowing you to make the best choice for your trees and give them the boost they need for lush, healthy results.
- No strong odor
- NPK is specifically designed for evergreen trees with a high nitrogen content
- Only two applications are needed for the whole season.
- Improves soil condition
- May be difficult to push into dry, dense soil
Jobe’s fertilizer spikes are easy-to-use, come pre-measured, and are specifically designed for nitrogen-loving evergreen trees and shrubs. My arborvitaes never fail to thrive with the help of these mess-free, slow-release spikes. They work by providing consistent nourishment directly to the roots, slowly over time. And with these, there is no wasteful runoff or odor.
I only added arborvitae to my garden 2 years ago by planting a line of 3-year-old shrubs along the border of my driveway. I used Jobes fertilizer spikes from the get-go and have been impressed by how much they have grown and how much thicker they have become.
How To Use: If the ground is hard water thoroughly before use. As you can see from my images above, first I place the protective plastic cap onto the end of the spike. Then insert spikes into the soil 30 inches from the tree trunk. The number of spikes required is determined by the diameter of the tree trunk, roughly 1 spike per 1 inch of tree diameter, see the above image for full guidelines.
Customer Reviews: New arborvitae growers report being very pleased with the results they see after using these spikes. Newly planted shrubs adjust quicker and put out vibrant growth. Awarding this product with 4.7 / 5 stars and my choice for best buy.
- Positive results with ailing trees
- No risk of root burn or over-fertilizing
- NPK ratio is suited to a broad range of tree types, including some flowering trees
- Needs to be stored in a cool, dry place
This slow-release, spike option from Miracle-gro is second on the list of best arborvitae fertilizers because of its impressive performance in supporting ailing trees that are growing in poor soil. It’s all thanks to the higher nitrogen content that works to support healthy, long-term growth and vitality.
I tried these out on two of my arborvitae last spring after they’d received somewhat of a battering from some late frost. They were looking tired and depleted with some early signs of discoloration in the foliage. But after just a few weeks of hammering these spikes into the soil, they were bouncing back and starting to show signs of new growth.
Considering they were relatively new plants, they didn’t show any signs of root burn either. Win/win! The spikes lasted around 6 weeks, but we had a lot of rain which must have eroded the spike faster than you would normally expect. So I think you would get 7-8 weeks in normal conditions.
How To Use: If the ground is firm, water thoroughly prior to use. Either push or hammer the spikes into the soil around your shrub’s base in late fall or early spring. Use 1 spikes for a 4-foot drip line, 3 spikes for a 6-foot drip line, and 5 spikes for an 8-foot drip line. Each spike lasted around 8 weeks.
Customer Reviews: Consumers are reporting very positive results after giving their ailing shrubs this nitrogen-focused NPK feed. Shrubs and trees that could not hang onto their leaves in summer are now lush, green, and healthy. Presenting Miracle-Gro spikes with 4.5 / 5 stars.
- Easy application and storage options.
- Time-released for enhanced nitrogen and consistent nutritional support
- May not be suitable for use in nitrogen-rich soil
From Vigoro, comes this granular choice. It offers an alternative application method for fertilizer spikes while supporting the same full and vibrant results. It’s intended to increase both the volume of growth and vibrancy of foliage over a longer period of time since it boasts a time-released nitrogen feature.
This arborvitae fertilizer has an N-P-K of 12-5-7 and its formula includes the added feature of improving stress tolerance and soil conditions. It’s perfect if you have nitrogen-lacking soil or your climate is prone to temperature extremes. I’ll definitely be sprinkling it around the base of my arborvitae the next time we have a prolonged winter or when I see any signs of nitrogen deficiency, such as yellowing of leaves or leaf drop. View Vigoro Tree, Shrub, And Evergreen Plant Food at Amazon.com
How To Use: Pepper granules around soil within the root zone in early spring and late fall.
Customer Reviews: Consumers across the retail gardening spectrum are describing why they’ve become repeat buyers of Vigoro’s fertilizer, time and time again. The application method is a snap and is very good value for money. Giving Vigoro’s 4.5 / 5 stars.
- No pungent odor
- Improves soil condition while supporting healthy growth
- Not suitable for shrubs that prefer a lower pH
To help your arborvitaes thrive in an organic way, this liquid feed choice from Maxicrop, containing seaweed extract, supports strong root formation and establishment from sapling to maturity. It also does a great job of nurturing ailing plants back to health. Check the price of Maxicrop Original Seaweed Extract here.
I particularly like this fertilizer because it is mild enough to use every week and can be incorporated into my regular garden fertilizing schedule. I try to keep the nutrient levels in my soil topped up with regular composting and mulching and using this means there is little risk of root burn. It can also help to reduce the risk of heat stress in summer, too.
Not only can this be used for your arborvitae but it’s great for flowering shrubs, fruit trees, and vegetables too. Making it a great value product for garden-wide usage.
How To Use: Mix 3 Tbsp into 4 liters (1 gallon) of water, and apply once a week.
Customer Reviews: Gardeners are reporting yellowing shrubs suddenly turning bright green with new growth as this organic option improves even in the most unruly soil types. 4.7 / 5 stars.
- Temperature-controlled pellets for optimum feed times
- Ideal for beds, borders, and containers
- Not for use in potted plants under 6” in diameter
This slow-release option from Miracle-Gro calls for just one application per growing season of these nutrient-rich granules. And with a 12-4-8 NPK, it will release the right amount of beneficial support to your arborvitae for up to 3 months. It feeds those all-important microbes and so performs a great job of improving the soil too.
I rate this for being a great all-rounder for garden fertilizing because it is also suitable for use as a fruit, flower, and vegetable fertilizer.
How To Use: This is my go-to for a mess-free, no-mixing remedy when I need to get some fertilizer in the ground pronto. The “easy shake” lid makes scattering evenly easy. I just have to spread the suggested amount onto the soil within the root range. Once in early spring and again in late fall.
Customer Reviews: “Twice the plant size for the price!” is what’s being shared on many forums and review boards. With no mixing or measuring, this product has earned its 4.6 / 5-star rating.
How To Feed Arborvitae
Now that you have some great feed choices to consider, the next step is to learn when to feed, why, and how. Read on for more details on each.
In a curated, garden environment, nutrients aren’t as abundant as in the wild. Leaving them to compete for sustenance. Potted arborvitae plants and shrubs are fully dependent on us for their nutrients. This is why finding the best arborvitae fertilizer is so important.
Arborvitae Fertilizer Burn
These shrubs do benefit from more nitrogen. But excessive amounts will lead to root and foliage burn. Make sure you choose the right feed and adhere to proper application to prevent this. In order to maintain health and vitality, it’s critical that fertilizer directions are followed. Especially, if choosing a liquid option. Otherwise, irreversible damage could result.
When To Fertilize Arborvitae Trees
The most beneficial time to feed your arborvitae is either in late fall, as your shrub enters its dormancy stage, or in very early spring before it “wakes up”. This ensures that they put all their energy right into the root system toward new spring growth. Fertilizing during active growth will only stimulate erratic and unhealthy growth.
Arborvitae Thuja Green Giant
Thuja shrubs are fast-growing and need very little fertilizing compared to other trees and shrubs unless closely planted with other plants. To avoid them having to compete for nutrients, feeding your Thujas once in either late fall or early spring will suffice. Adequate spacing for green giant arborvitae is critical to their growth success.
Arborvitae Emerald Green
The smaller, faster-growing Arborvitae Emerald Green may require a few more feedings per year than its giant counterpart. The beginning of spring, summer, and autumn should result in a steady stream of nutrients to sustain your emerald beauty all through winter.
Arborvitae Fire Chief
The Arborvitae Fire Chief, with its lovely gold and red tips, is the smallest and slowest growing of the arborvitaes. The most common issue with this type is damage due to overfeeding, as attempts are made to speed up the growth rate. Interestingly, the best time to fertilize these is the same as the largest on our list, the Thuja. Once in late fall or early spring.
Fertilizing Arborvitaes Final Thoughts
So, there we have it. As promised, a list of the 9 best arborvitae fertilizers on the market. Based on my own horticulture experience and extensive market research into customer feedback from all manner of review forums.
Now, before you click on the provided links, consider where your arborvitae is planted and the condition of your soil to determine which NPK formula is best.
Best Fertilizer Spikes
Jobe’s Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes 13-3-4
Feed your evergreen trees all season long with just two fertilizer spikes. Super convenient, outstanding results.
I highly recommend Jobe’s fertilizer spikes with their ease of use and long-term, slow-release benefits. Or perhaps, Miracle-Gro Fertilizer Spikes which have the same ease of use as Jobe’s but are also great for newly planted arborvitae. I also really like Vigoro’s Tree, Shrub, and Evergreen Plant Food which comes as a granular feed. This one helps develop strong root growth for ailing trees and shrubs.
Best Top Dressing
Vigoro Evergreen Tree Food 16-4-8
A top-dressing ideal for giving your evergreen a nitrogen boost in spring and late summer.
No matter which you choose, nurturing your historic evergreens and giving them the boost they need is always well worth the effort.