Looking for large evergreens with imposing beauty, but having a hard time choosing between all the options out there? Then, you’ve come to the right place. The Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’) will fill that role perfectly.
Flat sprays of vibrant, shimmering color shine in winter landscapes. With glossy, evergreen foliage, revealing small bundles of red-brown cones in autumn.
These moderately-paced evergreens are highly prized for adding beauty and privacy while minimizing noise and harsh weather effects. All are easily accomplished when Emerald Green Arborvitae spacing requirements (and growth rates) are taken into consideration.
- Emerald Green Arborvitae Size
- Spacing For Planting
- How To Plant Arborvitae
- When To Plant Emerald Green Arborvitae
- Growth Rate
- Where to Buy
- Arborvitae Care
- FAQ’s Emerald Green Arborvitae
Emerald Green Arborvitae Size
Considered a “dwarf” arborvitae cultivar, the Emerald Green Thuja is a favorite for creating a lofty, living screen or hedge that doesn’t necessarily dominate customized landscapes. Especially in colder, northern climates.
Whether in a single row or two staggered specimens, the unyielding, columnar form of these evergreens grow outward and merge together to form sturdy and reliable privacy or protective barrier. A feature that can bring great comfort and relief in the middle of a winter blizzard.
When choosing a planting location, focus first on Emerald Green arborvitae spacing, specifically. This will be dictated by their ultimate size, in maturity.
These conifers will steadily reach up to a height of 10-15’, which is the commonly preferred height for privacy barriers in urban and suburban settings, given their limited footprint.
Their “dwarf” status notwithstanding, the relatively substantial size of these conifers provides several benefits in the natural world, too. By supporting and contributing to the delicate balance of local ecosystems.
Not only do they form protective barriers for people, when planted en masse, but they provide the same for wildlife.
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How Wide Do Emerald Green Arborvitae Get
If height and lush, vibrant foliage make these attractive landscape features, it’s their mature width that makes them effective as privacy barriers. Proper spacing for this arborvitae allows the branches (and roots) of each tree to coalesce into one, singular wall or hedge.
In optimal conditions, these trees expand out at a rate of up to 12” per growing season. Reaching a potential width of 3-4’ across.
Due to their mature size, new trees do need to be planted some distance away from fences and other structures, to accommodate growth. But, as they grow, they will fill in that space quite nicely.
In both planned residential areas and rural environments, once established, these trees will prove to be quite low-maintenance and an exceptional, long-term investment with a reasonable start-up price.
Arborvitae Root System
In contrast to their size, the Emerald Green Thuja has a fairly shallow root system. In the absence of a large tap root, which other evergreen varieties use to anchor themselves, the Emerald Green weaves a fibrous web of roots that grow within the top 8” of soil.
As these trees mature, roots will reach down even further to better anchor themselves in place.
The root expanse of a single emerald cultivar rarely spreads beyond the tree’s drip line. However, when planted en masse, as a border or barrier, the roots of each tree entwine with the others to form one large, elongated anchor through which the entire wall absorbs moisture and nutrients.
As a result of this novel growing habit, the roots pose no threat to nearby structures or plantings.
Spacing For Planting
Arborvitae trees thrive in colder climates. Yet, these areas can experience significant humidity, even in the middle of winter. In summer, humid conditions can invite fungal diseases.
Once these appear on your trees, it’s hard to get rid of. For this reason, the right spacing, when initially planting, is critical, whether grown as lone garden features or when grouped together in a row.
When marking out your planting location for a single sapling, allow for a 4’ margin between the planting hole and surrounding plants.
This will accommodate expansive growth while also protecting the growth and health of your other plants.
When marking out for a privacy border, you have two equally successful options.
- Plant trees in a single line border with the same 3-5’ gap between each tree, measured from trunk to trunk. This provides growing room and prevents roots from becoming too densely woven together.
- Plant two offset rows, spacing them 3-5’ feet apart on the diagonal (again, from trunk to trunk). This method provides you with a lush and sturdy privacy border twice as fast as with a single line.
Spacing For Hedge
As dwarf cultivars, the Emerald Arborvitae can still grow up to 15’ tall. But, if you’re looking for something that’s more like a hedge, it’s important to start trimming them to the desired height as saplings.
New shoots on these conifers only grow from buds on the ends of new, greenwood. New growth won’t stem from exposed older branches. Severely pruning them, when they’re mature, will leave you with a bare hedge.
Spacing, when planting for a hedge, is the same as with a taller privacy border. Despite their shorter stature, arborvitae shrubs will still grow at the same rate as taller ones. Planting these 3-5’ apart will allow for healthy growth and air circulation. For a more organic look, you can stagger these as well. Double rows, 3-5’ apart, on the diagonal.
Planting From Buildings
It’s important that you don’t plant these trees right up against your home. Proper spacing includes a 7-8’ margin between the tree planting and fence line or other structures. Doing so will provide enough room for healthy development.
Pruned Emerald Thuja hedges will often refocus their energy outward, instead of up. Growing much wider than a full-sized tree. Be sure to take this into consideration when marking your planting spots.
Their roots are not known to be damaging to buildings. The buildings themselves, though, could inhibit tree growth and obstruct air circulation. The trees won’t dry out properly after a rain, and long-standing moisture invites rust and fungal diseases.
Plantings of this size should be considered investments that add to the value of your property. Planting them in the right location is key to their success and longevity.
How To Plant Arborvitae
Choose a location that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. I recommend six because arborvitae need a bit of shade as well. Too much direct sunlight can burn the foliage and lead to your evergreen turning brown.
They’re tolerant of most soil types and pH levels, so don’t worry too much about that. But they do need the soil to be well-draining. They grow best in nutrient-rich, loamy soil with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0.
Taking all this into consideration, determine the best location, mark out your spacing and you’re ready to plant.
- Dig each hole twice the diameter of the root ball, but of equal height. You want the top of the root ball to be even with the ground.
- Gently break up the roots on the bottom of the ball, with your fingers, to stimulate new growth.
- If needed, add some evergreen fertilizer granules to the planting hole.
- Place the root ball of the tree in the hole.
- Backfill with the removed soil, keeping it away from the trunk to prevent mold build-up and rot.
When To Plant Emerald Green Arborvitae
Arborvitae will come as bare-root saplings, with a burlap-wrapped root ball or in containers.
The first two methods are typically more mature and were likely growing in the ground elsewhere, to allow for healthy root development. Then, removed while dormant and transported to you.
These will be a little more sensitive to being transplanted. So, a bit more thought must go into planting these.
The best time to plant is in late fall or early spring. Just before they enter or rouse from dormancy. In fall, your tree will experience far less heat stress and adapt to its new environment a lot easier.
In spring, the natural surge of energy they experience will encourage healthy root establishment and minimize shock.
Container-grown trees are usually 1-year-old saplings or younger. These are going to be more robust and less sensitive to being moved.
So, they can be planted at any time during the growing season. Making buying these in bulk, for a privacy border, a great idea.
Under optimal conditions, Emerald arborvitae has been known to grow up to 24” in a single growing season. Resembling more of a giant than a dwarf cultivar.
But what dictates how fast they grow? Well, that’s down to stages of maturity, positioning when planted, and soil condition.
The average annual growth rate of these trees (12” per year) typically applies to those planted in part sun (6 hours, minimum)/part shade, are sufficiently watered, and have consistent access to vital macro and micronutrients. In maturity, these giants will commonly be satisfied with what they find naturally in the soil.
Over time, though, fast-growing trees can deplete the soil of inherent nutrients. In this case, arborvitae will appreciate a dose of supplemental nutrients to maintain its expected growth rate.
If you notice your arborvitae trees easing up on their measured growth, that’s just their way of letting you know they may need a nutrient boost. For tips on the best fertilizer for these evergreens, be sure to read all the way to the bottom.
How To Make Emerald Green Arborvitae Grow Fast
If you notice that your conifers haven’t grown much, there are some simple steps you can take to help hasten expansion and reach optimal growth capacity.
- Make sure the Arborvitae variety is right for your hardiness zone. They thrive in Zones 2-8, performing better in cold climates. Yet, struggle in warm, humid regions.
- Plant them at the right time of year – Late-fall or early spring, just before they enter or rouse from dormancy.
- Plant them correctly. They need partial sun/partial shade and nutrient-rich, loamy soil that’s slightly acidic.
- Water them properly – Saplings commonly fail because they’re not watered enough during root establishment.
- Don’t neglect them in winter – Accumulated snow and ice around the base of these trees can cause trunk and root damage, stunted growth come spring, and disease.
Where to Buy
While there are some great ways to make this planting project cost-effective, large evergreens are an investment. Yet, when carefully planned, it can be an investment with a sound return.
The first practical choice is to buy them in bulk. It’s common for the price per unit to go down, the more you purchase. Your project gets done faster, with less work for you. I buy all of my hedge trees from fastgrowingtrees.com, they supply high-quality trees at great prices. If you buy a pack of 10 hedging trees you can save around 25%.
The second is to buy them young. Not only will buying saplings save you money but it’s actually necessary, especially if you’re planning on growing these as a hedge. I would suggest 2-3ft trees are perfect, as they hit the sweet spot on price due to their smaller size. Personally, I prefer not to go any smaller as I want my hedge asap.
The third practical choice you’ll make in this process may be the most important. Decide carefully where you buy your Emerald arborvitae trees and always choose a reputable source. This is paramount to ensure you’re getting healthy trees from the start.
The guys over at fastgrowingtrees.com grow their own evergreens right on-site to ensure optimal tree health and quality. They’ve done all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is order them, have them hand-delivered, plant them, and enjoy them.
Effective arborvitae care begins before you even plant them. By choosing a planting spot with equal parts shade and sun, decent soil conditions and pH, and a location that is far enough away from buildings and other plants, you’re already off to a great start.
Arborvitae spacing requirements are fairly narrow. And with relatively fast growth rates, these are popular choices for adding beauty and privacy to limited outdoor spaces.
They also have a proven reputation for being easy to care for. Pruning isn’t even necessary unless you’re going for a lower hedge.
If you are, pruning needs to start while they’re still saplings. Once they develop thick, hardwood branches, it may be too late. New growth won’t sprout from these. and Pruning them while they’re still young ensures that new growth will continue to sprout along the top of your hedge.
Watering and fertilizing are important aspects of arborvitae care as well. Not watering enough is the number one cause of sapling failure. A lack of proper nutrients is number two.
How Often To Water
Whether you’ve chosen saplings or mature specimens, regular watering is critical in the early stages of establishment. Many people growing arborvitae for the first time, unfortunately, don’t water them enough during the first growing season.
New trees require about an inch of water, twice per week, for the first three months. This will keep them hydrated enough to keep nutrients circulating while facilitating healthy root establishment.
As your trees mature, they’ll need less water. One-half inch per week, either via rainfall or hand-watering. As the seasons move toward colder weather, soaking is no longer necessary, as long as the soil stays moist and doesn’t completely dry out.
Irrigation systems aren’t recommended with arborvitae, as overwatering and root rot are common, and sprinklers don’t really provide that deep soak.
Emerald arborvitae isn’t a heavy feeder. But a handful of granules with a balanced NPK (like a 10-10-10) can be added to the hole with new plantings.
Adequate watering, will encourage robust root establishment and reduce transplant shock. In maturity, they’ll need less fertilizing, if at all.
The only time it might be necessary is if you observe stunted growth or yellowing foliage. These may be symptoms of a nutrient deficiency.
Single trees planted in borders with other shrubs and perennials may also need the occasional boost. A balanced fertilizer should sufficiently fill this need and get your trees back on track.
Arborists recommend slow-release granular fertilizers. These provide a slow and steady flow of nutrients, giving your trees time to absorb and metabolize them to their highest benefit.
Arborvitae spacing and placement are vital to preventing certain problems. Arborvitaes are a particular favorite of bagworms. These are ravenous caterpillars that feast on the juicy foliage of evergreens.
Spider mites like the warm, dry conditions around under-watered plants, in direct sunlight. These two can do significant damage to Emerald greens if not kept in check.
When air circulation is poor, arborvitae can suffer from fungal infections like blight and canker. Coryneum canker is a slow-spreading fungus that can damage and disfigure conifers.
Fungal infections occur when trees are planted too close together and in poorly draining soil (fungi grow faster in wet environments).
With proper planning and placement, your Emerald Thuja trees will provide you with privacy and protection for decades to come.