By Bonnie L. Grant
Arborvitae (Thuga) are one of the most versatile and attractive trees or shrubs found in the landscape. They are useful as hedge material, in pots or as interesting focal points for the garden. Planting an arborvitae hedge provides security and a beautiful screen.
This easy to grow evergreen comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors, providing a solution for almost any landscape situation. Follow a few tips on how to grow an arborvitae and you will have a plant with superior growth habit and ease of care.
Arborvitae Growing Conditions
Arborvitae prefer moist, well-drained soil in full sun or even partial shade. Most zones of the United States provide ideal arborvitae growing conditions and they are hardy to USDA Zone 3. Check drainage before planting an arborvitae and add grit to a depth of 8 inches if your soil retains too much moisture.
Arborvitae need soil ph levels of 6.0 to 8.0, which should have a good amount of organic material worked in to increase its structure and nutrient levels.
When to Plant Arborvitae
Most evergreen plants, such as arborvitae, are planted when they are not actively growing for best results. Depending where you live, they may be planted in late winter if soils are workable, or you may have to wait until early spring when the earth has thawed.
Arborvitae are usually sold balled and burlapped, which means the root system is protected from harsh conditions and allows you to be more lenient on when to plant arborvitae than with bare-root trees. They can also be established in the ground in late fall if the base is covered with a thick layer of bark or organic mulch.
How to Plant Arborvitae Trees
Location and soil condition are the primary concerns regarding how to plant arborvitae trees. These scale-leaved evergreens have a broad, spreading root system, which tends to be near the surface. Dig the hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball to allow roots to spread as the tree becomes established.
Water frequently for the first few months and then begin to taper off. Irrigate deeply when you do water and ensure that the plant doesn’t dry out in hot punishing summer weather.
How to Grow Arborvitae
Arborvitate are very tolerant plants that require no pruning and have naturally graceful pyramid shapes. While the plants are prey to few insects, they are prone to spider mite infestations during hot, dry weather. Deep watering and spraying off the foliage can minimize these pests’ presence.
Apply a three inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree and fertilize in spring with a good all purpose landscape fertilizer.
Novice gardeners will be particularly rewarded when planting an arborvitae, due to their low maintenance and uncomplaining growth patterns.