June 2004
Emerald Green Arborvitae
This one grew two feet in four years.


Emerald Green Arborvitae
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
Tree Calendar
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Thuja occidentalis -
'Emerald Green'

Planted 1997-2002
Smallest tree
Planting height: 1'
Largest tree planting height: 5'

2006 Update
Smallest now: 5'
Largest now: 8'

Mature Height: 15'+
Spread: 4'+
Growth rate: Moderate
Form: Pyramidal
Flowers: Cones
Fall color: Evergreen
Hardiness zone: 3 - 8
Culture: Full sun

Best feature:
Useful as a privacy screen

Worst problem:
Die easily

Do over? No

My First Real Blog is About Dead Trees


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A Tree Grower's Diary
'Emerald Green' Arborvitae


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver



Key identifying features.. Pyramidal evergreen with scale-like miniature leaves.

Common name.. Emerald Green Arborvitae

Scientific name.. Thuja occidentalis - 'Emerald Green'

Mature height.. 15 feet or more in an open, sunny location

Mature spread.. 4 feet or more, if given the space

Form.. Pyramidal, useful as a wind break, privacy screen or hedge. Little, if any, pruning required. (In fact, if the top of the cone is chopped off, the tree's height-potential and natural shape will be seriously compromised.)

Fruit/Flower.. Male and female flowers occur on the same plant. Male flowers drop off in spring, but the yellowish female ones hang on to become cones, eventually turning brown and opening to release the seeds. The tiny cones, which aren't significant enough to cause a messy problem in the yard, often persist throughout much of the winter.

Foliage.. Evergreen; scale-like miniature leaves are soft to the touch, not prickly like many needled evergreens. Deer love to eat arborvitae! (So beware if planting where deer are near.)

Growth rate.. Moderate (one foot per year; grows faster in full sun). See the growth chart for pictures.

Hardiness zones.. 3 through 8

Culture.. Grows best in full sun in moist, acidic, well-drained soil. Space at least three feet apart when planting for a privacy screen. This tree needs room to grow and plenty of nutrients in the soil; planting them too close together, or too near larger trees, will compromise the health of the plants.

Best time to prune.. Needs no pruning for shape, but prune brown branches back to green any time.

Of Special Note.. Deer consider this type of arborvitae to be quite a treat. If you live in a deer-prone area, your trees will almost certainly be feasted upon!

Deer eat whatever they can reach.

Julie's Comments.. (June 2004) We planted several one-foot-tall arborvitae along the back border in 1997, following the advice on the planting card to space them four feet apart. It seemed at the time that it would take forever for anything resembling a privacy screen to develop. So we bought more arborvitae the following year to plant in between the existing ones, that time starting out with trees that were already between four and five feet tall. This resulted in a hedge of conical plants -- one short, one tall -- each spaced two feet apart, which is closer than I now recommend. (For a hedge or screen planting, the recommended spacing is a minimum of 3 feet.) These trees are so beautiful all year that we have since planted many more of them in other parts of the yard as screens and at corners as accent plants. They must like our soil because I have seen so many in other landscapes that turn brown within months of being planted. Perhaps the difference is the water, though, since I make sure that my plants get plenty of water for the first two or three years, or until they seem well-established. The chief benefit of this arborvitae cultivar is the year-round beauty and pleasant evergreen scent. Bright emerald throughout spring and summer, the green deepens in winter adding much needed color to the yard.

March 2006: Spoke too soon about no brown arbs in my yard!

UPDATE: Julie's Comments.. (April 2006) Two of our arborvitae died, having turned brown during winter, the progression from green to brown taking only a month or so. I am not certain what caused the death, but I suspect that all the arbs on the back border will succomb to the maple. I planed too many trees here, and somebody had to win. Of course, it would be the mighty maple over the arbs, the maple easily reaching for the sun while the arbs sit in her shade hoping for a drink of sunshine. In addition, I now know the difference between "good" arborvitae and "bad" arborvitae. You need to carefully choose trees with a single leader because those trees are much stronger and better able to shake off snow in winter. Many of my multi-leader trees, purchased at big box stores, are mishapen after several winters of heavy snow and me not having the time or energy to get outside and knock the swow off. If I were going to plant arborvitae again, I would spend more money at a quality nursery to buy trees that are shaped properly. It is initially visually misleading because the multi-trunk trees seem fuller, and therefore, they SEEM better as a screen tree. But in truth, the single leader trees generally grow taller, live longer and are better able to handle heavy stress of snow.

Planting date.. Varies. The first ones were planted in 1997 and were one foot tall at the time. Seven years later, those trees were all about five feet tall. The second batch was planted in 1998, each one at least four feet tall at planting time. Seven years later, the ones that are in full sun locations are seven feet tall. Lessons learned: The smaller trees were far less expensive, easier to handle and plant, and have grown at a far faster rate than the taller trees. Just be patient and provide a slow soak with the garden hose now and then. And make sure to buy trees with a single leader! Another set of arborvitae were planted in the sideyard in 2002. Those are growing particularly slowly.


Special Note.. As a screen or privacy tree, a row of single-leader arborvitae around the corner from my house is the kind to plant, as opposed to the multi-leader ones in my yard. I believe that quality nurseries sell the better-formed trees, while the big box stores sell the ones like mine, with two or more competing leaders. But that's just a theory.

DO OVER?.. No. Now I need evergreen privacy hedge trees or shrubs that can handle being planted in shade. Arborvitae is not that tree.


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See the Arborvitae growth chart
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