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
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.
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
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.