How To Plant Emerald Green Arborvitae [ Full Guide ]

The Emerald Green Arborvitae, scientifically known as Thuja occidentalis “Smaragd”, is an evergreen shrub widely admired for its vibrant green foliage and tall, narrow growth habit. These elegant plants are excellent choices for creating privacy screens, windbreaks, or adding structure to a garden. Planting Emerald Green Arborvitae requires careful consideration of the planting location, soil preparation, and selecting healthy specimens. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the steps and considerations involved in successfully planting and establishing these beautiful evergreens.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Emerald Green Arborvitae

Planting Emerald Green Arborvitae involves the following key steps:

  1. Choosing the Right Location – Select a site with well-drained soil and adequate sunlight.
  2. Preparing the Soil – Amend the soil with organic matter and ensure proper drainage.
  3. Selecting Healthy Arborvitae Plants – Choose healthy, well-established plants from a reputable nursery.
  4. Planting the Arborvitae – Dig a planting hole, place the arborvitae, backfill with soil, and water thoroughly.
  5. Post-Planting Care – Mulch around the base of the plant and provide regular watering and maintenance.

Choosing The Right Location

Before planting Emerald Green Arborvitae, it is essential to choose the right location to ensure the shrubs thrive and reach their full potential. Consider the following factors when selecting a planting site:


Emerald Green Arborvitae prefer full to partial sunlight. Choose a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Insufficient sunlight can lead to sparse growth and reduced density in the foliage. Avoid planting in areas with excessive shade, as this can also impact the plant’s overall health and appearance.

Soil Drainage

Proper soil drainage is critical for the success of Emerald Green Arborvitae. These plants thrive in well-drained soil and are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged conditions. Conduct a simple soil drainage test by digging a hole and filling it with water. If the water drains within a few hours, the soil drainage is adequate. If the water lingers for an extended period, drainage improvements may be necessary.

Space And Air Circulation

Consider the mature size of the Emerald Green Arborvitae when choosing a planting location. These shrubs typically reach heights of 10-15 feet with a 3-4 foot spread. Plant them with enough spacing to allow for proper air circulation and accommodate their mature dimensions. Adequate spacing also prevents overcrowding and competition for nutrients among neighboring plants.

Protection From Wind

While Emerald Green Arborvitae are relatively hardy, it’s beneficial to consider wind exposure when selecting a planting site. Strong winds can cause stress and damage to the foliage, particularly in regions with harsh weather conditions. Planting the arborvitae in a location shielded from strong winds, such as near a building or a natural windbreak, can help protect the plants and promote healthy growth.

Preparing The Soil

Once the ideal planting location has been chosen, soil preparation is crucial for providing the Emerald Green Arborvitae with a healthy and supportive growing environment. Follow these steps to prepare the soil for planting:

Soil Testing

Before planting, conduct a soil test to assess the pH and nutrient levels of the soil. Most county extension offices or gardening centers offer soil testing services. The results will indicate if any amendments are necessary to optimize the soil conditions for the arborvitae.

Soil Amendments

Based on the soil test results, make any necessary amendments to improve the soil quality. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to enhance soil structure, water retention, and nutrient levels. Additionally, adjust the pH levels if needed by adding lime to raise the pH or elemental sulfur to lower it, aiming for a slightly acidic soil pH around 6.0 to 7.0, which is favorable for arborvitae growth.

Soil Drainage

Ensure that the planting site has proper drainage by amending the soil if necessary. If the soil is compacted or has poor drainage, consider incorporating materials like coarse sand or perlite to enhance drainage and prevent waterlogging. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot and other moisture-related issues.

Selecting Healthy Arborvitae Plants

Choosing healthy and vigorous arborvitae plants is crucial for their successful establishment and long-term growth. When selecting arborvitae specimens from a nursery, pay attention to the following indicators of plant health:


Inspect the foliage of the arborvitae plants for signs of discoloration, wilting, or pest damage. The foliage should be a vibrant, consistent green color. Avoid plants with browning, yellowing, or spotted leaves, as these may indicate underlying health issues or stress.

Firmness Of The Root Ball

Carefully examine the root ball of the arborvitae. A healthy plant should have a firm and well-formed root ball, indicating a strong and established root system. Avoid plants with root balls that appear loose, disheveled, or overly compacted, as these can be signs of root issues or poor transplanting practices.

Branch Structure

Assess the overall branch structure of the arborvitae. Look for a well-balanced and symmetrical growth habit, with no obvious signs of damage or deformities. Avoid plants with lopsided or misshapen growth, as this can impact the plant’s aesthetic appeal and structural integrity.

Signs Of Pest And Disease

Carefully examine the arborvitae for any visible signs of pest infestation or disease. Check for indications of common arborvitae pests such as spider mites or bagworms, as well as symptoms of fungal infections or blights. Select plants that appear free from pest damage and disease symptoms.

Nursery Source

Purchase arborvitae plants from reputable nurseries known for their quality and expertise in growing evergreens. Well-established nurseries often provide healthier and more robust plants, backed by knowledgeable staff who can offer guidance on plant selection and care.

Planting Emerald Green Arborvitae is a rewarding endeavor that adds beauty and functionality to the landscape. By selecting an appropriate planting location, preparing the soil, and choosing healthy plants, gardeners can set the stage for the successful establishment of these iconic evergreen shrubs. With proper care and maintenance, the Emerald Green Arborvitae will thrive, providing year-round beauty and privacy to the outdoor environment. Whether used as a solitary specimen, a hedge, or a screen, these elegant plants contribute to the overall appeal and charm of any garden or landscape setting.

Planting The Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a compact and versatile evergreen shrub that is popularly used as a hedge or privacy screen in landscaping. With its vibrant green foliage and dense growth habit, it adds beauty and structure to any garden. Planting Emerald Green Arborvitae requires proper technique and care to ensure its successful establishment and long-term growth.

  1. Choosing the right location: Before planting Emerald Green Arborvitae, it is essential to select an appropriate location. These shrubs require full sun to partial shade for optimal growth. The soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. Avoid areas with heavy clay soil or poor drainage, as this can lead to root rot and other issues.

  2. Preparing the soil: Once you have chosen the location, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass from the planting area. Loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller to a depth of around 12 inches. This will improve soil aeration and drainage, allowing the roots to establish more easily.

  3. Measuring and spacing: Determine the spacing between each Arborvitae based on the desired density of your hedge or screen. Typically, Emerald Green Arborvitae should be spaced no less than 3 to 4 feet apart, center to center. Ensure that you have enough space for the mature height and width of the shrubs, as they can grow up to 15 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.

  4. Digging the hole: Dig a planting hole that matches the depth of the root ball and is twice as wide. Gently remove the shrub from its container, supporting the root ball to prevent damage. Place the Arborvitae into the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil.

  5. Backfilling and firming: Fill the hole with the excavated soil, ensuring that there are no air pockets around the roots. Tamp down the soil gently to remove any remaining air pockets. Avoid compacting the soil too firmly, as this can hinder root growth.

  6. Watering: After planting, thoroughly water the Arborvitae to settle the soil and hydrate the roots. Provide enough water to reach the root zone, but avoid excessive watering, as this can lead to root rot.

  7. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the shrub, maintaining a thickness of 2 to 3 inches. Leave a small gap between the mulch and the trunk to prevent moisture accumulation and potential rot. Mulching helps conserve soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature.

RELATED  How To Plant Poinsettia [ Full Guide ]

Watering And Fertilizing

  1. Watering requirements: Emerald Green Arborvitae requires regular irrigation, particularly during its first year of establishment. Water the shrubs deeply to ensure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. A general guideline is to provide approximately 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Monitor the moisture level by checking the soil with your finger. If it feels dry about an inch below the surface, it’s time to water.

  2. Establishment period watering: During the first year after planting, pay close attention to watering to help the Arborvitae establish strong roots. Water deeply and less frequently, allowing the soil to dry out partially between watering sessions. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the ground in search of moisture.

  3. Fertilization: Arborvitae plants generally do not require frequent fertilization. A soil test can be conducted to determine if any nutrient deficiencies exist. If necessary, use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for evergreen trees and shrubs. Apply the fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions in early spring or fall, avoiding excessive use as it may lead to salt burn or root damage.

  4. Additional watering considerations: In hot and dry climates, provide supplemental irrigation during prolonged drought periods. Be cautious not to overwater during rainy seasons, as excessive moisture can lead to root diseases. Water the shrubs at the base, avoiding overhead watering, which can increase the risk of fungal diseases.


  1. Advantages of mulching: Mulching around the base of Emerald Green Arborvitae offers numerous benefits. It helps retain soil moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering. Mulch also inhibits weed growth, which can compete for nutrients and water with the Arborvitae. Additionally, mulching acts as an insulating layer, protecting the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations.

  2. Choosing the right mulch: Select an organic mulch, such as wood chips, pine needles, or shredded bark. These materials decompose slowly, enriching the soil over time. Avoid using plastic or rubber mulch, as they do not provide the same benefits and can increase moisture retention, leading to root rot.

  3. Applying mulch: Apply mulch in a layer that is 2 to 3 inches deep, ensuring that it does not touch the trunk. Keep a small gap between the mulch and the base of the shrub to allow air circulation. Avoid piling up mulch against the foliage, as this can create a favorable environment for pests and diseases.

  4. Maintaining mulch: Periodically check the mulch layer and replenish it as needed. Over time, organic mulch breaks down and may require refreshing every 1 to 2 years. Remove any mulch that has become compacted or matted to prevent water runoff and improve air circulation.

Pruning And Shaping

  1. When to prune: Pruning Emerald Green Arborvitae is essential to maintain its shape, density, and overall health. The best time to prune is during late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. Avoid pruning in late summer or fall, as it may stimulate new growth that is susceptible to damage during winter.

  2. Pruning tools: Use sharp and clean pruning tools, such as pruning shears or loppers, to make clean cuts and minimize the risk of disease spread. Disinfect the tools with rubbing alcohol or a bleach solution before and after use if there are any signs of disease or pests.

  3. Removing dead or damaged branches: Begin by removing any dead, broken, or diseased branches. Cut back to healthy wood or foliage, making sure not to leave stubs behind. This promotes airflow and prevents the spread of diseases.

  4. Shaping the Arborvitae: Emerald Green Arborvitae naturally maintains a compact and conical shape, requiring minimal pruning for maintenance. However, if you desire a more formal hedge or topiary look, selective pruning can help achieve the desired shape. Make cuts just above a leaf node or branch junction to encourage new growth.

  5. Pruning tips: Avoid removing more than one-third of the shrub’s total foliage in a single pruning session. Over-pruning can stress the Arborvitae and affect its overall health and appearance. Step back frequently to assess the symmetry and balance of the shrub while pruning.

  6. Pruning for privacy screens: If Arborvitae is used as a privacy screen, partially prune the sides to encourage denser growth. This can be done by selectively cutting back the branch tips, stimulating lateral bud growth and creating a fuller appearance.

Planting and caring for Emerald Green Arborvitae requires attention to detail and proper techniques. By choosing the right location, preparing the soil, and giving the plant proper watering, fertilizing, mulching, and pruning, you can ensure its successful establishment and long-term health. Whether used as a privacy screen or a focal point in your landscape, the vibrant green foliage and dense growth of Emerald Green Arborvitae will bring beauty and structure to your garden for years to come.

Pests And Diseases

Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a beautiful evergreen shrub that can add structure and interest to your garden. Known for its vibrant green foliage and compact, columnar shape, these arborvitae trees are popular for creating privacy screens, hedges, or as standalone specimens in gardens. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, they are also relatively low-maintenance, making them a popular choice for both experienced gardeners and beginners.

RELATED  How To Plant Onion Starts [ Full Guide ]

Emerald Green Arborvitae is generally resilient and resistant to many common pests and diseases. However, it’s important to be aware of potential issues and take proactive measures to prevent or treat them should they arise.

Common Pests

  1. Bagworms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis): These insects create bag-like structures from foliage and silk, which they use to protect themselves as they feed on arborvitae foliage. Bagworms can cause significant damage if left unchecked. To prevent an infestation, regularly inspect your trees and manually remove any visible bags. In severe cases, insecticides may be necessary.

  2. Spider Mites (Tetranychidae): Spider mites are tiny pests that are known to feed on arborvitae foliage, causing discoloration and damage. To control spider mites, regularly spray your trees with a strong stream of water to remove them. If the infestation persists, an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  3. Aphids (Aphidoidea): These small insects feed on the sap of arborvitae trees, causing distorted foliage and sticky honeydew residue. They can attract other pests like ants and lead to the growth of sooty mold. Use insecticidal soaps or neem oil to control aphids, or introduce natural predators like ladybugs to your garden.

Common Diseases

  1. Cedar Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae): This fungal disease affects various species of cedar and apple trees, including arborvitae. It causes orange or rust-colored lesions on the foliage, and can lead to defoliation if left untreated. To prevent cedar apple rust, avoid planting arborvitae trees and apple trees in close proximity. Fungicides can be used as a preventive measure during the spring.

  2. Canker Diseases: Several canker diseases, caused by fungal infections, can affect arborvitae trees. They cause sunken lesions or cankers on the branches, leading to dieback. Prune and destroy infected branches to prevent the spread of the disease. Always sterilize pruning tools between cuts to minimize the risk of spreading infection.

It’s important to note that while Emerald Green Arborvitae is generally resistant to many pests and diseases, it’s still advisable to monitor their health regularly and take appropriate action at the first sign of trouble.

Winter Care

Emerald Green Arborvitae, like other arborvitae varieties, is well-suited for cold climates and can withstand harsh winter conditions. However, it’s still beneficial to provide some winter care to ensure their survival and promote healthy growth when spring arrives.


Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of your arborvitae trees can help insulate the soil and protect the roots during winter. Use a three to four-inch layer of mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, and spread it in a circle around the tree, starting a few inches away from the trunk and extending out to the drip line. Mulching also helps retain soil moisture and suppresses weed growth.


Proper watering is essential during the winter months. While arborvitae trees are tolerant of drought, they still require adequate moisture to survive. Water your Emerald Green Arborvitae deeply before the ground freezes, as this will ensure that the root system has access to moisture during the dormant period. However, be cautious not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.

Protection From Snow And Ice

Heavy snow and ice accumulation can cause branches to bend and break. To prevent damage, gently brush off accumulated snow from the branches using a broom or your hands. Avoid using excessive force to prevent branch breakage. If ice accumulates, allow it to melt naturally rather than forcibly removing it.

Anti-Desiccation Measures

Winter winds and dry air can lead to desiccation, or the drying out of foliage. To prevent this, consider using anti-desiccant sprays or applying burlap wraps to shield your arborvitae trees from wind. Anti-desiccant sprays form a thin, waxy coating on the foliage, reducing moisture loss. If using burlap wraps, loosely wrap them around the trees, leaving space for air circulation.

Deer Protection

Deer can be particularly detrimental to arborvitae trees during the winter months when other sources of food are scarce. To protect your Emerald Green Arborvitae from deer browse, consider erecting a deer fence or applying deer repellents. Various commercial repellents are available, or you can opt for homemade solutions using ingredients like garlic, hot pepper, or rotten eggs.

Regular Maintenance

Maintaining your Emerald Green Arborvitae trees contributes to their overall health, shape, and appearance. Regular maintenance practices can help prevent problems and keep your trees looking their best.

RELATED  How To Plant Cherry Tomatoes From Seed [ Full Guide ]


Pruning is an essential maintenance task for shaping and controlling the growth of your arborvitae trees. Spring is generally the best time to prune these trees, although light pruning can be done throughout the year. Aim to maintain the natural pyramidal shape of the trees by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Additionally, remove any inward-growing or crossing branches to promote better airflow and light penetration.

When pruning, use sharp pruning shears or loppers and make clean cuts just above a bud or branch collar. Avoid cutting into the main body of the tree or leaving stubs, as this can invite pests and diseases.


Emerald Green Arborvitae trees are typically low-maintenance and do not require heavy fertilization. However, providing them with nutrients can promote healthy growth and vibrant foliage. Consider conducting a soil test to determine the nutrient needs of your trees before applying any fertilizer. If required, use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 in early spring.

Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive growth and weak branches. Follow the recommended application rates on the fertilizer packaging and water the trees thoroughly after the application.


While arborvitae trees are relatively drought-tolerant, they still require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Deep watering is beneficial as it encourages the development of a deep root system, making the trees more resilient to drought conditions.

Provide your Emerald Green Arborvitae with one inch of water per week, either through rainfall or supplemental irrigation. Water the trees at the base, directly onto the soil, rather than overhead watering. This helps prevent foliar diseases and ensures that the water reaches the roots where it is most needed.

Monitoring For Yellowing Foliage

If you notice yellowing foliage on your Emerald Green Arborvitae trees, it may indicate a nutrient deficiency or an underlying issue. Conduct a soil test to determine if any nutrient deficiencies are present. Yellowing foliage can also be a sign of over-watering or poorly drained soil. Adjust your watering practices accordingly and improve drainage if necessary.

Regular monitoring of your trees’ foliage and overall health will enable you to address any issues promptly and take appropriate action to maintain their vitality.

Design Ideas For Using Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae’s neat, pyramidal shape and vibrant green foliage make them versatile and attractive additions to any landscape. Here are some design ideas for incorporating these trees into your garden:

Privacy Screens And Hedges

The dense growth habit and relatively fast growth rate of Emerald Green Arborvitae make them excellent choices for creating privacy screens and hedges. Plant them in a row, spacing them approximately three to five feet apart, depending on the desired level of privacy. Trim and shape the trees regularly to maintain a tidy and compact screen.

Accent Specimen

A single Emerald Green Arborvitae tree can serve as an eye-catching focal point in your landscape. Plant it near a patio, entrance, or any other area where you want to draw attention. Consider underplanting with colorful perennials or groundcovers to enhance the visual impact.

Framing Or Formal Garden Borders

Use Emerald Green Arborvitae to frame a garden bed or define the boundaries of a formal garden. Plant them in pairs or groups at regular intervals to create symmetry and structure. Their vertical form creates an elegant backdrop for other plants and adds a touch of formality to the overall design.

Containers And Topiaries

Emerald Green Arborvitae can also be grown in containers and shaped into topiaries. Select a large container with proper drainage and fill it with well-draining potting soil. Regularly prune and shape the tree to maintain the desired form. Place the container in a prominent location, such as a courtyard or patio, to make a striking statement.


Planting and caring for Emerald Green Arborvitae can be a rewarding experience, as these evergreen trees add beauty and structure to your garden. By being aware of potential pests and diseases, providing winter care, implementing regular maintenance practices, and exploring creative design ideas, you can ensure the healthy growth and longevity of your arborvitae trees. So go ahead and incorporate these stunning trees into your landscape, and enjoy their beauty for years to come.


What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Emerald Green Arborvitae?

The best time to plant emerald green arborvitae is in the early fall, usually between the months of September and October. This allows the tree to establish its root system before the winter months.

How Much Spacing Should I Leave Between Each Emerald Green Arborvitae Plant?

When planting multiple emerald green arborvitae trees, it is recommended to leave a distance of 3-4 feet between each plant. This will allow enough room for the trees to grow and spread out.

What Type Of Soil Is Best For Emerald Green Arborvitae?

Emerald green arborvitae thrives in well-drained, loamy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level. It is important to avoid areas with clay or compacted soil as it can prevent proper root growth.

How Often Should I Water My Newly Planted Emerald Green Arborvitae?

Newly planted emerald green arborvitae trees should be watered once per week for the first month. After that, watering can be reduced to once every 2-3 weeks, depending on rainfall and soil moisture.

Do I Need To Fertilize My Emerald Green Arborvitae Tree?

Fertilizing is not necessary for emerald green arborvitae trees, but it can help promote growth and overall health. If you choose to fertilize, use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer in the spring before new growth appears. Avoid over-fertilizing as it can damage the tree’s delicate root system.