Smaragd emerald green arborvitae tree

The Growth Rate of Emerald Green Thuja

Thuja background image by Bartlomiej Nowak from

The emerald green thuja, or emerald green arborvitae, has a pyramidal shape and small, scale-like leaves. The tree belongs to the evergreen family and works well as a hedge plant.

Growth Rate

The emerald green thuja grows at a slow to moderate rate once established, growing at a minimum amount of 6 inches to a maximum amount of 1 foot every year.

Mature Width and Height

A growing emerald green thuja will continue to grow at a standard rate until it reaches maturity. The smallest mature thuja reach heights of approximately 6 feet, while the largest mature thuja reach upwards of 15 feet. The width or spread of a mature thuja depends largely on the space given to it. Some only spread to 3 feet, while the widest sometimes spread up to 6 feet.

Growing Conditions

Emerald green thuja grow in full sun to part shade, but thrive in full sun. Moist, slightly acidic and well-drained soil works best for these trees. They need at least 3 feet between one another in order to grow at a strong rate.

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Perfect Height for Privacy, Even in Small Spaces

Why Emerald Green Arborvitaes?

Ready to cultivate your own privacy fence or lush screen of greenery? The Emerald Green Arborvitae is the go-to. Easy to grow and sized perfectly, these hedge trees are ideal for tight areas. And their shimmering emerald color and disease resistance make them extremely popular.

The Emerald is your best choice for a medium-sized privacy screen. Just plant these amazing hedges in groupings for a tidy, neat look that never needs trimming. The Emerald Green Arborvitae is perfect for planting next to foundations or other tight areas where you need an attractive evergreen accent tree that grows hassle0free.

And the Arborvitaes are exceptional performers, adaptable to a variety of soil conditions and weather extremes. That means you won’t have to deal with ugly browning, even in the coldest of winters, or unattractive dead spots and holes.

Why is Better

Your Emerald Green is one of the thickest evergreens you can plant, so it forms a solid privacy fence that you’ll never have to prune. And once it’s established, it thrives on rainfall alone.

That means virtually no upkeep for you.

Because your Emerald Green is a proven performer, grown at our nursery for best results, there’s no guesswork in growing.

Adaptability and versatility are key when it comes to the Emerald Green. The possibilities are endless, making the Emerald Green Thuja an extremely popular hedge tree. Order your own Emerald Green privacy today!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: Emerald Green Thujas grow best in full sun, but they can withstand partial shade (afternoon sun is best in this case). And for best results, plant these trees six feet apart to enjoy their pyramid shape or four feet apart for a dense hedge.

When planting Emerald Green Thujas, dig a hole that is just as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. If the top of the root ball is lower than the surrounding soil, remove the tree and fill in part of the hole. Replace the tree and fill in the hole with the same soil you removed. You do not need to add anything to the soil. Mulch around the tree with shredded hardwood mulch. A layer three inches thick, extending three feet, around the tree is ideal.

Water your new tree by counting to 20 while holding the hose near the trunk or give the tree five watering cans full of water.

2. Watering: Water your new tree weekly or twice weekly by holding a hose around it and counting to 20.

After the first month, water just once a week unless it is dry and hot (no rain and temperatures above 80 degrees). If it is hot and dry, water twice a week.

After the first six months, the trees will be established and subsist on rainfall alone.

3. Pruning: The Emerald Green Thuja grows well without pruning. In fact, this is one tree that needs no pruning, other than to remove dead branches. If you do decide to hedge this tree, make sure that when you trim, the bottom of the tree is wider than the top.

4. Fertilizing: This tree does not need extra fertilizer. If the leaves are not the right color, the problem is likely the soil pH. Test the pH and add aluminum sulfate if the pH is too high, and lime if the pH is too low. Normal pH is between 5.5-7.0.

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How to Care for Arborvitae— The Tall Screening Tree

Question. We planted eight large (8 foot tall) arborvitae in a row along our property line last spring. In September we noticed that one had brown leaves near the top. I pruned off those leaves and made sure the tree was adequately watered for a few days until the rains came. In October the rest of the trees turned a golden-brown from the inside out and we lost them all. Is there something we should have done to promote their well-being?

—Helyn in Lansdale, PA

Answer. Yes—any new tree needs to have the heck watered out of it the first year in the ground. If you wait until you see trouble, it’s way too late. If it isn’t going to rain immediately after planting, let a hose drip at the base of each tree for 24 hours (use a soaker hose for multiple trees) and repeat deep soakings at least twice a week for several hours at a pop any week you don’t get rain.

It also sounds like you may have crowded them. It’s better to plant so-called ‘screening trees’ in staggered, triangular grids than to try and jam them into a tight straight line.

Question. I planted nine emerald arborvitae last spring and kept them watered well throughout the summer. They look healthy from a distance, but if I get close and peek into their trunks, some of the greenery is turning a little…oh, not brown but gold. Is this normal? I want to make sure they’re ok. We planted them correctly—not too deep, in a nice wide hole.

—Annmarie in Chesterfield, NJ

Answer. Whenever someone assures me they did something {quote} “correctly”, I see the Red Cross rushing in with chocolate and lawyers for the poor plants. So let’s review ‘correct tree planting’.

Remove all wrappings from balled and burlaped trees. You may be told to leave the burlap on, to bury the burlap with the tree (perhaps to hide evidence linking you to the murder), etc., etc. The people telling you to do those things are wrong, wrong, wrong!

As you note, you should dig a wide hole, but not a deep one; you want the root flare to be exposed above ground. If the planted tree looks like a lollipop, take it out and plant it higher. Refill the hole with your lousy native soil. Surrounding the roots with an island of nice perfect loose stuff is like putting a big-screen TV into your child’s bedroom after college. You need to force both of those kinds of organisms to make their way out into the world instead of making it easy for them to linger much too close to home.

If the tree needs to be staked its first year (which arborvitae and the similar Leyland cypress often do), do so very carefully and gently; don’t let any of the material dig into the bark and get rid of that support the first day possible.

READ COMPLETE ANSWER Mulch the surface with an inch or two of nice black, yard-waste compost—not wood, bark or root mulch; not peat moss, sawdust, or other bad ideas. A compost mulch will prevent weeds as well or better than the same amount of wood. Don’t let the mulch (or ground cover or ivy or anything else) touch the trunk of the tree. Begin six inches away from the trunk and take the mulch out as far as you can.

Unlike wood mulches, compost mulch will also feed the tree perfectly (wood mulches may actually steal food from the tree.). A fresh mulch of compost can be applied every year. If you use a gentle organic fertilizer to feed the tree, go light; and just feed the tree this way for the first few years. And no ‘tree spikes’ or other chemical fertilizers—ever!

Do all those things and minor discoloration—which is fairly common and can come from sunscald or windburn—should repair itself.

Question. Mike: I’m getting conflicting information on when to prune my arborvitae. Their 15′ to 20′ height is starting to shade part of my garden. What time of year is good to trim about four feet from the tops? Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe you said to prune in the spring. Thanks,

—Tom in Bristol, PA

Answer. Consider yourself corrected, Tom. If you were talking about gently trimming the sides a bit to do something like keep a walkway in play, Spring would be the time. But take a good look at the top of those puppies. See how they come to a point—like my head? If you lop off those pointy tops the trees will look like Hades for awhile and then die—which will be a relief, because until they expire their wretchedness will be a constant reminder of your ‘excellent idea’.

Plant shade loving things in the affected garden area and build some new raised beds out into the sun.

Question. I have an emerald arborvitae that is doing poorly. I planted two of them about three years ago on each side of my front steps. Although both are the same height (4-5 ft), one is going gangbusters and the other has a lot of “dead zones” in it. I believe the problem was poor drainage, which I have corrected with modifications to my downspouts. Should I try to save the weak arborvitae or just replace it? I can still purchase one of similar height that would match the healthy one.

—Delma in Eastern Coastal North Carolina

Answer. Small areas that brown out during brutal summers or harsh winters are often naturally replaced with healthy green tissue when the plant recovers. But large brown areas will likely be ugly forever. And one thing these trees (and most trees, and most plants) cannot tolerate is constantly soggy soil.

So yes, snag that replacement. But don’t plant it if your summer has already reached “dogs under the porch” weather. Either get the nursery to keep it healthy for you until Fall, or take it home, keep it well watered in dappled sun and plant it in the Fall.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a selection of native White Cedar with incredibly vibrant green foliage all year round. The color deepens into a lovely emerald shade of green as it gets older. And the pretty foliage sprays are nice and soft to the touch.

This is a very popular selection because of the overall uniform, narrow and upright pyramid shape. Cold hardy, these are beautiful workhorses that provide a full, lush screen. Best of all? They are fast growers.

Arborvitae means the “Tree of Life” and this selection will act like a breath of fresh, clean air in your landscape. If Green Giant Arborvitae grow too tall for you, try this variety on for size. It’s a great size and shape for today’s smaller yards.

They feature bright green foliage that has a soft sheen. These will stand out in your garden, but not in a flashy way. Instead, these become the “bones” of your garden. They’ll give structure and definition year round.

Fast-growing Emerald Green Arborvitae are easy care. These Thujas tolerate a variety of soil conditions, including poorly draining clay soil and pollution. Arborvitae love full sun, but they can grow fine in partial shade or dappled shade with a slightly looser, more open habit.

All this in a smaller package which is why it has become so popular. Order today!

How to Use Emerald Green Arborvitae in the Landscape

They make amazing green walls to define an outdoor room. Use them to gain some privacy near your patio, or to screen off an unsightly view.

They fit beautifully in tight spaces, such as along garage walls, along the driveway, in side yards and on the border of your property.

If you need a solid screen quickly, simply plant them close together every 3 or 4 feet. The plants will grow together and form a solid mass without any space between.

Emerald Green Arborvitae have a uniform and even look. They’ll work well in either formal or informal settings.

If you’d like, they can be trimmed as a formal hedge in early spring. You can also allow them to grow into their natural form, where they will look fresh and tidy with literally no work on your part! It’s no trouble to gently shape them in spring, they’ll do just fine.

Emerald Green Arborvitae is great for wildlife cover and protection for small birds, especially in colder climates. Use as a windbreak against gusty prevailing winds.

Accent your front yard with a single tree or a grouped display of 3 planted in a triangle.

They make a terrific backdrop to a showy shrub border, or to your flower and perennial gardens. Imagine some of our woody Hydrangea selections planted in front of them to really show off their pink and white flowers. Or, how about reblooming Lilacs or Azaleas? Gorgeous!

#ProPlantTips for Care

Arborvitae are very fibrous rooted and easy to transplant. They have a shallow, spreading root system and Arborvitae are not known for being aggressive unlike a Willow.

They prefer a well-drained soil, but are very forgiving. They’ll tolerate drier soils once established, or soils that may be wetter for short periods of time. Just make sure you don’t plant them too deep. Instead, place them at the same soil level as their growing container.

Their root zones are shallow, so apply a generous amount of mulch over the soil. Be sure not to heap mulch near the trunk, give about 4 inches of clearance all around the trunk.

Plant Emerald Green with Nature Hills Root Booster to encourage new root production. Once your planting hole is dug, add the Root Booster to the bottom of the hole, where it will nourish the root ball.

Water well at planting and keep them watered until they have roots established in your soil. It’s always a great idea to water well in late fall before the soil freezes. Use the “Finger Test” by sticking your finger into the soil near the roots to the second knuckle. If it’s moist, skip watering that day. If dry, a nice long drink best.

You’ll really appreciate these wonderful trees both as a beautiful accent and for full privacy. These are in demand by shoppers across the country, so place your order today.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 15 feet

Spread: 8 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4a

Other Names: Eastern White Cedar


The ubiquitous tall evergreen hedge, always seen planted in rows; this is a narrow, upright accent with evergreen, dense foliage held in vertical sprays; remains bright green year round; hardy and adaptable, takes pruning well, protect from winter sun

Ornamental Features

Emerald Green Arborvitae has emerald green foliage. The scale-like leaves remain emerald green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Emerald Green Arborvitae is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a narrowly upright and columnar growth habit. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a high maintenance shrub that will require regular care and upkeep. When pruning is necessary, it is recommended to only trim back the new growth of the current season, other than to remove any dieback. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Emerald Green Arborvitae is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Vertical Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use

Planting & Growing

Emerald Green Arborvitae will grow to be about 15 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 8 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn’t necessarily require facer plants in front, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selection of a native North American species.

Gertens Sizes and Prices


These arborvitae have been topped… it’s not an ideal way to prune, but it generally doesn’t kill the plants.

(George Weigel)

Q: I have a line of 20-foot arborvitae that I’d like to shorten to 15 feet. Can I top them now to that height?

A: You can, but it’s not the ideal way to deal with a line of these common evergreens.

The problem is that arborvitae don’t regenerate new growth very well when you cut back so far that you’re cutting into the bare, needleless wood toward the inside of the branches.

Like most evergreens, arborvitae shed the inner, older foliage as new growth continues toward the branch ends.

If you look closely, you’ll see that they’re green mainly for the outer foot or so of the branches. Look closer in toward the trunk and you’ll see the branches are bare. (Needles on that part of the branch were shed as the plant grew outward.)

Some species have a good backup plan in that they have dormant buds in reserve in case the plant ever loses the green ends. They’ll just push out new growth from those dormant buds if the need ever arises.

Arborvitae, however, is a species that’s not well equipped with that backup plan. Spruce, fir, pine and juniper are other examples of non-dormant-budders, while yew, holly boxwood and hemlock are examples of evergreens that usually regrow when mercilessly whacked.

If you just lop 5 feet off the top of your arborvitae, you’ll end up with bare tops. At 15 feet tall, you probably won’t see it, though, unless looking out a second floor window or flying overhead in a helicopter.

The green growth around the perimeter should be enough to hide the bare tops from the ground, and this branching probably will even grow up and around the bare tops in a year or two.

In other words, you won’t kill the plants and probably can get away with disguising the top butchering – so long as you don’t also shave the perimeter into bare wood.

I think a better way to deal with arborvitae is by regular, light prunings each year once the plants reach the height you want.

Once the plants hit the desired size, shave off the new growth each June to keep it that size. Never cut so far back that you’re into bare wood.

With that game plan, you should be able to both control size and avoid butchering and bare spots for many years.


(September 2012)

I have a screen of seven mature arborvitae that are scorched on their south sides; the north sides are lush and green. I have used soaker hoses about once a month letting them run for a total of 8-9 hours moving the hoses every 2 to 3 hours to cover the entire root zone. The next day this is repeated on the north sides. They were faithfully sprayed for bag worms this spring and I see no infestation. On the south sides the needles are brown from the tops of the trees to the bottoms and from side to side and fall off when gently brushed. Some of the needle bearing twigs are still pliable but most are dry and brittle. Should I keep watering or are they unsaveable?

Once a month in a summer like we had was probably not enough to keep them healthy and thriving. If an evergreen goes brown from the tip of the branch to the trunk, it usually means that particular branch is dead. I would say you have a tree that is half dead and half living. Could something have been sprayed on the south side? Needle-type evergreens like arborvitae don’t rebound well. As I see it, you have three options. You can continue to enjoy the screening from the healthy north side of the plant, replant entirely, or plant something on the south side to mask the dead branches.

(March 2012)

We are searching for replacement evergreen trees where dead Leyland Cypress had been removed from our backyard. They had been a screen between our house and a neighbor. We would like to have something that won’t get over 0 to 12 feet in height, that will remain green year-round and that will allow flowering plants between them and the front of the bed and still provide the screen against the chain link fence between houses. The bed is approximately 25 – 30 feet in length and 8 – 15 feet wide. The trees will face the South (our house faces East) so will get at least 6 hours of full sun daily. We would appreciate your suggestions for that space. We have seen so many evergreens labeled “emerald green arborvitae” but according to the information can grow as high as 60 feet and 6 – 8 feet wide. Can those that are said to grow so tall be trimmed back in height as they grow? Thank you for any information to assist us in making our decision.

If all you want is a plant that gets 10-12 feet tall, then choose a plant that has that as its maximum height. Especially if you plant something like the green giant arborvitae that can reach 60 feet tall, you will have to constantly prune, which makes a large hedge a constant work in progress. Some better choices include the Nelly R Stevens holly, cleyera, winter honeysuckle, or even one of the loropetalum varieties. Some varieties grow taller than 12 feet, others much shorter.

(Sept 2010)

I was wondering when is the best time to trim an arborvitae shrub? I have one that is pretty tall and wide and I did not know the best way to trim it to keep from hurting it.

Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn’t appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don’t prune any branch too severely as they don’t sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.

(September 2010)

I was wondering when is the best time to trim an arborvitae shrub? I have one that is pretty tall and wide and I did not know the best way to trim it to keep from hurting it.Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn’t appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don’t prune any branch too severely as they don’t sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.

Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn’t appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don’t prune any branch too severely as they don’t sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.

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Tree Care Tips for the Tree of Life: Arborvitae

thuja occidentalis

Arborvitaes are among the most popular trees to plant because of their numerous benefits, including their fast growth, tall heights, and year-round green foliage. In fact, arborvitae is a Latin form of the French phrase “l’abre de vie,” or “tree of life.” Arborvitaes prove this to be true through their versatility in tolerating a wide range of soils and climate conditions.

Arborvitae trees are a great choice if you’re looking to install a windbreak or natural privacy fence. There are numerous varieties to choose from, including American Arborvitae, Emerald Arborvitae and Green Giant Arborvitae. If you’re looking for fast growth then you might lean toward the green giant arborvitae, growing three feet a year and reaching up to 50-60 feet in height at maturity. If you don’t mind the wait and prefer something with a narrower spread, then you’ll appreciate the uniformity of American arborvitae.

Despite being low-maintenance, arborvitaes still need some care. Here are a few tree care tips to foster the best growth for your arborvitae in its early years.

Watch Ask an Arborist: Why Should I Plant Evergreens?

Environmental conditions for fast growth

Depending on the variety of arborvitae you select, you’ll want to be sure to plant trees approximately three feet apart to avoid root crowding and competition of nutrients and water; even trees don’t like to starve.

  • Arborvitaes do best in soil that is well drained but moist, rich and deep
  • pH of 6.0 (slightly acidic) to 8.0 (alkaline)
  • Full sun exposure is ideal, but they will grow in partial shade
  • Geographic regions with high humidity

Tree Pruning

Arborvitaes dense foliage provides sufficient privacy and at the same time are attractive additions to landscaping. Many arborvitaes take on a nice pyramid shape without pruning. If you must prune then limit it to once a year and keep the following in mind:

  • Prune in the fall or early winter, if pruned in the summer the tips of the pruned branches may turn brown
  • Never remove more than ¼ of a tree’s crown in a season
  • Ideally, main side branches should be at least 1/3 smaller than the diameter of the trunk

It may not be a sour idea to read Keys to Good Pruning just to be sure you’re not crippling them.

Read Top 5 Evergreens Sold Through the Arbor Day Tree Nursery

Potential threats

  • In times of drought, tree watering is important, but too much of a good thing can be bad so don’t overdo it (Proper Summer Watering of Trees has some helpful ideas)
  • Young landscape trees will need protection from deer in many areas, consider a Tubex tree shelter to keep wildlife away
  • Pest and Disease Problems: Bagworms are sometimes attracted to this species, but can be removed by hand in winter, or controlled with a biological pesticide
  • In forest or land development situations, large openings can lead to windthrow—trees uprooted or broken by wind— due to its shallow root system

Whichever selection you go with be sure to nurture your tree with proper care.

Read 5 Windbreak Trees that will Blow You Away

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