When to fertilize evergreens?


In the winter landscape, evergreens add green to the white. Let’s keep them healthy. Evergreens in the woods get nutrients from the twigs, leaves and other natural debris that compost into the soil. In our home landscapes, we tend to tidy up the yards and rake away the morsels that would add nutrients to the soil naturally. While evergreens generally need less fertilizing than deciduous trees, they benefit from some.

Just fertilizing the lawn may be enough. How can you tell? Look at the tree! How is the color? The new needles? Does the tree seem to be growing at a reasonable rate? Does it look healthy?

If it is a newly transplanted tree, be patient. It is normal for any transplanted tree to need time to recover and adjust to the new environment. Smaller trees generally adjust faster than a larger transplant. Keep any transplant well water and do not be too anxious to fertilize until it has settled in to the new location.

If you have less than ideal soil, very sandy or heavy clay, regularly fertilizing can overcome some problems and produce a strong healthy tree. In the sandy soils of Anoka County, heavy rains can wash the nutrients quickly through the soil, leaving the trees without the nutrients they need. These must be replaced.

Ideally, a soil test should be done before fertilizing. Complete fertilizers are labeled with three numbers, for example 10-8-6, for their nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium amounts. The soil test will probably show sufficient phosphorus. If you can’t match both the nitrogen and potassium you need in a commercial fertilizer, just match the nitrogen. The soil test will also indicate if the soil is acid or alkaline. Evergreens grow best in acid soils and some nutrients may be unavailable to the tree if the soil is too alkaline.

Early spring, April, is the best time to fertilize, before new growth begins. Fertilizer can be applied until mid-July, but any later may cause late growth that would be damaged by frost. A slow release fertilizer can be applied even into early fall, and may help the tree without risk of winter injury. Never fertilize any plant that is stressed, from drought or disease. Water trees until you bring the hoses in for next winter.

Mulching is a great way to keep the soil moist under evergreens and minimize the needed water. Do not mound the mulch against the trunk. Three or four inches evenly spread will be fine. You can fertilize right over the mulch. Just water well and enjoy your lovely evergreens for years to come.

fertilizer for evergreens – Knowledgebase Question

In forests, needles, leaves and other plant debris accumulate on the ground, decompose and release nutrients into the soil that are reused by trees and other plants. In a typical home landscape, plant debris is often raked up and removed, taking nutrients with it. In addition, the soil that landscape evergreens must survive in is often much different than native forest and prairie soils. Many times, these urban landscape soils are deficient in certain nutrients, and are clay soils that have been severely compacted, poorly-drained and very alkaline. In these situations plants may eventually become stressed to the point that they are no longer attributes to the landscape, but eyesores or worse yet, dead.
Maintaining healthy evergreens in the home landscape is a combination of thoroughly understanding the characteristics of the planting site, selecting the right plant for the particular site, purchasing healthy plants, preparing the soil prior to planting, and maintaining the health of the plant on a regular basis. One of the regular maintenance tasks that may be necessary for the health of the plants is fertilizing.
An annual application of well-rotted manure or seasoned compost forms a moisture conserving mulch that provides a small amount of fertilizer to the trees. Spread a layer of manure (preferably heat-treated to kill weed seeds) or compost two to three inches thick over an area at least equal to the branch spread. Keep all mulches at least two inches from the trunk to prevent trunk rot or other problems. Do not do this with poorly-drained (water-logged) soils, since it will only make a bad situation worse.
Water soluble fertilizers applied either through root feeders or to the soil surface provide some nutrients. However, water soluble fertilizers may leach through the soil quickly with sandier soils and may need to be reapplied regularly through the spring and early summer. Do not use root feeders on poorly-drained soils, especially heavy clays. Root feeders may be difficult to use in heavily compacted soils, but they do provide an effective and environmentally sound method of tree fertilization. Fertilizer “spikes” last longer in the soil and also provide an effective form of fertilizer if applied in adequate quantity. Water soluble fertilizers, spikes and “briquettes” are comparatively expensive.
Apply fertilizer any time from early spring until midsummer (July 15). If conditions are very dry, make sure the trees are well-watered. Never fertilize drought stressed plants. Applications of fertilizer at normal rates in late summer may stimulate growth late in the season. Late growth may not have time to harden off before cold temperatures arrive and the trees may be more likely to suffer winter injury and dieback.
There are specially formulated fertilizers for conifers, or you can use an all-purpose fertilizer such as a 10-10-10. I think the jury is out on whether or not your evergreens need an acidified fertilizer such as Miracid. It’s an attempt at replacing the acidity that would be leaching into the soil if you allowed the needles to decompose beneath the tree, but just how much would leach into the soil is anyone’s guess. I’d keep things simple (and inexpensive) by using a balanced, general purpose garden fertilizer for your evergreens.
Best wishes with your landscape!


If you love evergreens, you know how easy they are to take care of most of the time. Usually, you rarely have to excessively water or fertilize them at all. However, fertilization may be a requirement for evergreens under certain circumstances.

Generally speaking, evergreen trees don’t require as much fertilizing as their deciduous cousins. There’s a simple explanation for that: their needles provide them with year-round energy and help keep them healthy and strong during the tough winter months. In fact, you may not have to use fertilizer at all to promote growth in your evergreen trees.

However, if your evergreen trees are growing slowly or if the needles are off-color (such as brown or blue), you should consider fertilizing. Fertilizer will help promote healthier, stronger trees and even propel them to grow a little faster. However, you have to make sure that you apply just enough fertilizer and at the right times.

You’re going to want to use fertilizer with more nitrogen, rather than phosphorous or potassium. There is a reason for that: evergreen trees respond more quickly to nitrogen than they do other nutrients. The best time to fertilize is in the early spring months, such as April. Fertilizing much later is generally pointless, as it rarely gives your evergreen trees enough time to absorb the nutrients.

And never, ever fertilize your evergreen trees during a drought! The fertilizer will make it more difficult for them to absorb water and can cause tree damage or even death.

If you have any more questions about evergreen fertilization or general care, please don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more. We can help you take better care of your evergreens.

How to Save a Dying Arborvitae Tree

The first step in saving an arborvitae tree is to determine what is causing it to die. While you can treat symptoms of a disease or pest infestation, the problem may return if you don’t use the proper solution. The following article contains some common issues an arborvitae may suffer from, as well as some remedies you can try to fix it before the damage is done.

1. Leaves Turned Gray or Brown and Have Webbed Over

Mites can be a big problem for arborvitae. When these pests spin their webs over the leaves, they incur damage and turn brown or gray. In order to correct this problem, you will need to use a mite killer around your plant. Make sure that the solution you use will not harm your tree by spraying it on a couple leaves first and waiting a couple days to check results.

There are other symptoms that are caused by insects as well, so if you notice something similar, thoroughly inspect your arborvitae for signs of other insect activity. Then, try to remove the pests as much as possible. Consider planting plants that naturally repel pests in your yard near your arborvitae if the problem keeps coming back.

2. Ripped Leaves or Chewed Twigs

Another thing that can cause your arborvitae to die is to be eaten by moose, deer, or rabbits. These animals enjoy the taste of the tree and will eat it if they get the chance. Though there are repellents for animals, they are not usually effective and can harm both the animals and your plants.

The best way to prevent animals from feasting on your arborvitae is by putting up some sort of barrier around it. Consider netting that can easily be placed around the plants and trees or think about fencing in your entire yard.

3. Misshapen Tree

If you have an older plant, it is more susceptible to harsher weather. Often, branches and trunks can either break off or become damaged and almost unfixable. You can definitely try to prune it so that it gets good sunlight again, though most of the time it means that your tree will not survive the next storm. The best thing to do is to protect it and to mulch it often to prevent damage before it strikes.

4. Brown Leaves, Split Trunk, or Other Damage from Freezing

As with most trees, arborvitae are used to climate changes and will acclimate to lower temperatures. However, if a sudden cold spell hits the tree before it is done adjusting, the weather can freeze the plant tissues and make your tree sickly or kill it completely. Though you can’t control the weather, make sure you check your tree after the first cold spell and perhaps cover the base of it with leaves from your garden for extra protection. To help avoid this frostbite altogether, do not use mulch that is high in nitrogen in the late fall.

Other Things to Try

Make sure that your arborvitae is getting the right amount of sun and moisture, and that the soil it’s in is well-drained. Consider transplanting it to a better location if any of these things are absent. You may also need to transplant it if it is not getting the nutrients it needs, or you can try mulching it with compost tea or other compost items to give it a boost.

Though many things can affect your arborvitae tree, there are several things you can do to protect it. The most important is to stay alert on how it is doing so you can make quick adjustments as needed.

View full sizeGeorge WeigelThese arborvitae are dying from wet soil. Notice they’re planted in a low-lying swale where rain is channeled.

Q: I have a row of 12 ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae planted along the perimeter of my property. This is the third year for them. Up until now, they were doing very well. This year they all put on 6 to 8 inches or growth, and they all have a good green color, in spite of the dry conditions. I water them all weekly.

The problem is I’m seeing branches that gradually lighten, then pale and turn brown. The section finally turns dark brown and dies. All seem to have this to some degree. This condition is generally near the ground level, or lower on the plant. I have looked for insects, but can see none. Definitely no bagworms (I know what they look like). As a side note, I have had the same problem with two blue junipers elsewhere on my property. Any thoughts on what this can be?

A: I’d first want to rule out the possibility of herbicide drift or excess high-nitrogen fertilizer coming from nearby lawn treatments. Also, no chance that the browned areas of the arborvitae are getting splashed by salted snow and ice from road plowing?

Otherwise, I’d bet on root death from poorly drained soil. We’ve got a lot of lousy clay and compacted subsoil under our yards, and that’s not conducive to good root growth. In rainy weather or in cases where too much water is applied, water fills the tiny air spaces, chokes off soil oxygen and causes branch dieback. In bad enough cases, a slow suffocation death occurs.

Excess mulch, too-deep planting, planting in wet areas and mulch packed up around the trunk also contribute to the same kind of trouble. Failing to remove the burlap from balled-and-burlapped plants before planting is another strike.

A good way to check for poor drainage is to slide a shovel down into the soil nearby and see if it’s soggy after rains or watering. Damp is good. Soggy is bad, especially when it’s soggy for days at a time. You might even smell trouble by sniffing for a gaseous odor to the soil. That’s a sign there’s not enough air.

I’d look for signs of all of the above possibilities and correct whatever I could (i.e. remove excess mulch, get mulch off the trunk, don’t water if the soil is already wet, etc.)

If it’s an overly wet site or too-deep planting, I’d consider digging up the plants, raising the beds and replanting in the improved site… or, if possible, move them out of the sogginess. This is obviously a lot of work, and you’ll disrupt roots. So it’d be a case where I’d weigh that against how bad the conditions are. Is awful soil or a hopelessly soggy site, you’ll probably end up losing all the plants if you don’t act.

On the other hand, plants often can overcome less-than-ideal site conditions if they can get through the first few years. Young trees aren’t as adept at fending off stresses and poor conditions as established ones.

There’s also an outside chance of soil disease (which also tend to occur more often in wet soil). If it’s disease, the damage will continue to work its way up the trees. Fungal spores also are usually visible under a hand lens.

I wouldn’t treat for that, though, unless a disease is actually confirmed.

Penn State University provides a free disease-diagnostic service for homeowners. Details are at this web site: http://www.ppath.cas.psu.edu/Plant_Disease_Clinic.htm. County extension offices and their Master Gardeners also are available to take a look at clippings under magnification.

Cornell University has another good site with details on all kinds of things that can go wrong with arborvitae. It’s at http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/treeshrub/arborvitae.htm.

Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)-Black Flagging

Cause The absence of disease organisms, insects, or mites associated with this condition suggests the problem is due to stress of some sort. The exact source of stress that results in black flagging is unknown. Water stress, drying winds, high temperatures, injury to the roots, or damage to lower stems are possibilities. In some instances, black flagging has occurred when none of these conditions have been present.

This problem has been widely observed on arborvitae from all regions in Oregon, as well as from Washington, Idaho, and numerous other states across the country. Repeated incubations and isolations from affected tissue onto nutrient media, by multiple diagnosticians across the country, have consistently failed to produce any disease-causing microorganisms. The injury is not caused by insects mining in the foliage, nor is it due to girdling twig cankers. Sprays of insecticides and fungicides have no effect on reducing incidence of the discoloration.

Occasionally, the injury can be traced to chemical applications, which will be reflected in the spray pattern. For example, if the trees are growing as a hedge on the border between two properties, and only one side sprayed, then the injury will appear on only the sprayed side.

Symptoms Only younger foliage is affected. Branch tips show a very dark-brown to black discoloration of the foliage-the color is not the brown associated with normal or disease-induced leaf senescence. This can occur on only one side, be evenly distributed over the entire plant, or occur only on some branches. Plants with black flagging are not permanently disfigured or injured. The condition does not always recur on an individual plant.

Cultural control Since this is not a disease or insect/mite problem, no pesticide applications are recommended.

  • Prune the affected foliage to remove the unsightly tissue. Pruning allows more light in and stimulates growth of new foliage.
  • Water regularly to the base of the plant during dry periods.
  • Fertilize in spring to stimulate production of new foliage.

Table of Contents


The best fertilizer for arborvitae depends on when you are going to plant it. Arborvitae is also known as the ‘tree of life’ and it comes from the Thuja genus. There are five species of arborvitae. Some of them are the timber conifers, the evergreen ornamental, and the resinous.

The specific trees or shrubs have the shape of a pyramid. The branches have horizontal or ascending branches. Each branch has got four rows of tiny leaves. It is a fast-growing evergreen that best grows in zones 2 to 8. Arborvitae is very famous and can be seen in American landscapes.

The arborvitae needs low-maintenance but it has long-lasting beauty. You usually see this tree in garden rows which are used as a hedge. This tree also needs a lot of sun in order to grow. Below we are going to see, which the best fertilizer for arborvitae is and how this tree can grow best.

Best Fertilizer For Arborvitae – When And How

In order to give the best fertilizer for arborvitae, you have to plant it in the proper location. Arborvitae needs plenty of sun so as to grow; it can tolerate and grow in light shade too. During the first five years of their growth, it will need plenty of food to grow and this includes fertilizing too.

Apart from the soil where it gets the nutrients, it also needs fertilizer to be healthy. You should find the best fertilizer for arborvitae when you keep it in your garden since there are other plants and trees because it might grow slower than expected. The best period to start fertilizing it would be in early spring before the new growth begins.

Types of Fertilizer

The type of fertilizer that you are going to apply depends on the soil. Before you find the best fertilizer for arborvitae you should examine the soil and whether it is rich in nutrients. Arborvitae trees need either a slow release of granular fertilizer or a single nutrient fertilizer such as the nitrogen.

The single-nutrient fertilizer, nitrogen, is crucial for this tree. Nitrogen is considered the best fertilizer for your arborvitae because it helps it to have a healthy reproduction and growth. Furthermore, it uses it for the photosynthesis.

You will recognize that the soil isn’t rich in nutrients when the leaves turn yellow and they start dropping. When you will buy the fertilizer keep in mind the analysis of the chemicals on the package. The nitrogen should be present and the three numbers on the package could be for example 10-30-10.

Slow release granular fertilizer includes nitrogen too. What is different about this fertilizer is that it releases the nitrogen not immediately but over a period of time. In this way, you won’t have to fertilize your arborvitae quite often as you were going to do with another one. This makes it the best fertilizer for your arborvitae.

How to Fertilize your Arborvitae

When you use the best fertilizer for arborvitae you should apply it in the proper way. You have to apply it evenly in the root zone. During this process, you should keep the granules away from the trunk area. A good idea would be to water the soil once you fertilize it because in this way it will be dissolved and in this way it will access the roots.

You also need to see how tall your arborvitae is. This will help you understand how much fertilizer you will apply to it. When the time comes to calculate the best fertilizer for your arborvitae you should know that it needs the following: one-third of fertilizer for each foot of its height. If your arborvitae is five feet tall you definitely will need 1-2/3 pounds of it.

You should keep in mind that one pound is equal to two cups of fertilizer. You should have with you a measuring tape, a cup, water, trowel and the best fertilizer for your arborvitae. An important tip about the arborvitae is that it needs annual feeding only the first five years.

After these years you should check the soil. You also need to wear gloves and face mask if you use a chemical fertilizer and read and follow the guidelines. If you use a slow release as the best fertilizer for your arborvitae it should have a higher first number like 10-8-6. Don’t forget to use it during the first months of spring so as to have the best results.

Special Needs

As we mentioned before the soil is always important because it includes the nutrients. The best pH that the soil should have in order to plant the arborvitae is from 6.0 to 8.0. You could also add iron when is necessary. The best fertilizer for your arborvitae shouldn’t be used one month before the frost period begins.

From what we saw there are two different fertilizers that are considered as the best fertilizers for your arborvitae. The single nutrient and the slow release granular fertilizer are the ones. They both contain nitrogen which is necessary for the arborvitae to grow.

Depending on the soil that you have, you will choose which one is the right for you. You should also take the right precautions when you use a fertilizer. Use mask and gloves especially if you are using a chemical fertilizer. Don’t forget to read the instructions and when you buy it you could also ask for help if necessary.

Finally, the pH of the soil and the right time to fertilize your arborvitae will determine its growth success. It is a low-maintenance tree that grows fast and it is fantastic if you have a garden. You can create a short of a fence with it, if you plant more than one.

So, which one is the best fertilizer for your arborvitae? Choose wisely and read our detailed guide to help you determine which is the best one you. As we always say, water but do not overdo it and take care of the roots when you fertilize it.


Best fertilizer for new Emerald Green Arborvitaes? I’m lost here…

The trees are currently in pots and stand at about 6 feet tall. Our soil is lousy (rocks and clay), so I’m planning to dig very large holes for the root ball and surround it with soil brought in from the store.

This could have disastrous effects.

So you have rocky soil that doesn’t drain well. If you dig a deep hole, you’re basically creating a giant bathtub where the water has nowhere to go so it sits in the tub, drowning your roots.

If you dump amended soil into the hole, you can create a wet muck inside of this bathtub.

Dig wide, but not deep, and plant shallowly. There are lots of guides on line about planting trees in clay soil. It would be very important to mulch the entire area very well, but away from the trunk.

I’m trying to determine the best fertilizer we should use after planting these trees in our yard.

The answer could be to not fertilize.

Trees and shrubs require much less ferts than flowering/fruiting plants like annuals or vegetables. The best way to determine whether you need a fertilizer at all is doing a soil test.

Contact your local extension service and send in soil samples.

Fertilizing Arborvitae – When And How To Fertilize An Arborvitae

Trees growing in the wild rely on the soil to provide the nutrients they need to grow. In a backyard environment, trees and shrubs compete for available nutrients and may require fertilizer to keep them healthy. Arborvitae are narrow-leaf evergreen trees with leaves that look like scales. Different arborvitae species grow into different shapes and sizes, making the tree an excellent choice for hedges of any height or specimen plants.

Beloved for their fast growth, arborvitae – especially those planted near other trees or in hedges – often require fertilizer to thrive. It isn’t difficult to begin fertilizing arborvitae. Read on to learn how to fertilize an arborvitae and the type of fertilizer for arborvitae.

Fertilizing Arborvitae

Many mature trees do not require fertilizing. If your arborvitae is planted alone as a specimen tree and appears happy and thriving, consider skipping the fertilizer for the present time.

If your trees are fighting for nutrients with other plants,

they may need fertilizer. Check to see if they are growing slowly or otherwise look unhealthy. Before you fertilize, learn about the optimal type of fertilizer for these tough evergreens.

What Type of Fertilizer for Arborvitae?

If you want to start providing fertilizer for arborvitae trees, you need to select a fertilizer. You can select a single-nutrient fertilizer like nitrogen, but unless you are completely certain that your soil is rich in all other nutrients, it may be better to opt for a complete fertilizer for trees.

Experts recommend slow release granular fertilizer for arborvitae trees. The nitrogen in this fertilizer is released over a long period of time. This enables you to fertilize less often and also ensures that the tree’s roots will not burn. Select a slow-release fertilizer that includes at least 50 percent nitrogen.

How to Fertilize an Arborvitae?

Applying fertilizer for arborvitae trees correctly is a matter of following easy directions. The fertilizer container will tell you how much of the product to use per tree.

To fertilize your trees, broadcast the recommended amount of fertilizer evenly over the root zone. Keep the granules well away from the plant’s trunk area.

Water the soil beneath the tree well when you are done fertilizing arborvitae. This helps the fertilizer dissolve so that it is accessible to the roots.

When to Feed Arborvitae?

It is also important to know when to feed arborvitae. Fertilizing arborvitae at the wrong time can lead to problems with the tree.

You should fertilize your arborvitae during the growing season. Offer the first feeding just before new growth begins. Fertilize at the intervals recommended on the container. Stop fertilizing arborvitae one month before the first frost in your region.

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