How to Plant an Arborvitae

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Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) has long been a favorite of American gardeners and landscapers. Depending on the variety, arborvitae can grow as tall as 40 to 50 feet with a pyramidal shape, or may be much smaller with a rounded shape. The color may be various shades of green, including yellow-green and blue-green. Although arborvitae is an evergreen, the inner foliage typically turns brown and sheds every autumn. Plant arborvitae any time of year.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch
  • Prepare a planting site where the soil drains well and the arborvitae will be exposed to bright sunlight. Although arborvitae will grow in shade, the shape will be less attractive as the plant attempts to grow towards available sunlight.

  • Dig a hole two to three times as wide as the arborvitae's nursery container. The depth of the hole should be no deeper than the tree's root ball.

  • Remove the arborvitae carefully from the nursery container. Tip the container on its side and slide the shrub from the container. Never pull the shrub by its trunk. If the arborvitae is wrapped in burlap, remove any wire or strings and fold the top 1/3 of the burlap down so the burlap won't extend above the soil.

  • Place the arborvitae in the hole with the top of the root ball 1 to 2 inches above the soil. If the shrub is planted too deeply, the roots will be susceptible to rot.

  • Backfill the hole with the same soil that was removed. Use the remainder of the soil to build a 4- to 6-inch dam around the drip line of the tree. The drip line is an imaginary line where rainfall would drip from the outer branches.

  • Spread 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the arborvitae. Leave an uncovered area around the trunk so mulch won't pile up against the trunk. Mulch such as dry leaves, shredded bark or pine needles will conserve moisture and insulate the roots.

  • Keep the soil moist until the shrub shows signs of growth, indicating the shrub has taken root. After that time, water the tree deeply by allowing a drip system or garden hose at the base of the shrub every seven to 10 days. Avoid overwatering, which can cause rot and kill the arborvitae.

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