Planting Tips for Emerald Green Arborvitae

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Most homeowners have dreamed of a privacy screen to protect their home or backyard from peering eyes. That need for cover explains a lot about the popularity of Emerald Green Arborvitae. This evergreen is a living column, a narrow, upright cone that makes an excellent garden hedge or screen. This is an easy-care shrub or tree if sited and planted correctly.

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Meet the Emerald Green Arborvitae

The classic pyramidal form of the Emerald Green Arborvitae (​Thuja occidentalis​ 'Emerald Green') shines with emerald green foliage all year long. Unlike other arborvitae, Emerald Green's foliage doesn't fade in winter. The leaves are small, soft, and scale-like in a bright shade of green, arranged in somewhat vertical, fanlike sprays. Extremely cold tolerant, this evergreen is tall and narrow, and grows about 12 inches a year.

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The Emerald Green Arborvitae tops out at a mature height of 15 feet, although many only get to 10 feet tall. The spread is between 3 and 4 feet, for a narrow, columnar look. It can be grown as a shrub or a tree, depending on pruning. This versatility, as well as its beautiful foliage, makes Emerald Green one of the most popular screening hedge plants in the country. Cultivated in Denmark, its alternative cultivar name is "Smaragd," a term that means "emerald" in Danish.

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Plant the Emerald Green Arborvitae

Grow this evergreen arborvitae in cold-winter regions. It thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 7. Select a site with full sun or partial shade since this cultivar needs some four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. It will do best in moderately moist, well-drained soil.

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Transplant an Emerald Green Arborvitae in the fall, digging a hole twice the width of the root ball, but the same depth. The tree will establish its roots and be ready to grow the following spring. Give the tree some 3 to 4 feet on either side or 2 to 3 feet apart for a screen. Good air circulation between trees when young will limit disease susceptibility.

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Care for the Emerald Green Arborvitae

Given proper siting and care, an Emerald Green Arborvitae can live for 25 years. These trees require regular water for the first season after transplanting, they don't need a lot of specific care afterward. They are relatively drought tolerant when established, but it is good practice to offer them water during the hotter summer months. It is not a good idea to top the plant since it's bad for the tree's health and also creates an ugly hedge.

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Add a layer of organic compost every year to serve as a mulch, keeping the weeds down and locking in moisture. Prune lightly in spring and remove dead branches.

Water the soil and root ball of the newly planted Emerald Green Arborvitae with a garden hose. Trickle water out of the hose to prevent erosion or use a shower head attachment. Provide enough water to wet the top 12 to 18 inches of soil. Add more soil after the water soaks away if compaction leaves the top of the root ball above the soil line.

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