How to Grow and Care for Emerald Green Arborvitae

By Sabrina Lopez | September 30, 2022

Close up of Emerald Green Arborvitae trees.

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The Emerald green arborvitae is a semi-dwarf evergreen with flat, fan-like leaves. As the name suggests, it is bright green and glossy and grows in a narrow pyramidal shape. Groups of arborvitae make excellent garden border and foundation plants, and many homeowners plant them as topiaries or privacy hedges because their foliage is dense and opaque. 

While other hedges, such as boxwoods, require careful attention, the arborvitae looks great whether or not you prune or fertilize it. Learn how to grow and care for these hardy evergreen trees.



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Brighter Blooms Emerald Green Thuja Arborvitae


This elegant tree makes a perfect addition to your backyard. It grows between 10-15 feet tall but is narrow, making it a great option for those who need to save space. You can line a full row of emerald green arborvitae together or simply plant one at a time in your yard.

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Fast Facts on Emerald Green Arborvitae

The emerald green arborvitae grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8 and is found throughout the United States. Formally called Thuja occidentalis, the arborvitae included in its common name means “tree of life.”

Common nameArborvitae, Smaragd (Danish), Swamp cedar, American arborvitae

Plant family


Native climate

Coniferous swamps, northern Canada, northeast United States, cold climates

Light level

Full sun

Average mature height

10 to 15 feet

Soil type

Loamy soil, well-draining

Frequency of watering

Established plants require 1 inch per week


Low risk of contact dermatitis, as with junipers

Ideal humidity level

Low humidity, tolerant of most climates

Common variations (cultivars, close relations)

Northern white cedar, Thuja green giant, Leyland cypress

How to Care for Your Emerald Green Arborvitae

While emerald green arborvitae is popular because it doesn’t have many specific care requirements, you should know a few things about this evergreen shrub.


Emerald green arborvitae is excellent for anyone looking for hardy privacy trees that need almost no attention, including fertilizing. If you want to make your privacy hedge grow faster and fuller, you can add fertilizer to its soil yearly in the spring.

Slow-release fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio is best. This balanced, all-purpose fertilizer contains 10% each of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen to help your plant grow sprays of bright green leaves and thick brush. Many brands are readily available at your local garden center or plant shop.


Arborvitae does best when placed in full sun. It needs at least six hours of sunlight each day. Even young arborvitae can handle full, direct sunlight. However, the plants will be fine if you need to place them in partial shade to make a privacy screen or a windbreak


When the emerald green arborvitae reaches its mature width, it will take on a pyramidal shape. Grouping multiple pyramidal arborvitae creates your privacy fence. 

You need to space each arborvitae shrub 3 or 4 feet apart for them to have adequate room to grow and create the perfect natural privacy screen. You can also space these shrubs to use as foundation plants for other shrubbery or landscaping.


As evergreen trees, arborvitae need plenty of moisture. Still, you shouldn’t plant them where the soil remains consistently wet. The plant does best in well-drained alkaline and loamy soil types.

When you plant the root ball, dig a hole that’s about twice the root ball’s width but almost the same height. Next, cover the root ball with loosely packed soil, leaving it poking out at the top. Then, add compost mulch atop the newly planted root ball to help the soil retain moisture.

Temperature and Climate

Emerald green arborvitae tolerates cooler, drier temperatures better than scorching ones. It won’t do well in the heat of the southwestern U.S., the humidity of Florida and the Deep South, or the damp wetness of the Pacific Northwest. The plant’s growing zone includes almost everywhere else because it is cold-hardy, low maintenance, and drought-tolerant

Cold winters are also no problem—arborvitae keeps its green foliage year-round. The best time to plant it is in the fall to give the tree time to develop its root system and reach a more mature size before summer.


Water your emerald green arborvitae tree thoroughly when you first plant it—twice weekly until the new plant becomes established. After a few months, you should be able to taper down the watering to about 1-inch soil saturation each week. You may have to water more during hot months.



How to Prune Emerald Green Arborvitae

Though these sturdy little conifers don’t need traditional pruning to stay healthy, removing dead or diseased parts will help the plant grow fuller. Here’s how to prune your shrub to avoid damage. 



Common Issues with Emerald Green Arborvitae

While emerald green arborvitae doesn’t have strict care needs, you can still run into a few of the following problems when caring for this shrub. 

Heat and Humidity

Emerald green arborvitae cannot tolerate prolonged high temperatures or humidity. The humidity is too high if you notice wilting or fungal infection in your plant. Additionally, the plant prefers well-drained soil and can drown if soil conditions are too wet.


Arborvitae is disease-resistant, but phytophthora might occur. This contagious plant pathogen can turn the arborvitae’s leaves dull green, yellow, red, or purple. 


Spider mites are common pests that feed on the sap of many evergreens. If you have issues with spider mites or other pests, it’s best to call a pest control company before they spread throughout your yard or garden.



Our Recommendation

The emerald green arborvitae is an easy outdoor garden addition for new plant growers. It is not only vibrant but also low-maintenance, disease-resistant, and can coexist with many other plants that make their home in your garden. Just don’t overwater or overheat it, and you’ll have a beautiful natural fence or privacy hedge for years to come.



Emerald Green Arborvitae FAQ

How far apart should emerald green arborvitae be planted?

To make a natural fence or a privacy hedge, plant emerald green arborvitae at least 3 feet apart. Arborvitae’s pyramidal shape and fast-growing branches—it has a growth rate of 6 to 9 inches annually—will fill in the spaces.

Does emerald green arborvitae have invasive roots?

Emerald green arborvitae does not have invasive roots. Its roots spread wide (rather than deep) to about the mature width of a tree.

How can I make my emerald green arborvitae grow faster?

To make your emerald green arborvitae grow faster, use a 10-10-10 basic fertilizer annually in early or mid-spring. There are plenty of options, so you can determine which is the best for you by checking out customer reviews on some of them.