Caring for Your New Thuja Green Giant

You took the big step and planted a new screen or a hedge of Thuja Green Giant, right? Or maybe you have used some as future large specimens in the corners of your garden. Whichever it is, you have made the right choice if you are looking for fast-growing, disease and pest free plants, that even deer leave alone. These first years are the most important ones, because after that your plants will be almost completely self-maintaining, unless you are planning to trim them regularly for a formal look. It’s during these years, especially the first season or two, that the foundations of an easy and successful future for your plants are laid down.

For the Best Growth of Your New Trees:

  • Water regularly – it’s vital
  • Fertilize properly – use liquid formulations
  • Trim right away – establish dense growth early

We will assume you did all the early steps properly – ground preparation, correct spacing, and good planting – but if not, you will find blogs on this site covering all these things in detail – assuming you haven’t actually put them in the ground yet. Here we are going to consider the important steps in caring for your new Thuja Green Giant plants for the first season or two, so they really get going with a bang.

Keep Watering

The biggest mistake made is to think that because these are tough, reliable plants, you can just plant them and forget them. Maybe you will get lucky, with good falls of rain spaced out nicely through the season, and everything will be fine if you ‘plant and walk away’. But it’s much better to give some simple basic care until your trees become established, and watering should be at the top of the list. Remember that your plants went into the ground with just the soil from their pots around their roots, and for the first little while that is the only soil available to them. So when the weather turns warm and dry, and the summer sun begins to shine, they will start to lose water from their foliage immediately. The only source for that water is the soil around the roots, although if you have planted well, and firmed the soil around the root-ball, that ball will suck some water out of the surrounding soil too. None the less, even if the soil looks damp, it pays to look after that root ball with a little extra care, until enough time has passed for the roots to grow out.

So once a week, or even twice a week if the weather is hot and dry, go along the row with a hose and let plenty of water trickle down close to the stem, soaking that hidden root-ball. Any excess will drain out into the surrounding soil, and this simple exercise, which doesn’t take long, is the best single thing you can do to guarantee the survival and good growth of your new trees.

Pay attention to the surrounding soil too, as the roots won’t grow out into dry earth. The best way, and the most water-wise, is to run a porous hose along the row of your new hedge, weaving it in and out of the stems as you go. This can stay in place for years, and it will quickly be hidden by new growth. By running the water directly on the ground, you get it exactly where needed, and you don’t lose it to evaporation, which happens with a sprinkler. Connect this trickle hose to a regular line, and turn it on for a few hours, until the water has soaked in and spread sideways. How often you need to do it will depend on the type of soil you have, how hot it is, whether you have used mulch (which is recommended), and how much rain has fallen. Don’t be fooled by light showers – scrape back a little soil to see if it is dry underneath, as it often is after light rain. Keep the soil damp, but don’t water until the soil is looking a little dry, as the roots won’t grow into a swamp!

Use Fertilizer

You probably enriched the soil when you planted – it’s highly recommended – but until the roots grow out that food is not available. Plants grown in containers are fed regularly with liquid fertilizers, and you will get the best growth from your new plants by doing the same. Choose a water-soluble formulation designed for hedges and evergreens, and use it as directed. If the directions are to apply monthly, you will get even better results by halving the concentration and applying every two weeks instead, as this gives a steadier supply of those vital nutrients. Start in mid-spring, as soon as you see signs of new growth, and flowers coming out around the garden, and keep feeding into early fall. Then stop, especially in colder areas, as you want your trees to finish growing in time for the new growth to harden off before winter. In warmer regions you can continue feeding until late fall.

Start Trimming Right Away

Since you want your plants to grow as much as possible, trimming might sound counter-intuitive. Some people wait until their plants have grown to their intended size before beginning to trim, but this is a mistake that can shorten the effective life of your screen or hedge significantly.

The best practice is to trim lightly almost as soon as you plant. Once you see a little new growth, take a sharp pair of shears and trim a little bit off. It doesn’t even have to be an inch of growth, and pay special attention to the top, as it will soon ‘run away’ if it can, leaving the bottom areas thin. This is something that cannot be fixed later, so slow down growth in height just a little, to build up bushy, broad plants that will stay green to the ground for decades. In fact, if your new plants have some wispy long upper growth, trim it back a few inches the same time that you plant.

Your goal should be broad, full plants with many branches right to the ground. Regular light trimming, taking a little more from the top than the sides, will make that happen. Taper the growth inwards a little, so that light reaches right to the bottom, and always do that for the life of your hedge and screen. During the first and second seasons you might want to trim lightly 4 or 5 times during the growing season, and since your plants are still small it won’t take long. Use sharp tools and just remove the tips from the new growth.


These simple steps are just a little extra work but a big investment in a great future for your plants. Your new Thuja Green Giant are going to do most of the work, so give them a helping hand – it’s a small effort that brings big results.

Can I Plant Thuja Green Giant in Summer?

As spring slides into summer, those who didn’t do everything they planned for spring start to worry. Is it now too late? Will I have to wait until fall or next spring to do that planting in the garden? Specifically, I am planning to plant a screen or hedge of Thuja Green Giant – am I now too late?

The traditional planting seasons of spring and fall were connected to the traditional way that plants were grown in nursery fields. When they reached a saleable size, they were dug and usually wrapped in burlap, or put into temporary pots, before being sold and then replanted. These things must be done at the right seasons, and trying to dig and plant in summer was something doomed to failure, because a large part of the active root-system is left in the ground.

Nursery methods have changed a lot, and today plants like Thuja Green Giant are grown for most or all their lives in pots. This means there is no root disturbance when they are moved around, and they arrive at your home with 100% of their root system intact and healthy. So the simple answer to planting is that today we can plant almost all year round, as long as the ground is not frozen. There are some good reasons for not planting in the depths of winter, but the situation for summer is much easier. Summer planting is not only possible, but easy and successful, as long as you take some simple precautions. Let’s see what those precautions are, and then you will be ready to plant that screen or hedge you have been planning – no matter what season it is.

Tips for Summer Planting

  • Prepare the area well, and water it thoroughly the day before
  • Be sure the plants have been water well before taking them out of the pots
  • Water deeply when planting
  • Mulch the root-zone to reduce water loss
  • Water close to the trunk every second or third day for the first weeks

Preparing the Planting Site

Just as for any other season, preparing the ground for planting should be top of your list. Most failures can be traced back to poor preparation. Digging a pot-sized hole in hard ground, and then pushing the plant into it, is always going to give bad results, even for tough plants. Instead, dig the whole row you are planting in, to a width of at least 3 feet. Incorporate plenty of rich organic material, to hold water and feed your plants.

If the ground is dry it may be hard to dig, so you should water the day before you dig or till. Once it is all ready to go, water thoroughly again the evening before you are going to plant.

Preparing the Potted Plants

When your new plants arrive, you may not be ready to plant right away. Remove all the packaging, and then place the plant in an area shaded from the afternoon sun. Plastic pots, especially black ones, absorb a lot of heat from the sun, and this damages the roots. If you do have to leave the plants in the sun, arrange them in a block so they shade each other, and then put something over the pots on the south and west side to protect them from direct sunlight. Burlap, some broad planks, mulch or loose soil are some possible materials you could use.

The biggest risk when planting in hot weather comes from handling plants with dry root balls. The soil can fall off, the roots rapidly become desiccated once outside the pot, and there is a real danger that the root ball will still be dry after you have planted and watered them. So always water the pots thoroughly the evening before planting. If you have to water them just before planting, go ahead – the only problem with that is the soil is wet and so makes more mess.

Water Deeply When Planting

You should still cut through the circling roots around the root ball in two or three places – it doesn’t hurt, and it encourages the roots to grow outwards, which is what you want. The commonest way people plant is to fill the holes completely and then water the area. A much better method, especially during summer weather, is to put back half to two-thirds of the soil, firming it down around the root ball. Then fill the remaining space with lots of water, and wait until it soaks down. This simple trick makes sure that plenty of water is available around the roots, where it is needed, not in the top few inches, where the roots can’t reach it. If you are forced to plant into dry soil, then do this soaking twice, so that the water spreads outwards too. Once the water has drained away, put back the rest of the soil, and once all the plants are in, go around and give them a final soaking.

Mulch the Root Zone to Conserve Moisture

Applying mulch over the root-ball zone of newly planted trees is always the right thing to do, but even more so in summer. It will keep the soil cool, which encourages root growth, and it reduces water-loss from the soil surface, reducing the risk of the soil drying out. Cover the soil further out than the width of the root-ball, because you want to create a cool, moist environment that the roots will want to grow into. Apply a layer 3 to 4 inches thick and keep it a few inches away from the stem and foliage.

Keep up the Watering

The biggest risk with summer planting is the rapid drying of the root-ball because of high rates of water loss from the foliage. Warm weather encourages growth, and it also increases the rate that water is lost from the leaves, especially from soft new growth. The only water available to newly-planted trees is in the soil that the roots are in, which is a small volume. So that moisture can be removed in a day or two. Water will be drawn into that soil from the surrounding earth, especially if you have firmed it down properly, but it may not happen fast enough. Because you see the soil surface looking damp, that doesn’t mean the hidden root-ball is. For the first three or four weeks, water every second or third day by letting water trickle down close to the stem of each plant. That way you will keep that root-ball damp. Water the surrounding soil too if it starts to look dry, because you want the roots to grow outwards, and they won’t grow into dry soil. Once the plants are established, you only need to water the whole area, as normal.


If you follow these simple tips, which are just good gardening habits, then summer planting of Thuja Green Giant is as easy as relaxing on those gorgeous summer days and watching your plants grow.

How Did Thuja Green Giant Come to Be the Top Evergreen?

There is no question that among evergreens, Thuja Green Giant is the most recommended and the most popular of them all. When it comes to rising to the top of the poles, it’s a case of, “May the best plant win”. So what qualities does this plant have that allowed it to rise to the top? In answering that question, we can learn more about this plant, its suitability for your garden, and what it is about it that has proved so successful. Now read on. . .

The Origins of Thuja Green Giant

When we think of famous places for producing plants, Denmark is not a country that immediately comes to mind – yet it is there we begin our story. Dorus Poulsen was a keen amateur botanist and gardener, and in 1878 he started a nursery, growing and selling plants, near a grand manor house called Frijsenborg. There he became known for his rose breeding, and the Poulsen name was associated with quality and innovation. When Dorus retired in 1925 his sons took over the nursery, and it was probably one of them, who, in 1937, found a seedling that would eventually become famous. Here the picture is a little murky, because we don’t know if this was something produced by a breeding program – the Poulsen family were all keen on plant breeding – or just an accidental event that caught their keen eye. In any case, within a short time World War II would engulf Europe, and seedling evergreens were not of much importance in that life-or-death struggle.

It is 1967 before we pick up the trail again, now at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. They received a shipment of plants from a Poulsen nursery – the company now had a number of branches- in Kvistgaard, north of Copenhagen. There were several different plants of Thuja evergreens, and these were planted out for observation in a nursery area. Several staff members noticed the speed of growth of this plant, which was very rapid in the early years, and in 25 years this plant was 30 feet tall – a remarkable achievement. In the early 1990s people were starting to pay attention

What is Thuja Green Giant?

So what was this plant? The botanists could see that it was a Thuja, a relative of the eastern Red Cedar, which is a common plant throughout the north-east. Because of its vigor and rapid growth, they suspected it was a hybrid – a cross between two natural species – but they didn’t know. The records didn’t help much, and beyond tracing it back to that Poulsen plant found in 1937, they didn’t have much to go by.

However they now had DNA analysis available, a great tool for solving these kinds of mysteries, and using that a team of scientists from the major American botanical gardens figured out what they were dealing with. This mystery plant really was something remarkable and never seen before – a hybrid between the Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata, and the Japanese Arborvitae, Thuja standishii.  One grows in Oregon and Washington state, and the other grows in Japan. We may never know exactly what happened in that nursery in Denmark 80 years ago, but it produced a trans-pacific hybrid, full of what plant breeders call ‘hybrid vigor’.

Why Does Thuja Green Giant Grow So Fast?

When two plants are bred together, all the best forms of the many genes it has hide the bad forms, that naturally accumulate over the millennia. So a hybrid plant is running on all cylinders perfectly, creating this hybrid vigor, and this is the simple explanation of why Thuja Green Giant grows as fast as it does. Growth rates of over 3 feet a year have been seen in young plants. In a trial at the University of Arkansas, tiny plants grew 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide after only 7 years. This was a trial of many hedging plants, and the fastest was the Green Giant. This is the major reason for the popularity of this plant – its growth rate. If you need large evergreens in a short time, then Thuja Green Giant is the number one choice – right on top of the list.

Deer Don’t Touch It

Deer are a serious problem for some gardeners, and they can and do decimate plantings. Some kinds of Thuja are popular winter food, and a hedge or screen can and is often stripped completely of its lower branches – ruining the work of decade or more.

Deer are very unpredictable, and when driven by hunger will eat just about anything, so it’s impossible to make an absolute statement, but the evidence is that Thuja Green Giant is almost always left alone. Spraying with a deer repellent in winter, especially when plants are young, is always a good idea, but compared to other Thuja, deer resistance is another reason why Thuja Green Giant is at the top of the polls for large evergreens.

Lack of Pests and Diseases

That hybrid vigor that produces such rapid growth also protects Thuja Green Giant from any serious pests or diseases. This is unlike some other evergreens, and one reason for the success and popularity of this plant is its usefulness in replacing old hedges that have become diseased

How Winter-hardy is Thuja Green Giant?

If you live in zone 5, or anywhere warmer, then there is no question that this plant will thrive, and it will survive winter in a perfect green state. If you have heavy snow, then any evergreen needs to be trimmed from time to time, so that it doesn’t have long side branches that can bend and break under wet, heavy snow. But as for winter burn, browning, or the bronzing that plagues some evergreens, those will not be a problem.

If you live in colder zones, then Emerald Green Arborvitae is a better choice. It’s hardy to zones 2 or 3, making it a top choice. At the other end of the scale, if you live in zone 9, or in a hot, dry area like Arizona, then the Italian Cypress is the best choice. It’s still fast-growing, and it is acclaimed for its drought-resistance.

Looking at these things -from growth rate to hardiness – it’s easy to see why Thuja Green Giant has risen to the top of the list for larger evergreens, whether you need an informal screen or a trimmed hedge. Just remember that it does get large, so don’t use it for hedges less than 6 feet tall, or plant it in narrow spaces, or too close to buildings. It’s a great plant, but sometimes something smaller is a better choice!

How to Choose a Hedge Trimmer – Part 2

If you are in the market for a hedge trimmer, then the first part of this blog will help you ask the basic questions about what you need, and what features to look for. From the right bar length for your needs, to the safety features to look for, there are a several things to think about. Once you have done that, the next big question is how your trimmer is going to be powered. So this week we are going to look at the options, and why you might choose one over the other.

Trimmer power – the basics

There are three ways to power hedge trimmers – by hand, by gasoline, or by electricity. We will save some comments on hand trimming for the end, so let’s look at gasoline first.

Gas-powered Hedge Trimmers

Gas trimmers give you complete flexibility. You can use them anywhere, without being tied to a cord, and they just need a quick re-fueling to go as long as you need. But they are usually heavier, and noisier, so they are more the choice for someone with larger hedges, thicker wood to cut, and for someone with more experience with garden machinery. If this is your first trimmer, then gas might not be the right choice.

As many people will know, small gasoline engines come as 2-stroke or 4-stroke. Traditionally, trimmers operate from a 2-stroke engine, which runs on a mixture of oil and gas. 2-stroke engines are lighter in weight, with fewer parts, and they can be operated easily in any position. 4-stroke were always for larger machines, such as mowers, but in recent years some of the top-branded hedge trimmers are coming with new, flexible 4-stroke engines, that work in any position, and are relatively light. These are mostly for commercial gardeners, but if you have some large hedges you might want to consider one. You need to be strong, and willing to pay several hundred dollars, but the result is a tough machine that can handle just about anything.

For the rest of us, and normal garden use, a 2-stroke engine is a better bet, and a quality machine will be in the $200 to $400 range.

Electric-powered Hedge Trimmers

It used to be that electric meant a long power cord, but today there are cordless electric trimmers. Let’s think about those that use a cord first.

Corded Trimmers

If you have smaller hedges, closer to the house, and you don’t have a lot to trim, then a machine with a cord is probably your easiest choice. These machines are light-weight, since you aren’t carrying fuel around, and they are priced at the lower end of the market, so you won’t break the bank. Unless you already have an outdoor extension cord, you need to add the cost of that to the cost of the trimmer, so the price is more than it looks at first. As a rule, a cord is probably not a practical option if the furthest point you need to go is more than 100 feet away. Within that range you should be fine. Remember that outdoor cords are usually 100 ft long, and it is unsafe to join two together – moisture can enter the connection, and it might drop into a puddle. Also, long cords don’t always trip the safety switch, with potentially fatal results. So stay within that 100 feet range. Take a ball of string and measure it out as if you were working, from the closest power-point. Don’t just run a straight line with a tape. If you don’t have outdoor power-points you will have to run it from indoors, or perhaps from the garage, which will add distance too.

The second issue with corded trimmers is handling them when working. There is a danger of trapping the cord in the blade while cutting, so you always need to be aware of where the cord is while you are working.

Cordless Electric Hedge Trimmers

The development of improved re-chargeable batteries has made cordless trimmer the latest thing, although few approach the power of a gas trimmer. You can reckon on a high-end gas trimmer cutting branches an inch thick, a similar corded trimmer will cut ¾ of an inch, but the best cordless will probably only be able to handle ½ an inch. If you trim regularly that should be more than enough.

There are several advantages to using a cordless trimmer. They are lighter than a gas machine, although heavier than a machine with a cord. They are the quietest of all, which can be a big consideration for your family and neighbors. They don’t surround you with fumes, and they don’t pollute the environment with exhaust gases and carbon dioxide. You don’t have to go out for fuel, or carry it around with you, although you might want to have a second battery pack. Which is the main limitation to these machines – run time. Smaller machines may not run for enough time to finish the job, so consider how long it takes you to cut, and try to buy something that will last.

The other thing to check for is the charging time. There have been a lot of innovations in this area, and charge times of just 30 minutes are increasingly common. So on a big job, you can recharge in the time it takes you to have a coffee break, or over lunch. This means that in practice you can go forever on just one battery.

Batteries can become heavy, and to get the longest run-times without carrying a heavy trimmer, back-packs are available. Wearing the battery makes it a lot lighter, and once you enter this bracket of machine, you can consider a system with one power-pack and multiple appliances – blower, hedge-trimmer, string-trimmer and more. You get high quality with a lower overall investment.

Hand Trimming

Some people consider hand-trimming something for grandad only, but others recognize that for the best finish, nothing beats it. If you have small sections of hedges, or specimen plants you like to keep trimmed, you will be amazed at the difference in the quality of the look from hand trimming. If you want to make complex shapes, then hand trimming is pretty much essential.

Find a good pair of shears. The best are usually sold as ‘topiary shears’, and have shorter, slim blades. Learn how to sharpen them properly, and keep your shears sharp, and properly lubricated. This is the quietest option of all, and there is something satisfying and calming about hand trimming. If you have never tried it, give it a good – it’s the Zen of hedge trimming.

How to Choose a Hedge Trimmer – Part 1

Everyone loves to see an immaculate hedge, trimmed perfectly, with that perfect smooth, dense surface. Having the right trimmer for the job makes all the difference, and so does taking care of it properly. If you have an old trimmer, now is the right time to be out buying a new one, so that your hedge will look great and the job will go quickly. If you feel bewildered about which kind of trimmer to buy, read on, and things will soon be a lot clearer. In this part we will look at the basic parts and options of a trimmer, and safety features to look for. Next time we will look at the possible power sources for your trimmer.

Trimmer basics – the components

A power trimmer is a simple machine. It has a motor, either electric or gasoline, which drives a bar in a reciprocal action – back and forth. This slides along a fixed bar, the blade support rod. There are teeth along both the blade and the support, which create a scissor action cut at each tooth. There are several differences between trimmers that you should consider when shopping and thinking about what your personal needs and abilities are:

Single-sided or double-sided blade?

Most trimmer blades have teeth along both sides, but some have them on one side only. Single-sided blades are safer to use, because you are always cutting away from yourself. Double-sided blades are more usual and cutting in both directions is considered better for your hedge. If you are left-handed then a double-sided blade will be easier to use.

How wide is the gap between the teeth?

The space between the teeth varies, and it determines the widest branch you can cut cleanly. The branch has to fit between the teeth to be cut. Larger machines have more powerful engines, and can cut thicker branches, so the teeth are wider apart – an inch or more. If you are planning to cut an over-grown hedge, with thick branches, then you might need that, but for ordinary use a gap of 3/8 to ¾ of an inch will be fine. Remember that for most conifers (yew is an exception), if you cut into a thick branch with no green parts on it, it won’t regrow, so if you have an arborvitae hedge for example, like Thuja Green Giant, you don’t want to be cutting into thick branches anyway. Also, finer spacing gives a neater trim, so if you trim regularly, a narrow gap will give you the best results.

How long is the blade?

Blade lengths vary a lot. A short blade is useful for smaller plants, but it will take longer to do a large hedge, and it’s a little harder to get a really even surface with one, too. Longer blades are heavier, and change the balance of the trimmer, making it harder to lift up. So if you are not too strong you will find a long blade more tiring, although the job will go more quickly. Long blades are more difficult to use to make rounded or curving shapes too, but terrific for that flat hedge look.

A 13 to 16-inch blade is ideal for smaller shrubs, and small hedges, like boxwood.

A 16 to 20-inch blade is perfect for an average, medium-sized hedge and is a good ‘all-round’ size too.

A 20 to 40-inch blade is the choice for a big hedge or screen, or if you do a lot of trimming.

How fast does the blade move?

The ‘stroke rate’ is the speed at which the blade goes back and forth. High speed cutting gives you sharper, more precise trimming, but cut finer growth best. Speeds of up to 5,000 strokes per minute can be found. If you trim regularly, so you only cut fine growth, look for a high stroke rate and narrow teeth spacing – it will give you the smoothest hedge possible.

What is the blade made of?

Some blades are titanium coated. Others are made of high-carbon steel. Titanium is stronger and lighter, but not as hard, so it doesn’t stay sharp for so long. Most professionals choose high-carbon steel, as it sharpens well and holds the edge. However, carbon steel rusts, so you need to keep it clean and well-lubricated, especially over the winter period when it is being stored.

Wraparound handle?

This is a common feature, but it may be missing from cheaper models. If the front handle goes around three sides, you can turn the trimmer more effectively, making it easier to reach tricky spots.

Extension pole?

Some trimmers can be operated from a removable extension pole. This gives you more reach from the ground, and its quicker and safer to trim that way than from a ladder.

Is it part of a kit?

If you need a range of garden tools, like a string trimmer, or small saw, then a hedge trimmer that is part of a kit range will save you money overall, even if the initial investment is higher.

Safety Features

Anything sharp is a potential safety hazard, and hedge trimmers are no exception. To reduce the risk of injury there are several safety features available. You can decide which ones are most important to you and your own circumstances.

Front-handle shield?

Most trimmers have a shield fitted at the back of the blade, between the blade and the front handle. This protects that hand from being accidently caught in the blade, especially in those seconds when it is coming to a halt. It also deflects wood chips flying backwards, reducing the chance of one getting into your eyes (you should be wearing goggles anyway!)

Safety lock?

If you have children, then a safety lock is important. Even if you keep your trimmer in a locked cupboard you might have to leave it out for a few minutes unguarded. Children love tools! Some trimmers have a lock that secures the machine in the ‘off’ position, so it can’t be accidently started. You have to simultaneously hold down the lock and activate the machine to start it. You might find this action a bit tricky, so if you don’t need this feature you might choose to avoid it, although most machines for the home market will have it.

Tooth extensions?

Some blades have blunt sections coming from the teeth, so you hit those before you hit the blade. This is a useful safety feature, but it can make the blade heavier and a bit more awkward to use.

Dual operation?

The biggest danger when working with a trimmer is operating it with one hand and then cutting the other one, or your free arm. So some trimmers have dual switches, one on the handle and one on the bar that runs across the top. That way you can only operate the machine when holding it with both hands. This does reduce your potential reach, so you might need a taller ladder to trim the top, for example.

Lock on?

If you do a lot of trimming, being able to lock the blade on, rather than have to keep squeezing the handles, makes trimming easier. It does of course also make accidents more possible.

How to Care for Thuja Green Giant in Spring

In the garden it makes sense to establish a season routine, so that plant care happens at the times when it can have the most impact. Thuja Green Giant, grown as a hedge or screen, or as a specimen tree, is low-maintenance and easy-care, but some basic activities can make the difference between good and great. So let’s see what should be done for it at this time, as your garden is waking up, and new growth is everywhere. These things are especially helpful for new plants, perhaps ones put in last year, or planted over the winter.


A good fertilizer program is the best way to get the maximum growth this plant is capable of. If you planted Thuja Green Giant, then you probably wanted something that would grow quickly, and create the hedge or screen you wanted, in the least possible time. You can help that out by using a suitable fertilizer for your situation.

Young plants benefit from liquid fertilizers. These carry the nutrients already dissolved in water, so they are immediately available for the roots to take up. They are especially useful for the limited root volume of new plants, and their rapid availability means a quick response from the plants. These fertilizers are available either as concentrated liquids or as powders. Whichever you use, follow the directions carefully, as too much can make for big problems, with browning foliage and even death a possibility. Used correctly they are safe and efficient. Once mixed with water at the right concentration, water onto the roots, making sure you cover the whole root zone, which is a couple of feet or more in each direction.

Liquid fertilizers can take a while to apply, especially on a long hedge, although hose-end applicators make it a lot easier and quicker. For more established hedges granular fertilizers, which are sprinkled onto the ground over the root zone, are much easier to use, and have the advantage of lasting much longer. While liquid fertilizers need re-applying every two weeks to a month, granular fertilizers need on only two or three applications a year. In fact, if you go for the modern slow-release forms, once a year, in spring, is all you need. These are more expensive, but the saving in time and remembering to re-apply is worth it. Fertilizer spikes are not so effective, as they do no give even coverage. They can be useful for a single plant, but overall their cost and reduced efficiency is hard to justify.

Increasingly, gardeners are choosing organic sources for fertilizer, to avoid using harsh chemicals. There is a also a greater understanding of the need to activate natural processes in the soil, which improve it, and increase nutrient flows to your plants. This is often achieved by boosting the levels of soil microbes, adding those that can be missing, or specific forms to tackle the fertilizer sources being used.

Whatever type of fertilizer method you use, make sure you choose something designed for evergreens. These always have a high first number in the formula printed on the box, something like 12-3-5. The exact numbers are not important, but the balance is. Look for a high first number, which is nitrogen, for green leaves, and ideally the last number – potash – will be a little more than the middle number, which is phosphorus. Potash makes plants more resistant to cold, heat and pests.


In many places spring is a time of rain, and extra watering is the last thing you think off, but in some areas a dry spring is always possible, so be ready to water if the soil dries. Because this is such an important time for growth, where much of the year’s growth can happen in a few weeks, any dryness is going to stop that.

If, in your area, you need to water your hedge very often, installing an irrigation line is a great time saver. The simplest and best is a leaky pipe, which weeps water from all over the surface. You need a pipe double the length of your hedge. Weave it in and out of the plants, laying it over the soil area, not right up against the trunks. Then use a regular hose to connect it to a tap. Let it run for several hours, so that the water soaks right in. An easy idea is to use a simple timer valve on the tap. This is then programmed for the length of time you need to run it, and you can also set it to run once or twice a week, if you don’t have substantial rainfall. If you have a built-in irrigation system you can connect it to that, as a zone.

Always check the soil moisture directly, by touching it, or using a moisture meter. Even after a lot of rain it can be dry around a hedge, because the dense foliage prevents the rain penetrating. This is especially true with heavy but brief thunderstorms.


A spring trim is always a good idea – for a hedge of any age. Start with an inspection and removing any dead stems or damaged branches. For new plantings it is important to trim lightly, even if the hedge hasn’t reached where you want it yet. This builds a dense structure, and it makes for a much better and longer-lived hedge. Just take the ends of the branches several times a year. You will hardly slow down the growth at all, but the result will be a terrific hedge. For established hedges, wait until the new growth has completely covered the hedge before trimming.

When you trim, pay close attention to keeping the front of the hedge sloping inwards a little. Never trim so that the top is wider than the bottom. This basic principle will give you a terrific long-lived hedge that always looks great.

For screening, trimming may not be necessary, but it still pays to go over the trees once a year, cutting back any branches that are outside the main structure, and even giving the whole screen a light trim. You may not want to reduce the size, but trimming will increase the density, and make for a more beautiful screen.


Attention to these basics will give you perfect Thuja Green Giant plants – however you are growing them. It simple, doesn’t take a lot of time, and pays you back in beauty and utility.

Green Giant or Emerald Green – What is the Difference?

That screen or hedge you plant is an important part of your garden, and something that is going to be with you for many years. Making the right choices, planting it correctly, growing it up, and maintaining it, are all steps along the road to the perfect hedge – beautiful, functional and easy to care for. Hedge plants might all look green, but they are all different, and making the right choice is the first step on the road to that perfect planting. The top two evergreen trees for hedging are certainly Thuja Green Giant, and Emerald Green Arborvitae, so which should you choose? Let’s answer some of the basic questions often asked about these plants, to help you make the right choice for your particular situation.

What is the Difference Between Green Giant and Emerald Green?

Let’s start with how they are the same. Both these trees are evergreen conifers belonging to the group botanists call Thuja. They are part of the cypress family, and a small group, with just five members. All of them are trees of different sizes, and all have scaly green leaves that cling to fan-shaped small branches, creating a dense structure. Older trees develop small cones – which is why they are conifers. They are called cedars, arborvitae, or thujas – all these are the same trees.

Of those 5 species, three are native to North America, and two to Asia. Their connection dates back to the time before the Pacific Ocean pushed those two continents apart. Emerald Green is a form of the Eastern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis. This tree saved the lives of the early settlers, when native Americans showed them how to make a tea from the foliage that prevented the development of scurvy in the wintertime. Those grateful settlers called it the Tree of Life – which translated into Latin is ‘arbor vitae’ – the origin of that common name.  Although an American tree, it was a Danish nurseryman who found the form he called ‘Smaragd’. That was in 1950, and the great virtue of this plant was that it stayed green all winter, instead of turning bronzy-green they way most of these plants do. That is why grateful American gardeners nicknamed it Emerald Green.

The story of Green Giant is more complex, and also happened in Europe, at the same Danish nursery – D. T. Poulsen. In the 1930s they found a plant that they believed was a hybrid between a Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishii) and a Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), they had growing near each other. These two plants grow on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, so they could only meet when brought together in a garden. Because of world events it was only in the 1960s that a specimen arrived in America, and only in the early 1990s that nurserymen noticed this plant and realize what a great hedging and screening plant it would make. It had never been named, but the name ‘Green Giant’ seemed very appropriate, so that is what it became.

Which One Should I Grow?

Interesting as all that is, the big question for most gardeners is, ‘Which one should I choose?’, so let’s try to answer that question.

Which One Grows Fastest?

On this question there is no doubt. While Emerald Green is certainly a steady grower, adding as much as 12 inches a year once established, under good growing conditions, Green Giant puts that to shame. Like other plants that are hybrids, it is very vigorous, and can grow 3 feet a year when young. Over several years it will add several more feet to its height than Emerald Green will. So if it was simply a matter of growth-rate, Thuja Green Giant is undoubtedly the winner. In fact, there is nothing else that grows so fast, or creates a barrier so quickly.

Which Grows Biggest?

Size does matter – with hedges too. If you are looking for a tall screen or hedge, over 10 feet tall, then you should go with Thuja Green Giant. If left unclipped it will reach 30 in as many years, and it will be 12 feet wide if grown in the open. That is a big plant, so if you are planning not to clip, be sure you have the room for it, and allow enough space for its width too. No point in planning a ‘no trimming’ screen and then having to trim because it has grown all over your driveway!

For smaller hedges, screens and specimen plants, choose Emerald Green Arborvitae, because it only grows 12 to 14 feet tall, and 3 or 4 feet wide.

Where Do They Grow Best?

If you live in the colder parts of the country – zones 2, 3, and 4, the Emerald Green Arborvitae is your obvious choice. It is completely hardy to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, without even needing winter protection. Green Giant might survive, with some injury, in zone 4, but beyond that it is ‘no contest’. Colder areas are just not suitable for that plant. Emerald Green will also grow well up to zone 7, so for smaller hedges in areas where you could grow Green Giant, you might decide that Emerald Green is your better choice.

In the warmer zone 6, 7, 8 and even 9, then Green Giant Arborvitae is the obvious choice – and the only one in zones 8 and 9.

Will Deer Eat Them?

It is impossible to be definitive about deer – when they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. But Green Giant has been found to be deer resistant in many parts of the country, while Emerald Green is much more likely to be eaten. If deer are a problem where you live, the answer is obvious.

What Kind of Soil Do They Like?

Here too there are some clear differences. Both these plants do well in most kinds of soil, but Emerald Green, because it is a form of the eastern white cedar, will grow well even in wet, partly flooded areas, or any soil with poor drainage. If you have wet soil, and are zone 7 or lower, then Emerald Green is the better choice. If the soil is well-drained, then Green Giant Arborvitae will grow well, in anything from sandy soil to clay.

Which Makes the Best Hedge?

The answer here is simple – both. What matters in creating a smooth, flat-fronted hedge – which is what most people like to see – is spacing. Since Emerald Green is only about 4 feet wide when mature, in a single row you need to plant them just 2 or 3 feet apart, otherwise they will never grow together properly. With Green Giant, you can space them 3 to 5 feet apart, and still grow the perfect hedge. That difference means you need fewer plants, and the cost of a hedge will be lower.


So there is the answer – it depends. . . Now you have plenty of information to make your decision – so you are much more likely to make the right one.

The Beginners Guide to Thuja Green Giant

You have probably heard the name, and likely seen the plant, but if you are an absolute beginner, just starting out with your first garden, then you might be wondering what all the fuss is about, and why so many people have so much to say about this plant. It’s green, right? – and it must be big?

If you just took over a garden, or have a brand new one to plant, then Thuja Green Giant is almost certainly your best friend. This plant is an evergreen – it stays green all winter – and it is a conifer, that is, it doesn’t have flowers, but instead has structures called cones. This means that it is related to pine trees, which you probably recognize, although it looks very different. It has tiny leaves that cling to the stems, so it looks like divided green branches, all growing together.

Why is Thuja Green Giant the Top Choice Evergreen?

The main reason is its speed of growth – 3 feet a year is common in the early years, and it will put on at least 10 feet in the first 7 years – and that is proven by research. That is faster than any other evergreen tree. Period. Other reasons are how tough this tree is in many different climates, soils, and growing conditions. It has no significant pests or diseases, and deer usually leave it alone too. What’s not to like in all that?

What Is Thuja Green Giant Like?

Thuja Green Giant forms an upright, green bush that is always a rich, healthy green color, through all the seasons. That is why gardeners like to use it for hedges and screens, because it always blocks whatever it is you want to block – neighbors, a highway, another home, or an ugly view. It naturally grows upright, and it stays green right to the ground for many years, which is great, because it will keep blocking that view at eye-level. That doesn’t mean it stay small, as it can eventually grow 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide – and it won’t take long to do it. The first thing to remember is that if you are planting this tree and don’t plan to trim it, make sure it has room to grow. Plant it at least 6 feet away from walls, fences, existing plants, and your house. Don’t plant it beneath a window, there are lots of other dwarf evergreens for spots like that.

Thuja Green Giant will stay dense and upright, if you trim it, or if you don’t. Untrimmed it will grow taller, but you can make a very good maintenance-free barrier from it with no trimming, just so long as you have enough room for it to grow to full size.

Where Will Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Thuja Green Giant grows anywhere from zone 5 to zone 9. If you don’t know your growing zone, you can enter your postcode on this Department of Agriculture site and quickly find out. If it turns out you live in a colder zone than 5, use Emerald Green Arborvitae instead – it looks similar and is hardy in the coldest places.

As for soil, don’t worry, this tree will grow in just about any kind of soil, if it is not constantly wet. Even in wet places, if you plant your trees on a ridge of soil, they will usually adapt and thrive.

This tough tree grows best in full sun, but it will also grow well in partial shade – that is, either a place that gets a few hours of sun a day, or that is in light shade from deciduous trees or buildings.

How do I Make a Hedge or Screen with Thuja Green Giant?

For a hedge that will be solid in just a few years, space them 3 feet apart. If you are not in too much of a hurry you can space them up to 5 feet apart. Whatever you choose, space them evenly. For an untrimmed screen, space them at least 5 feet apart, and you can increase that to as much as 10 feet, if you don’t need a solid barrier in a hurry. Remember to allow room for them to grow wider, so allow at least 3 feet for a trimmed hedge, or 6 feet for an untrimmed screen, away from a path or driveway, or your property boundary.

How Do I Plant Thuja Green Giant?

If you are not used to planting trees, don’t worry – it’s easy. Prepare the ground first, by digging the ground deeply, by hand or with a roto-tiller. If you are planting just one or two trees, then dig an area about 3 feet across, a spade deep, and plant in the center of that. For a hedge or screen, it is best to dig a full row, but you can just make individual holes instead. If you use a roto-tiller go over the ground several times to till it as deeply as you can. If there are a lot of weeds, try to rake out as many roots as you can. It is best if you can add some organic material at the same time, digging it well into the soil. There are lots of suitable materials – garden compost, rotted animal manures like cow, sheep or horse, mushroom compost if it is available where you live, and peat moss or rotted leaves are good too. Use a plant starter fertilizer as well, to activate the soil and give your new trees the nutrients they need to get off to a good start.

When it comes time to plant, water your plants well the night before, and dig the holes. If you prepared the soil well, the hole only needs to be as deep as the depth of the pot. Slide the pot off the roots and take a look. If there are roots wrapping around and around inside the pot, take a sharp knife and cut from top to bottom an inch deep, through those roots at three places around the pot, and also make a cross across the bottom. Now place the tree into the hole, adding firm soil beneath it until it is at the same level as it was in the pot. Put back some of the soil, and firm it down with your feet around the root ball. Fill the hole to the top with water. Let it drain away and then put back the rest of the soil, firming it down again around the roots. Water again if the surrounding soil is dry, and you are all done.

How do I Take Care of Thuja Green Giant?

Caring for this tough tree is easy. For the first year or two, remember to water once a week all season, stopping when all the leaves are off the trees. In warm areas, if winter is dry, water from time to time. After those early years, if you water regularly you will get lots of growth, but established plants will survive all but the most extended drought. Trim or don’t trim – the choice is yours. Now that was easy.

Thuja Green Giant and the ‘Hedge or Fence?’ Debate

Probably the most fundamental aspect of a garden is its boundaries. These may be along the property line, or they may be internal divisions, separating one part of the garden from another. For some gardeners they are just the beginning, to be followed by trees, shrubs, beds, and a complex garden design. For others, just a lawn and a shade tree are all that needs adding, once that important privacy is found.

When it comes to those boundaries, there is an on-going debate about how to make it – should I erect a fence, or should I plant a hedge? As well, if a hedge is chosen, then what plant should it be? Both fences and hedges have their cheer-leaders, and there are pros and cons for both, so let’s consider them, to help you make the best decision for yourself.

The Benefits of Fences

Probably the major reason many choose a fence is that once done, its done. That is to say, it’s finished the day it goes in. Full height, solid barrier, there is nothing more to do. Installation is often quick, using a post-hole driller, and panels attach quickly too. A day or two, and a professional will have it all done. Even if you save money by doing it yourself, it probably will only take a couple of weekends, perhaps with the help of some friends, and the job is done.

If you choose a suitable material, perhaps good-quality vinyl, or coated metal, then you can be looking at 10 or 20 years without any maintenance. Wooden fences have a shorter life, and they are cheaper too, unless you choose high-end lumber for it.

Fences are a good choice for a smaller space, particularly if you don’t have much space between your property and your neighbors, since it takes up very little room. It looks neat, and it won’t intrude on your neighbor’s property, even if it is right on the property line.

Problems with Fences

A large factor against fences is cost – the generally cost significantly more than a hedge to install, and cheaper options usually need more frequent maintenance, and deteriorate more quickly too. $20 to $40 a foot, installed, can easily be the cost of a fence, which is significantly more than planting a hedge.

A second problem is height. While a fence may be a reasonable choice at 4 to 6 feet, a 15-foot fence is a daunting proposition, and very expensive too. A hedge of that size, while perhaps tricky to trim if you need to, is perfectly feasible.

Thirdly, some communities require planning permission for fences, but not for hedges. That permission often comes with height limitations, and it may require the consent of a neighbor too, which can be a problem if you want that barrier because of a problem neighbor!

Benefits of Hedges

Beauty is one of the primary benefits of a hedge – in most cases, once a fence is installed people try to hide it with plants anyway, so why not just use plants from the get-go? That lush wall of green is a garden feature in its own right, and many people take pride in their hedges in a way they never would with their fence.

Then there is the quality of the screening. While a hedge creates a visual barrier, it does little else. A living hedge filters out noise, dust, air pollution and wind, while a fence can often increase wind speed, and doesn’t reduce noise very much either. This is an especially important benefit if you live along a highway, where a hedge really can bring tranquility, and create a micro-climate for gardening behind it. In summer a hedge even has a cooling effect, as moisture evaporates from the foliage, cooling the air as it does so.

Remember that 10 to 20-year life for a fence? It sounds good at the beginning, but as they say, time flies, and you could be ready to sell your property just when that fence needs replacing. A broken-down fence is a big negative to buyers, and you might find yourself having to invest in a new one. A hedge, on the other hand, will just be getting into its stride, and will look great after 20 years, if it has been well-maintained.

Another benefit of a hedge is to wildlife. Your hedge is a miniature wild-life sanctuary. Even if the hedge doesn’t provide food directly, it gives nesting sites and protection to birds, which in turn bring you song and excitement.

Problems with Hedges

The main problem most people see with hedges is the time it takes to grow, and its maintenance. It’s true that you must wait a while for a hedge to establish, fill-in and reach the height you want, and this is where a fast-growing evergreen like Thuja Green Giant gets into the picture. It has been proven to be the fastest plant on roots, yet it forms a solid, durable and long-lived barrier. In good conditions, and during the early years of establishment, a hedge of Thuja Green Giant can add three to five feet of growth in a single year. So it really won’t be long at all before you have a good visual barrier, and in a few years you will be looking at a beautiful barrier.

The other thing often raised is maintenance. People think they have ‘black thumbs’, not green ones, and they will soon kill their new hedge. Others have busy lives and they are not sure if they have the time needed. The good news is that a plant like Thuja Green Giant is very easy to grow. If you put down a simple irrigation line when planting, you can easily take care of watering. With modern slow-release fertilizers, feeding a hedge is a once a year quick job, and with Thuja Green Giant pests and diseases are never a problem – even deer usually leave it alone.

As for trimming, if you have a larger garden that doesn’t even need doing at all. Thuja Green Giant has a naturally dense, upright growth pattern, and forms a solid barrier without any trimming needed. Sure, it will not be that immaculate wall of green, but it is still lovely and green, and does everything a more formal hedge can do.

If you do choose to trim, the exercise is great, and you can always hire professionals to do it – consider the money you saved from that expensive fence.

Make Your Choice

There are lots of things to consider, and of course the choice is yours to make. But consider that there is something special about working with living plants, that an inanimate fence can never provide. Of all the hedging plants you can choose, Thuja Green Giant ticks more boxes than any other – which of course is why it is the number one evergreen across most of the country.

4 Signs it’s Time to Replant your Hedge – and how to make the new one last longer

Hedges are a basic garden feature. They create privacy and a sense of enclosure, providing protection for people and plants from cold winds. So we want them to look good, but often they don’t. Sometimes a careful trim will bring them back, but sometimes an older hedge is too far gone to be saved. How to tell the difference?

A hedge should last at least 30 years, and some gardens have hedges 100 years old or more. Partly it depends on the plants used – if they can be trimmed hard back they can have a longer life – but it also depends on the maintenance given, and how the hedge was developed when young.

Here are some things to look for that will tell you if time is up for your hedge, or if it can be salvaged. If you do put in a new hedge, some of these problems can be prevented, so your new hedge will ook good for longer than the old one did.

4 Signs it’s Time to Replant your Hedge

  • Dead areas – if you have a lot of dead in a hedge, it’s probably time to replace it
  • Gaps where plants have died – it is always hard to fill these gaps in mature hedges – sounds like time to replant
  • Bare at the base – once a hedge thins at the bottom, there is no recovery. Replanting time
  • Grown too wide – sooner or later paths and drives can be obstructed. For most hedge plants, that means it needs replacing

Dead areas

There is dead, and then there is dead. If you have brown areas on the face of your hedge, take a closer look and see why. Is the brown all attached to one branch, or is it scattered? Has a plant died, so that all its interlaced branches are now brown? Are there signs of insect damage, or disease? Black, brown or reddish spots on the leaves, or growths on the stems, can indicate a disease. Bagworms will attack some hedge plants, and their nests made of twigs will be visible hanging on the branches.

If a whole plant, or several, have died, then once you take it out you will have gaps, which we will talk about lower down. If it is just branches, then often you can remove these, and the surrounding live parts will grow into the spaces in a couple of years or less, depending on their size. Obviously smaller spaces fill more quickly, and you can protect against big gaps from branches dying by trimming in all directions, not just upwards, so that the branches grow out horizontally, not in long sweeps up the hedge.

Gaps where plants have died

If you have had to remove a dead plant, or perhaps you have an older hedge that has already lost plants, these can sometimes be replaced with new ones. To get back to a perfect, uniform surface you need to know what the plants are, which can be tricky, but if you plant something similar the color and texture difference might just be ‘interesting’ – it depends on what kind of person you are. Plants beginning to die out could be a sign of an old hedge, so it can often be better to replant from scratch than keep trying to fill in gaps.

There are two key things for filling gaps – use good-sized plants and dig planting holes that are as big as possible. Set the new plants inside the hedge, so that they can grow out and fill in the space. Don’t plant them on the edge, or they can never grow properly.

When you are planting a new hedge, buy a few extra plants and put them in another part of the garden. Trim them when you trim the hedge. Then if you lose a plant or two from your hedge, you can use these spare plants. They will match perfectly, be the same age, already have some density and structure, and be used to your garden. It makes sense.

Bare at the base

This is a classic problem with hedges that have been trimmed badly. There really is no simple solution on an established hedge, so if you need that coverage and privacy it is time to plant a new hedge. This problem develops when a hedge is trimmed evenly all over. The top always grows faster than the bottom, so if you trim evenly it is inevitable that the top grows wider. Then it shades the bottom and steals food reserves, weakening the growth further. Soon the lower branches are dead, and the growth of your hedge migrates to the top.

With your new hedge, don’t make the same mistake. The face of a hedge should slope slightly inwards, so that light, water and nutrients reach the lower branches. To achieve this, you need to trim more from the upper parts than from lower down. That’s all it takes, it’s simple, but often not understood by novice trimmers.

Too wide

Over time, hedges grow. It is not possible to keep them to zero growth, although we can get close to it with regular trimming. The less often you trim, the quicker they will grow wide. Suddenly you find your car brushing against the hedge along the drive, or you can’t walk down the path anymore. Beds in front of the hedge become engulfed, and neighbors complain they can’t get down the sidewalk.

It depends on the type of plant used to make your hedge, but with most evergreens, particularly conifers, like Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, or Emerald Green Arborvitae, cannot be cut back into branches with no leaves on them. That is why regular trimming – little and often – is the best. If you have a wide hedge, you can cut back as hard as you can, always leaving some green, and then repeat that once it thickens up. This way you can certainly get back a foot or so. If the problem is bigger than that, this is another signal to replant – you will be amazed how much garden space you recover!

Some plants, like most broad-leaf evergreens, and conifers like yew trees, can be cut back to bare wood and they will re-sprout. This is why we sometimes see yew hedges that are hundreds of years old. The technique to reduce the spread of plants like this is simple. Cut back one side very hard, leaving the other side alone. In a year or two the cut-back side with have re-sprouted and be lush and green. Now you can do the other side. The whole process takes 3 to 4 years, but its still quicker than replanting. Pity it doesn’t work for everything! For other plants that have outgrown their allotted space, the only solution is to plant a nice new hedge.