How does Thuja Green Giant Stack Up Against Its Rivals?

You have decided you need a hedge or screen on your property, maybe to give you privacy, to hide an ugly view, to reduce noise and air pollution, or to block cold winds and trap some warmth in your garden. Now comes the choosing part. It’s like deciding on a sofa – lots of choices, and many of them have good features. So how to decide? Let’s look at the major questions you need to ask, when choosing the plants to grow that screen, and see how they stack up against each other.

Evergreen or deciduous?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. An evergreen hedge might seem the obvious choice – after all, you usually want screening in winter too, but there can be advantages in a deciduous screen. Sometimes the area you want to screen is not used in winter, and a leafless hedge lets through a lot of light, so when the days are short in winter that might be just what you want – perhaps to let more light into your home. Remember that the sun is lower in winter, so a hedge can cast a long shadow over a lot of your garden. But yes, mostly the choice is going to be evergreen, for the privacy it gives, and the beautiful neutral green backdrop it creates in a garden.

Tall or shorter?

Just how tall you want your hedge or screen to be is an important consideration. If you plant something with a maximum height way more than you need, it will need constant trimming, and could in the future become a real menace to you and your neighbors. Thuja Green Giant is a terrific choice for a large hedge or screen but remember it will reach 30 feet tall or more in a relatively short time – as tall as the top of the roof of a two-story house. That is perfect is you need that height, and it will also get there fast, growing 3 feet or even more a year during its early years.

But if you want a hedge around 6 to 8 feet tall, you would be better choosing something else – perhaps Emerald Green Arborvitae, which will only reach 12 or 14 feet even if it is never trimmed. Sure, it will grow more slowly, but since you don’t want it so tall, your hedge will be ready in the same number of years. . .

Where do you live?

Climate has an enormous impact on which plants will grow well for you. Always stay well within your climate zone when choosing something as basic as a screening plant. It is fine to experiment with a shrub or even a small tree that might not be fully hardy for you, but don’t do that with a hedge. Across a very large part of the country Thuja Green Giant grows well – from zone 5 to zone 8 or 9. In colder areas the best bet by far is Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is perfectly hardy in the coldest areas, all the way through zone 3.

The second part of climate – besides winter minimum temperatures – that should be considered is rainfall. Unless you have extensive irrigation available, and that is no longer a very acceptable choice in many communities, you need to consider drought resistance. Thuja Green Giant is considered ‘drought resistant’, that is, established plants will be unaffected by the sort of summer droughts that are relatively normal in the east. When you move into arid states like Utah or Arizona, much longer periods of drought are normal. There much tougher plants are needed. Winter drought, combined with low temperatures, such as in the Dakotas, or even in Minnesota, call for plants that are both hardy and drought resistant. There plants like the Spartan Juniper, hardy to zone 4 and very drought resistant, become top hedge choices. In states with regular extended summer droughts, like California, and with mild winters, hedge plants like the Italian Cypress and the Arizona Cypress are your friends.

How long can you wait?

If you badly need this screen to make your garden habitable, then plants that grow rapidly in their early years are going to be top choices. Here there is no doubt that Thuja Green Giant has the opposition beaten cold. With proven growth rates of more than 3 feet when growing in a field, that can be topped with generous watering and fertilizer in many garden situations. The only potential rival for that top spot is the Leyland Cypress, but that tree has had disease issues in recent decades. In fact, the rise of Thuja Green Giant is directly related to disappointment with Leyland Cypress in warmer southern states in particular.

If you do need that extra height Leyland Cypress can bring – it will reach as much as 60 feet in a few decades – then choose the Murray Cypress, a more disease-resistant variety that was introduced relatively recently. Do be careful with Leyland Cypress though. If you don’t need, and have room for, all the height and bulk, then avoid it for something more modest. Thuja Green Giant is almost a dwarf evergreen against it.

For those drier areas Italian Cypress is not far behind these two, with rates of about 2 feet a year, but Arborvitae generally only grow about a foot, or even less, in a year, so if you don’t need them for winter hardiness, sticking with Thuja Green Giant makes a lot of sense.

What about deer?

This is always a big question, and it’s one that’s hard to answer, because those pesky critters are unpredictable, and what they will eat depends quite a lot on just how hungry they are. Broadly speaking, Thuja Green Giant is mostly ignored by deer, or only touched a little. Arborvitae, on the other hand, are almost always eaten, as is Leyland Cypress. Junipers and Italian Cypress are usually left alone, as they are rather spiny, but not always. . .

 

As you can see, there are lots of things to take into account when choosing your evergreens. For a ‘Three Bears’ garden, that is, “not to hot, not too cold, etc.” Thuja Green Giant stands out as the ‘go to’ choice, but if your situation is more extreme, other choices may be more suitable for your particular circumstances.

Many Ways to Use Thuja Green Giant on Your Property

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular evergreen planted in gardens, for its vigor, fast-growth, pest & disease resistance, and site adaptability. There are a lot of situations that can arise in gardens, and on larger properties, where this plant is the solution to a need or problem, but sometimes that may not be obvious. There are a surprising number of uses for this reliable plant, so we are going to discuss some of the most important ones, all of which may not be obvious to a new gardener.

Screening

This is probably the most common use for this tree, so this one does not fall into the ‘not too obvious’ category, but it certainly needs some discussion. There are lots of situations where screening is needed on a property – here are the main ones:

  • Your garden has no privacy – this could be due to a busy road passing by, or being close to neighboring houses, so that you are overlooked. There may be a walking path beside your garden, and walkers have even more time to take a look than passing drivers do.
  • You have ugly views – a busy highway is not something you want to look at, especially if you have an attractive rural property. Or perhaps you can see an industrial building, workshop of factory. These properties are often undervalued because of this, but a few years after planting a barrier your property value can zoom up, once you eliminate the cause of that lower value. A screen can be a real financial benefit.
  • You have noise around you – road traffic, aircraft, factories, sports fields, playgrounds – these all create noise-pollution that makes being in the garden an unhappy experience. Fences do little to block noise, unless they are specially designed for that function (and usually ugly and expensive), but plants filter sound very effectively, and behind a screen of Thuja Green Giant, all will be calm and peaceful, while the world rages on around you.

The need for screening is particularly a problem is the road passes the back or side of your property. We tend to accept that the front garden is not so private, as it almost always faces a road. But on corner lots, the side too is open, allowing a clear view into the back garden, which we often find unacceptable. Even with a ‘front’ only’ road, if the property is wide most of the garden may be visible. Worst of all is having a road running along the back, leaving you totally visible. There are lots of ways to screen, but plants provide the most cost-effective solution in almost all cases. They don’t begin to deteriorate the moment you put them in, as fences do – instead they become better and better. The only problem is the time taken to develop, and this is where Thuja Green Giant has the edge over every other evergreen available. It will grow 3 feet plus a year in its early years, and sooner than you can imagine you will have good screening – that only gets denser and better with every passing year.

Even if you move into a new development that has wooden fences already in place, remember that those fences will never screen higher up, and they will require maintenance and deteriorate over time. Planting a row of Thuja Green Giant along the fence will develop a screen to replace it, as the fence deteriorates. By the time it becomes an eye-sore, that collapsing fence won’t be visible to you at all, and it can be removed. The perfect solution.

As well, because fences are short, they provide only limited screening from things at ground level, not from upper story windows, multi-story buildings, or tall structures like billboards or power transformers. Thuja Green Giant will grow 20 or 30 feet tall – tall enough to screen most things from view, and certainly block the lower levels of even the tallest building. A 20 feet screening row of evergreens, say 30 feet from your viewing point, will block the lower 60 feet of something 100 feet away. It’s true!

Shelter

In some places, such as open countryside, or at the beach, strong winds can blow, and these make being in the garden unpleasant on many days. Windbreaks made from a variety of trees and shrubs can stop this.

  • Your garden is windy and exposed – it is very hard to grow a wide variety of plants, and create a beautiful garden, if the site is constantly swept by strong winds, that bring cold, rain and snow. Plants remain small, their foliage is damaged, and flowering is reduced or absent. Fruit trees drop their fruit – the list goes on and on. In exposed locations providing shelter from the prevailing winds is an essential first step to making a real garden, that you can enjoy, and love.
  • You want to encourage birds and wildlife – shelter belts made from a variety of trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, filter wind, trap noise, and provide refuges and nesting places for birds and other small animals. Birds are often excellent pest-control in a garden, and so you help your plants too, while encouraging a rich local ecology.

Air Pollution

Plants are the most effective way to trap air pollution, both particles and gases. That stink of a highway will largely disappear if the air must flow through evergreens like Thuja Green Giant to reach your garden. Dust is trapped, and settles around the base of plants, leaving the air clean and pure. Asthma and bronchitis will probably be reduced too, and these health benefits are real, and especially effective in urban areas.

Creating Internal Gardens

Making separate gardens within your garden is a great way to enrich your experience of it. Especially in a larger garden, you can create a series of ‘rooms’ for different purposes – a vegetable garden; a fruit garden; an ornamental flower garden to stroll in; a garden for your children to play in; the list goes on and it can be tailored to your personal preferences. Clipped hedges of Thuja Green Giant – they can be clipped regularly for a formal look or left more casual and clipped once a year or less – are a simple and effective way to create these internal rooms, and series of functional areas. Hedges can be the conventional straight line, but they can also be curved and even grown in circles, depending on your needs or creativity. Entrances can be created by overlapping the ends of the hedge, so that you can’t even see there are other areas, or the openings can be lined up to create long vistas through one garden after another. Sounds ambitious? Perhaps, but you can do more than you perhaps realize with a creative approach.

Specimens

For one last suggestion, you don’t have to grow Thuja Green Giant in rows. Single plants, or groups of two, three, five, or more, clustered in corners, or on a lawn, create elegant and easy-to-grow accent points, and permanent garden features that give structure to your garden, making it peaceful and graceful. When creating clusters, always use odd numbers, (except for two) – it looks a whole lot more natural.

Fall Care of Thuja Green Giant

Fall is just around the corner – indeed in northern areas Labor Day weekend often sees the first cooler weather arrive, and with it the first hints of fall color. As that color intensifies, our evergreens become more prominent, as their permanent green forms a backdrop to the kaleidoscope of golds and reds that takes over our trees. Once simply background, an evergreen screen or hedge is suddenly thrown into contrast – and its defects can become much more prominent. Just when we want them to look perfect, they may not be. So before the full arrival of fall, and the distractions and other garden work that arrives with it, now is an excellent time to give your hedges and evergreens some attention, so that they will be lush and green, and also so that they will pass through the coming winter unscathed.

Recommendations for Fall Care of Thuja Green Giant

  • Fertilizer with a high potassium feed – it toughens your plants for winter
  • Use a fertilizer with iron and magnesium – it will enrich the green coloring
  • Water deeply right up to freeze up – the best prevention for ‘winter burn’
  • Give a last trim in early fall – the perfect backdrop to fall color, and reduced winter damage too

Fall Fertilizer Guidelines for Thuja Green Giant

Through spring and summer, the emphasis in feeding evergreens is on the element nitrogen. This is the element that encourages vigorous, lush growth, and so evergreens need plenty of it to fulfil their promise. Strong, rapid growers like Thuja Green Giant in particular, have enormous potential for spring and summer growth, and three feet a year during its early life is easily achieved. But to do that your plants need plenty of nitrogen. So summer fertilizers for evergreens are packed with it, and N-P-K formulas like 10-8-6 in granular feeds, or 20-5-10 in liquid fertilizers are common.

In fall and through winter your evergreens have different needs, so a shift in formulation is needed. Roots respond to the moisture from fall rain, especially since the ground is still warm, and roots need lots of phosphorus – the ‘P’ in that formula. An increase in that number, or even an application of a high-phosphorus fertilizer for transplanting, is called for. Especially if you have new trees, planted back in spring, and you didn’t add phosphorus at that time, early fall is an ideal moment to use a ‘transplant’ fertilizer. Phosphorus is notorious for not penetrating into the soil, so a granular form needs to be forked into the top layers of soil. Alternatively, use a liquid formulation, where the nutrients will be carried deeper by the water they are dissolved in.

In colder area in particular, winter damage is always a concern. The nutrient potassium – that’s the ‘K’ in the formula – has been repeatedly proven to enhance cold resistance, as well as resistance to sucking insects and fungal diseases. A visit to your local hardware or garden center at this time will usually give you a high-potassium evergreen food for fall, with a lower first number too (that’s the nitrogen, remember). Reducing nitrogen and increasing potassium ‘hardens off’ that summer growth, slowing down your plants so they enter winter tough and resistant. As well, look for supplementary iron and magnesium, which will quickly put a rich green into your foliage, intensifying that beautiful color contrast with the golds of fall.

Fall Watering Recommendations for Thuja Green Giant

The stresses of summer can leave the subsoil dry, and unless you have several days of steady rainfall, your trees can go into winter in soil with a moisture deficit. This in turn will leave your plants more prone to stress, so through fall take steps to prevent that. Deep watering in early September will stimulate root growth, and those soakings should continue through the season, making sure to give one last one before the ground begins to freeze (if it does in your zone). Not only does this keep the roots healthy, and the foliage sturdy and full of moisture, but it gives important winter protection too, especially in colder areas, with young plants, and in exposed locations. Thuja Green Giant is one tough plant, but if the foliage is dry it can burn in cold winter winds and bright sun, when water is drawn from the foliage by the solar heat and cold, dry air. If that happens then that green color will turn to brown, disfiguring your hedge, and spoiling that wonderful green winter color. If the ground freezes then it is harder for the trees to draw up water, and the foliage is more susceptible to this kind of damage. Plenty of water at the roots is your secret weapon against this ‘winter burn’, because moist soil freezes more slowly, or not at all, so water uptake is easier for your trees.

Early fall is an ideal time for the last trim

Since your evergreens are about to become a whole lot more noticeable, it is time to smarten them up for the party. A light trim in early fall will smooth out any defects, and make your hedges and screens look perfect. But it’s not just a matter of visuals. Every time you trim you develop denser growth and a tighter surface on your hedges. With every trimming they become denser and denser, which is what gives hedges that mature look we all strive for. As well though, as is often the case with good gardening habits, it isn’t just a case of visuals. If snow and ice storms are a feature of your winters, then a smooth, dense and clipped surface on a hedge is much less likely to accumulate snow and ice and break apart. Make sure too that you round off the top if you are in a high-snowfall area, or subject to blizzards. The round top will shed snow better, and it is much less likely to collapse under the weight of accumulated snow.

If you follow these simple recommendations, you will be making your plants of Thuja Green Giant – and other similar evergreens too – even more beautiful, as well as giving them the best care possible. They will thank you with beauty and rich green coloring as the perfect backdrop to the colorful activities in your garden that make fall most beautiful of all the seasons.

The Beginner’s Guide to Evergreen Hedges and Screens

A hedge that is green all year is the perfect backdrop to any garden – heck, many gardens are simply a hedge, lawn and shade tree, and they provide everything needed to enjoy a simple garden. So planting a row of evergreens to create a clipped hedge, or a less formal, unclipped screen, is often the first major project in a new garden, followed by that lawn and shade tree. Of course, for a more beautiful garden flowering shrubs and other plants are needed too, but without that hedge, many gardens don’t look right. This is especially true if you have an unsightly view, or you are overlooked by a road or near-by houses, and the privacy you achieve from a hedge makes such a difference that most people choose to make it an early priority.

If you are new to gardening – perhaps this is your first home, after living in apartments – then there are plenty of pitfalls, so getting a clearer understanding of what you need, and what is involved, is the first step to take. Let’s do that here, and see what the vital questions are that will guide you through the process.

Questions to Ask When Planning an Evergreen Hedge

  • How high do I need my hedge to be?
  • What plants are the best choice for my area?
  • How many plants do I need?
  • How long will it take to grow?

Let’s take each of these questions in turn and give some answers.

How high do I need my hedge to be?

This is an important question, because you want the plant you choose to do the job, but equally, you don’t want to plant something too big, that is likely to take over in a few years, or throw so much shade your garden suffers.

It is often not obvious how tall a hedge or screen needs to be, unless you are planting right up against a fence or wall you want to hide. Then you can simply measure the height of the wall or fence, and you know the height of the hedge you need. But when it comes to concealing the view of something further away, it gets more complex. There is a simple way to do it though, and here it is. Collect together an assistant, some bamboo canes or tall poles, some string, and a piece of red cloth. Tie the red cloth to the end of one of the canes, and have your assistant hold it on the line where you want to plant your hedge. Stand in the places you want to be shielded from view in and look at that red cloth. Is it high enough? Thought not. Now tie a second cane to the bottom of the first one and try again. Tall enough now? Too tall? Keep adding canes, holding them vertically upright, and checking what it hides, until you are satisfied with the result. Take a measure and see what the height of those sticks are. I bet it isn’t at all what you expected. Now you know the minimum height you need for your hedge or screen. That was simple, wasn’t it!

Knowing the height, you can now choose a suitable plant. For a screen you want something that will reach that height in under 10 years, although if you need a lot of height that could be unrealistic. So something that will grow fast is needed if the height is over 10 feet. Look at the maximum height listed for plants you are interested in and make sure it will even grow to the height you want. Since most plants slow down as they approach mature height, for coverage in a reasonable time you need to choose something with a mature height twice the minimum height you need for screening – or you will be waiting 30 years for your screen. You might need to have the screen topped every couple of years, if excess height is a problem.

What plants are the best choice for my area?

Check your postcode against the USDA zone system, and see where you fall. If you are between Zone 5 to 9, then Thuja Green Giant is probably your best bet. It’s fast-growing, and tough as they come. In colder areas Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is equivalent to a cold-hardy, smaller form of Thuja Green Giant, is the top choice. It does grow more slowly (although still fast) and only reaches 12 feet in height, but that is plenty for a hedge or shorter screen, and most importantly it will live happily even in Zone 3 For a taller barrier, consider using spruce. Both blue spruce and Norway spruce are hardy to zones 2 or 3, and if you use a columnar form you will get height to 25 or 30 feet in time, without a lot of spread taking over your garden.

For hot and dry areas in zones 7 or more, the Italian Cypress is the top choice – it’s incredibly heat and drought resistant. The most awkward weather conditions are dry and cold too, but there Spartan Juniper of Blue Spruce are the top two choices for hedges and screens.

How many plants do I need?

This is easy. Measure the space you want to fill. The basic rule for hedges is one-quarter of the mature width, so it depends on that. Don’t just guess, check it out. Thuja Green Giant, for example, has a mature width of 12 feet, so 3 feet apart is the minimum spacing for a hedge – you can add another foot if you are a little more patient. For a screen you can increase this to half the minimum width, so that is 6 feet for Thuja Green Giant, or up to 8 feet if you aren’t in a big hurry. You can read more details on spacing in this recent blog, ‘Proper Spacing is the Key to Successful Hedges and Screens’.

How long will it take to grow?

This is the most common question, but also the hardest to answer. Thuja Green Giant will add 3 feet a year when young, dropping to about half that after 5 or 6 years. Other evergreens are slower, with 2 feet a year when young being a realistic expectation. Thorough soil preparation, correct planting, watering as needed, and a good fertilizer program will all help you to maximize growth, not just in height, but in thickness and density, which are just as important when it comes to screening and hedges. Light trimming will also help to build a thicker, denser hedge more quickly, so don’t wait until it reaches full size before getting out the trimmers.

 

If you sort out these questions first, you will be able to make better choices, and have more success with your new screen or hedge. Before you know it you will have that coveted privacy you are looking for.

 

Thuja Green Giant – How Fast Does It Really Grow?

Here we have the most common question about this tree, and the one where fact and fiction have become twisted together on that most confusing source of knowledge – the internet. Let’s try to untangle that information and get closer to a factual understanding of how fast (and large) it might grow for you, in your location, without the hype, and using some real research to reach our conclusions.

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular evergreen for screening, hedges or specimens in all but the coldest areas of the country, and the hottest and driest. It is hardy from zone 5 to zone 9, which covers most of the country. Its dense evergreen foliage in a rich green color is the perfect backdrop for a garden, and its dense foliage protects your garden from noise and wind. It is also easily grown in most soils, and its toughness, disease and pest resistance, and resistance to deer too, makes it an easy, low-maintenance plant too. Newly planted trees need attention to watering until they become established, but after that Thuja Green Giant will largely take care of itself. It is naturally dense, so it develops into a solid screen even if you never trim it. It also trims easily of course, and it is easy to make beautiful hedges with this tree.

The Growth Rate of Thuja Green Giant

One of the big selling points of Thuja Green Giant is its growth rate. Among evergreens it is probably the fastest grower available, and that ability, and its overall toughness, comes from its hybrid origins. It is a cross between two different Arborvitae species, Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishii) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata). This cross was made in Denmark in the 1930s, but it was only after a plant was given to the National Arboretum in Washington that it drew any attention, and only in the 1990s that it became widely available. Since then it has shot to the top in popularity among gardeners. Hybrid plants are usually tougher and more vigorous than either of their parents, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception to that rule. This is why it has a remarkable growth rate. So how fast can it grow? Under average conditions young plants can add 3 and even 4 feet of height each year. Under ideal environmental and climatic conditions it is certainly possible to exceed this, and rates of 5 feet, or perhaps even more, are possible. But for most garden conditions across most of the country, 3 to 4 feet is something you can comfortable expect to see during the early years. We will look later at the different factors that have to be considered to arrive at a realistic estimate in any particular situation, but first, let’s look at some real research that is proven, not just a guess from someone wanting to sell ‘fast-growing trees’.

Back in 1999 the Commercial Horticulture Department of the University of Arkansas established a unique Plant Evaluation Program. Unlike other similar programs using just one site, three sites were established across the state, in three climate zones – zone 6b, 7a and 8a. These allow for comparisons in different climates, assessing both winter hardiness and heat resistance. In 2001 small plants of Thuja Green Giant in 1-gallon pots, were planted at these sites. The trees were planted in full sun, with initial fertilizer and drip irrigation. They were spaced 10 feet apart, and no pest-control or trimming was carried out. Each year the plants were measured, and records kept for 5 years.

The results for Thuja Green Giant were remarkable. At the end of the 5-year period those small plants had an average height just short of 10 feet, and a width of 5 ½ feet. The trees in the warmest location (8a) were 11 ½ feet tall! Even at the coldest (6b) and windiest site they were almost 10 feet tall. The slowest growth was at the zone 7a site, possible due to a period of very wet weather one spring, causing root problems. The years with the fastest growth rate were the second, third, and fourth years, with the plants in the warmest site adding a full 5 feet in their third year alone! The developers of the program (Dr. James Robbins and Dr. Jon Lindstrom) highly recommended Thuja Green Giant as a hedge or screening plant, and it was the fastest-growing evergreen in the trial. See the results here for more details.

What Affects the Growth Rate of Thuja Green Giant?

This careful scientific work tells us that under average conditions Thuja Green Giant will increase its height by 3 to 5 feet in each year. It also sheds some light on the factors that influence that growth, and we also have some other general ways of deciding exactly how much growth to expect.

Climate

Notice how in the Arkansas research the trees grew tallest in the warmest zone. This might seem like ‘common sense’, but it relates more to the length of the growing season than other factors such as winter lows (which are the basis of the USDA zoning system). We see the effect of a longer growing season in many plants. Grasses from warm climates bloom in zone 6 and not in zone 4 because they have more time to develop their blooms, not because it is colder in zone 4 in winter. This is an important distinction, because within a single zone factors such as sun exposure and wind affect the length of the season. Most hardy plants like Thuja Green Giant will not grow below temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees. The higher the total number of days the temperature is above that, the more growth. A shady, windy garden will have fewer days above 50, even in the same zone. As well, steady winds make all plants grow shorter, and in an exposed site you will not get as much height as in a sheltered spot.

Weather

Every year is different, and weather patterns each year are important. You could be unlucky, and encounter a cold, wet summer the year you plant, or the following year. You will not get the same level of growth from your newly-planted Thuja Green Giant if that happens. If, on the other hand, you have an early spring, and many warm, calm days, growth will be greater. As noted in the research, a wet spring seriously slowed the growth at one site, resulting in much shorter plants after 5 years.

Soil and Water

Some soils are fertile, while others are sand or gravel, with low fertility. These soils cannot support the maximum rapid growth a ‘rich, well-drained loam’ (ever gardener’s dream soil) can do. Poorly drained soils will also slow growth, although a steady supply of enough water is necessary to maximize growth. The north-west, where one parent comes from, and Japan, home of the other one, are places with warm but rainy summers, and mild winters. The growing season is long, and Thuja Green Giant is adapted to the typical soils of those areas. So, in America, the north-west is probably the area where the greatest growth – perhaps that elusive 5 feet a year, is most likely to happen. If you live in the dry south-west, even though you have lots of sun and heat, you will not see such a high growth rate.

So What’s the Answer?

We can see from all this that absolute statements about the growth you can expect from Thuja Green Giant are impossible. Is this a fast-growing tree? Definitely yes. What does that mean in your particular garden? You be the judge. What is your zone? What is your soil like? Will you feed and water regularly? How sunny is the place you are planting in? How sheltered is it? What is your soil like? These are just the most important questions you need to ask, but combining it with the data above, you should be able to come to a realistic conclusion for your own garden.

Proper Spacing is the Key to Successful Hedges and Screens

Planting a hedge or screen is an investment – not just in money, but in time and effort. You wouldn’t make a financial investment without planning, and the same goes for planting too. While there are other important things, like soil preparation, correct planting techniques, after-care and good trimming, all of these count for nothing if the basic step of spacing has been neglected. Plant too close and your hedge will become thin at the bottom, with plants dying out as the strongest win in a battle for survival. Plant too far apart and you will first be waiting for ever for it to fill in, and always have an uneven face, with ins and outs, instead of that perfect flat surface that is the sign of a good hedge. So let’s consider how to space your plants correctly, thinking especially of that most popular evergreen of all for hedges and screens – Thuja Green Giant.

Basic Hedge Spacing Rules

For tight hedges – one-quarter of the mature width of your trees

For screening – a little more than half the mature width of your trees

For extra-solid screening – plant a staggered double row

In poor, drought-prone soil – reduce spacing by 25%

Remember to add room for the width too.

Spacing for formal, clipped hedges

Hedges are based on planting close, so that the trees grow together into a continuous mass. But you have to be careful. Sometimes it is recommended to plant root-ball to root-ball, that is, to pack the plants into a trench with the roots touching. Not only does this take a lot of plants, it results in a poor hedge. It does push the plants into growing tall, so you get the height you want quickly. This is probably where the idea came from, and for a few years it can look great, with a nice dense hedge. But after a few more years you will start to see problems. First, some plants will die, as the ones that were a bit more vigorous to start with begin to take over. You will suddenly see plants turning brown, and the foliage falling to the ground. Once they become bare you need to remove them, leaving gaps in your hedge – never what you wanted! Over time the spaces may fill in from the surrounding plants, but until that happens you have a really ugly hedge.

Even if you don’t get gaps, pretty soon the lower parts of the hedge stop growing, and it thins out just where you want it to be thick and green. Eventually the lowest branches begin to die, and your hedge loses that ‘green to the ground’ look that is so desirable.

Much better is to allow enough room for each plant to develop, while keeping them close enough that in a few years they merge into a solid wall. How close is that? If of course varies with the plant you are using. As a rule-of-thumb, check out the mature width of the plant. Taking Thuja Green Giant as an example, the mature width is 12 feet. So take 25-35% of that, and we have 3 or 4 feet. That is the ideal spacing. It’s that simple. The closer spacing will give you a solid hedge sooner, and the wider spacing will save you money by reducing the number of trees you need, but take a little longer to look full.

Spacing for informal rarely-clipped screens

The basic difference between a hedge and a screen is how often you clip it. Screening plants are rarely clipped, or not clipped at all. You might give them a trim or two as they develop, to build denser structure, and then a ‘touch up’ every few years, but that is about it. A hedge is going to be clipped at least once a year, and usually two or even three times, depending on how neat you are, and how much time you have. Especially in warmer areas, plants have a long growing season, so they will need more trimming.

With a screen, we want the plants to grow out naturally until they touch, so in theory we could plant at the same distance as their mature width, but that will take too long, so we usually go closer. Don’t go too close, as the plants will be pushed to grow tall, but stay thinner, which is a recipe for structural weakness as the screen gets taller. So half the mature width is a minimum, which in the case of Thuja Green Giant is around 6 feet. Again, if you are in a hurry you could reduce that to 5 feet, but don’t go any closer. You could stretch it to 8 or even 10 feet to reduce the cost, but if you need a visual barrier that will take a while at such a wide spacing.

A double row makes a denser screen

If you have plenty of room available, and you want a really solid barrier – perhaps for sound protection for example, then a double row is the way to go. This can be done for a hedge or a screen, and the method is to plant in two rows, at a wider spacing, with each plant staggered, so that the plants in one row sit in the spaces between the plants of the other row.  Even though the spacing is increased, this method does take more plants, but if a really solid barrier is your goal, then double rows are the way to go. For Thuja Green Giant, space the rows 3 feet apart for a clipped hedge, and 5 feet apart for an informal screen. In each row, a wider spacing of between 5 and 8 feet is good for a hedge, and 8 to 12 feet for a screen.

Planting double rows properly requires careful measuring and lay-out, otherwise you will lose the staggered effect. Careful layout is always needed really – that hedge or screen will be there a long time, and any spacing irregularities will glare at you for years to come!

My soil is very poor, and often dry

It is worth making allowances for poor soil conditions too. Rocky or sandy soil, especially if it is often dry, will reduce the growth of any plant, so you need to compensate for that by planting tighter. Reducing all the above spacings by 20 – 25% will do it, and give you something solid, even under poor conditions.

Don’t forget the width

A common mistake of inexperienced gardeners is to plant a screen or hedge right on the property line, or in a space too narrow for the plants. If your hedge impinges on neighboring property, they can cut it right back to the property line, so plant well inside it. Plant 6 feet inside for a large plant like Thuja Green Giant, or a little less for something narrower. That way all the plant will be on your property, and under your protection.

Similarly, when planning a hedge, especially along a path or driveway, set the back by 3 feet for a hedge and 5 feet for a screen, when using a large plant like Thuja Green Giant. Smaller plants will need a little less, but you don’t want your path to disappear in a few years – working with small plants can be deceptive, so do plenty of measuring!

Planting Screens with Thuja Green Giant

Screening is a key issue for many garden owners, for both privacy and protection of your garden. Everyone want to be able to use their garden without strangers – or neighbors – watching their every move, and very often to achieve that plants are the best option. Screening is not only visual, and there are several other important reasons to plant screening trees:

  • Visual Screening – evergreen plants provide the only practical solution when screening more than 6 feet tall is needed. A fence does not block second or third-story windows, but fast-growing trees can do that within a few years. As well, green, living screening trees are much more attractive than fences, last decades longer, and are much lower maintenance too.

There is more to screening than just blocking neighboring homes that might look into your garden. You may be near a highway, an industrial zone, rail-tracks, power plants, or other unsightly but essential city features. A tall planting can and will obscure even large structures, turning an unattractive aspect into a calming wall of green. When you come to sell your property, the disappearance of that eye-sore will have increased the value of your property greatly, for just a minimal investment in a few trees.

  • Noise Screening – many homes are built along busy roads or backing onto highways. You may be near a car park, with regular comings and goings, or even in the countryside there can be barns and active farming areas. Industrial parks too can generate noise, both day and night. Noise pollution is a serious problem, but plantings of evergreen trees filter and reduce noise levels more effectively than any other equivalent structure. The dense, irregular structure of a wall of green absorbs noise far more effectively than any hard surface of wood, metal or concrete. Installation is easy, and the cost is just a fraction of any other solution.
  • Air Pollution Screening – dust and atmospheric pollutants are absorbed by plants very effectively. Dirt particles are trapped by the complex layers of foliage, and then later washed into the soil by rainfall. Numerous pollutant gases, from carbon dioxide to methane, or are absorbed by the foliage, incorporated into the structure of the plant, and may remain in the wood for decades, or drop with foliage and be re-cycled into the earth. Nothing does this as effectively or cheaply as plants.
  • Heat Screening – because plants loss water into the atmosphere by evaporation, they cool the air around them. Evaporation absorbs heat from the surroundings, so it is automatically cooling, and much cheaper than air-conditioning. Unlike solid surfaces, which raise the temperature of areas near them by reflecting heat, plants absorb it, so the enclosed area will be cooler than an open space, and much cooler than an area screened with walls and fences.
  • Wind and Snow Screening – the porous structure of screening plants absorbs the energy of wind, rather than just deflecting it, or even amplifying it, as hard surfaces do. That slowing of wind extends many feet on the sheltered side of the plants, so if you live in an open, windy spot, a row of evergreens on the windward side will create a calm haven around your home. As well, that fall in wind-speed means that snow drops to the ground near the screen, instead of drifting towards your house, so you will have less snow built-up on driveways, paths, and around buildings. This means you have less snow to clear, and saves you time and effort in winter

Why Thuja Green Giant for Screening?

Screens all year round

You can get screening from almost any tall plants, but there are several reasons why Thuja Green Giant is the ideal choice. To begin, it is evergreen, so the impact is seen all year round. Deciduous screening may be attractive in summer and even fall, but in winter it is bare, and although the network of branches does still exert some effect on wind, your visual screening is almost completely gone. So evergreens make a lot of sense. Thuja Green Giant forms an evergreen wall of dense foliage, that is an attractive green color all year round. Many other evergreens can turn bronzy in winter, looking less attractive, or they may become scorched in either very cold or very hot conditions, needing care and looking unsightly.

Grows faster than anything else

As well, Thuja Green Giant is the proven fastest growing evergreen screening plant available. There are faster growing deciduous plants, like willow, but among evergreens nothing beats this plant. It can add 3 feet or more in height during its early years, and averages more than a foot a year right up to maturity. A ten-foot screen takes 5 to 7 years to create, depending on the size of the plants you start with.

Grows large enough to screen anything

Mature Thuja Green Giant plants will be 30 feet tall, and that will provide enough height for screening out almost anything. Yet it stays green right to the ground, so that vital eye-level area will always be blocked. This plant retains its dense structure for ever, unlike trees such as spruce or pine, which often become more open with age, and lose lower branches. This means that if you space your plants correctly, you never need to trim to keep your screening dense – which is a huge saving in time and dollars over any time-frame you choose to measure. Plus, if you do prefer a more formal hedge-like look, and a lower height, then this is a very easy plant to trim, responding well by growing denser, looking attractive right after trimming (unlike plants with larger leaves) and capable of being trimmed at most times of the year.

Grows in a wide range of conditions.

From zone 5, with cold, snowy winters, all the way into zone 8 or 9, with little or no winter at all, Thuja Green Giant performs well, without winter damage. It is drought resistant too, and once established needs no supplementary care. It is also virtually pest and disease free, and unlike many other evergreens, deer usually leave it alone as well. It grows in almost any kind of soil, except for ones that are constantly wet, and it tolerates a range of soils from acid to alkaline. Good soil preparation pays dividends in health, density and speed of growth, but even plants put into the ground with minimal preparation thrive and establish themselves well.

Easily obtainable at competitive prices

Because Thuja Green Giant is widely grown, in large numbers on a commercial scale, easy availability of plants in a range of sizes to suit your needs is always there. Prices are competitive too, although avoid ‘bargains’, as these will often be very small, or have open, thin foliage. Buy from a reputable, established company, and look for free shipping, so that you don’t see a big extra charge at the bottom of the bill. With on-line nurseries offering the best prices for top-quality plants, you can have those trees right at your door in a matter of days – just time enough for you to get the holes ready!

Caring for Older Thuja Green Giant Plantings

A lot of the focus with caring for Thuja Green Giant is on the actual planting and establishment of new plants. This is important, because good establishment means durable plantings and a long life for your bushes. But after a few years your hedge, screen or specimen plants will be established in your garden, and questions come up about caring for these older plants. So in this blog we are going to focus on that – what special care and steps are best for older plants, particularly so that they go on to have a long, healthy life, and continue to play their vital role in your garden for years and decades to come.

Watering

It is obvious that newly-planted bushes need extra water until they settle in and send out their roots into the surrounding earth. But how long should this go on? What should we do for established plants if a long drought period arrives?

You should continue with watering new plantings throughout their first growing season. So if you planted in spring or early summer, it is best to water deeply once a week until the cold weather arrives, and winter rain or snow takes over. In the following year you should only need to water if there is a drought of three weeks, but if you have very sandy soil it pays to water regularly – perhaps every two weeks, for that second season. In later years you only need to think about watering if there has been no rain for a least a month, and in many soils your Thuja Green Giant plants will be unaffected by drought periods much longer than that.

The critical season for watering established plants is spring, not summer. Spring is when the major growth push takes place, and that is when the plants need plenty of water. So a spring drought can be damaging – although probably not fata – even to established plants. The new growth will be reduced, it will be thinner and not so green, and repeated over several years, the result will be a thinner plant. So if the weather turns dry in spring, as it so often can, a thorough soaking of your established plants will make sure they perform at their peak best.

Mulching also helps, and with hedges and screens leaving at least some of the clippings under the hedge is the easiest way to create a natural mulch for your plants. That layer of dead leaves will conserve moisture by reducing evaporation from the soil surface, as well as inhibiting weed growth. If you keep your hedge green right to the ground, then those clippings won’t show, and you save time by just blowing or brushing them underneath, instead of having to collect them up.

Fertilizer

Young plants always perform best with a regular fertilizer program, but after a few years it can become less important. If your natural soil is a loam or clay soil, it will almost certainly have good natural levels of plant nutrients, and most plants will grow well in it without any assistance. If you have a sandier soil this is not true, and if that sounds like your soil situation, a fertilizer program should be kept up indefinitely. For established plants granular fertilizers, and slow-release fertilizer are best. These require fewer applications a year, and slow-release forms usually need just one spring application, saving you a lot of gardening time. Compare that to liquid fertilizers, which need applying every two to four weeks throughout the growing season – this can become a real chore, especially over the years.

It is usually best to keep up annual fertilizer application even if you have good soil, when growing a hedge of Thuja Green Giant. Trimming removes nutrients that would naturally be re-cycled within the plant, so these need to be replaced for optimum growth. This is also another good reason to spread your clippings underneath your hedge, rather than throwing them away, as their gradual decay will eventually return the nutrients in them to the roots. Evergreen clippings are generally not good in a compost heap, so leaving them in place is the best and easiest way to dispose of them.

In summary, keep fertilizing your evergreens indefinitely if you trim them more than once a year or more, and in all situations if your soil is sandy. For plants left to grow naturally, keeping up fertilizer application is less important on most soils.

Trimming

If you have Thuja Green Giant, you probably decided when planting if you were going to trim them or not. Some people do underestimate the final size of this big plant, and trimming can become a necessity. If you suddenly see that your plants are too big, don’t rush out and cut them back hard. Like most evergreens, you cannot cut a branch back below where it has green shoots, and have it sprout back. If you get carried away and trim too hard you may destroy your hedge. If it really has become way too big, take back as much as you can, being sure to leave some green growth on every branch. After a year or so it will thicken up, and you can usually go back and get it even smaller than the first time. Better to take your time than destroy those old, established plants.

Even better is to anticipate a plant that is about to become too big, and trim it before, not after, that happens. It is much easier that way, and you will never have to trim so hard that your plants look bad for months, before filling out again.

With a hedge you should have trimmed regularly from an early age, but as your hedge matures it pays to anticipate problems. Keep those sides sloping inwards a little, so that the lower part stays green and thick, and if you live in an area with snow or ice storms, round off the top, keeping it as thin as you can, or the accumulation of ice and snow will break the top and open your hedge out. Watch for sections that seem to be yellowing, as branches can sometimes die back naturally. If you see this beginning, trim back those weak areas while they are still green, so that the surrounding foliage can spread into them. That way, if and when the weak branch dies completely, you will have a much smaller gap to fill in, and you will avoid the eye-sore of a gaping hole for several years. Sometimes too, trimming back an area that is weak will rejuvenate it.

Thuja Green Giant will live for many years, stretching into decades, and it can be maintained as a screen or hedge more or less indefinitely. The secret is to adjust your care techniques as they age, so you avoid problems down the road.

Thuja Green Giant for Screening

Screening is often high on the list of garden projects for many people, especially if you live in a built-up area. Evergreen screening is an effective and low-cost way to screen out unwanted noise, an ugly view, or neighbors, especially if you need screening above 6 feet. Tall fences are expensive, difficult to erect, and are often prohibited by city by-laws, but planting is not. You can put in screening plants that will grow pretty much as tall as you want, and a popular choice for that is Thuja Green Giant. There are lots of good reasons for this – perhaps the most obvious is the rate of growth – so let’s consider this choice in more detail, to see if it’s the right one for you.

Do You Have Enough Room?

Thuja Green Giant will grow, if unclipped, to a height of about 30 feet, and while that might take 30 years, it will be half that height in as little as 10 or 12 years. The bigger trees get, especially in a long screen, the more difficult and expensive it is to trim them, so the first thing to think about is the effect of planting a green wall, 20 feet or more in height? What about light into your home and garden? That will depend a lot on how close to your home the screen is going to be, and of course whether it is to the north or south, or some other compass position. Tall plantings to the north side will not cast a shadow, while in other positions it will. Consider too that the shadow will be longest in winter, because the sun is lower in the sky, and that may be just when you want that extra light.

Remember too that Thuja Green Giant will be up to 12 feet wide in time, again if left untrimmed, so consider how much ground space that is going to take up. Depending on your particular situation you could trim up the lower several feet, as they grow, creating trunks on your screen, which will free up ground-level space, but even then you should plant 6 feet or more from your property line, so that the trees are actually ‘yours’ completely.

For many medium to large-sized gardens, that kind of space is not an issue, but in a smaller garden you might want to consider something smaller, such as Emerald Green Arborvitae, which only grows to about 12 feet tall. It is hardy all the way from zone 2 to zone 7, making it the perfect choice for a smaller screen in colder areas.

How Fast Will They Grow?

Here we get into the reason for the enormous popularity of Thuja Green Giant – its growth rate. Young plants can add 3 feet a year – and even more sometimes. As they mature the growth does slow down, but still exceeds a foot a year. This can be seen with the original planting, where a plant at the National Arboretum in Washington reached 30 feet in 25 years. Tiny plants have been proven in trials to reach 10 feet in 7 years, faster than any other evergreen around.

Good soil preparation and a regular fertilizer program will give your plants the best start and the quickest growth rate, so go that extra distance and reap the rewards.

How Far Apart should I Plant?

Given how big Thuja Green Giant gets, you don’t need a lot of plants to make a screen. Depending on how quickly you want that screen to develop fully, you should plant 5 feet apart for a quick screen, and as much as 10 feet apart for something less solid, that will give the effect of screening without making a solid wall of green. If you do want solid, and you have enough room, then plant a double row. Allow 5 feet between the rows, and plant 8 feet apart in each row for a quicker screen, or up to 12 feet apart for something looser. Stagger the planting in each row, so that one plant stands in the middle of the gap in the other row, creating a tight zig-zag.

What About After-care?

Since Thuja Green Giant is not eaten by deer – at least not usually – and has no significant pests or diseases, there is nothing to do in that direction. The most important care is watering during the first growing season, which should be once a week. Don’t rely on showers or thunderstorms, as most of that water only wets the top inch or two in summer. Instead go for a deep soak from a gently-running hose on each plant, or by installing trickle pipe along the line. It’s important to keep the soil further away from each tree moist too, because you want to encourage the roots to grow outwards into a large volume of soil. That will happen much more if the ground around is temptingly moist, rather than dry.

After that vital first year you don’t need to give so much attention to your trees. Watch for dry periods in the second and third years and give those deep soaks again if the soil is dry below the top few inches. A quick dig around with a spade will show you that – just turn up a few inches of soil and feel for moisture. Increased watering during the early years will also accelerate growth, especially if combined with a fertilizer program.

In the early years liquid fertilizer is best – it gets straight to the roots and is taken up quickly. Feed each month for the best results, and that can be a little time-consuming, so after two or three years switch to slow-release granular fertilizers that only need one application a year, in spring. Choose a blend suitable for evergreens and look for Iron and Magnesium in the added micronutrients listed on the label. They will keep your screen a rich green color all year round.

Should I Trim?

Thuja Green Giant produces a dense plant without trimming, but as the early growth is fast and so more open, a light trim each year while the plants are small enough to reach will make it thicker much more quickly. You only need to take off an inch or two, so it has no real effect on the size or rate of growth, but it certainly makes for a dense screen early on.

 

Thuja Green Giant is the number one choice across much of the country, and it is probably the best choice for you too, but it pays to think it through first. Hopefully these notes will help you reach the right decision.