Is Thuja Green Giant the Right Choice for Me?

Putting in a hedge is a big decision. Besides the cost, there is the work of preparing the ground, planting, caring for the plants during the vital first season, and then trimming and training until it matures. That hedge will be with you for a long time, and it will be a big part of what you see in your garden. It makes sense to think it through and get it right. Thuja Green Giant is a very popular hedge plant – currently perhaps the most popular of all, across a large part of the country. It grows well in many different locations and climate zones, and it is tough, fast-growing and reliable. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily what you want for your particular circumstances, so let’s go through some of the things you should consider when making your decision.

Where Do You Live?

Thuja Green Giant is a hardy evergreen that will grow where winter temperatures fall to as much as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or Zone 5. If you live in a colder zone, such as Zones 3 or 4, then this is not the plant you want. Instead, make your hedge with the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardy to minus 40, so stands just about anything the American climate can throw at it. If you live in the coldest states, that plant should definitely be your hedge choice.

Also, if you live in a very hot area, where access to water is limited, and you will probably not be able to water your hedge very much or at all, the consider using the Italian Cypress for your hedge. This tree is very drought and heat resistant, and has attractive dark-green foliage that trims well into a beautiful hedge.

How Soon Do You Want a Hedge?

If speed is what you are looking for, then with Thuja Green Giant you have absolutely come to the right place. Trials at the University of Arkansas, pitting many different hedging plants against each other, proved scientifically that this is the fastest hedge plant on the planet. They started with very small plants, and in 7 years they were 10 feet tall and dense too. They only gave some water, and with a full fertilizer program, you can beat that with your hedge by a year or maybe two. So for the fastest mature hedge possible, Green Giant is definitely the number one choice.

What is Your Soil Like?

Thuja Green Giant will grow well in all kinds of soil, from sand to clay, and in acid or alkaline soils. So, it really doesn’t matter much what kind of soil you have. There is just one thing to think about, and that is if your soil stays wet most of the time. Soils that are always wet contain no air, and air is essential for healthy roots on your Green Giant hedge. Wet soil is not suitable for growing this plant, and your hedge will not do well.

There are several things you can do in this situation. Emerald Green Arborvitae is much more water-tolerant, and wild forms often grow naturally in wetlands. That makes it is a good alternative, as long as you are not in a very hot area. Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is excellent in wet areas in the hottest states, but it does lose its leaves in winter. Alternatively, since Thuja Green Giant is such a good choice for so many other reasons, consider two possibilities:

  1. If your soil is often wet, build a low mound, 8 to 12 inches tall, by removing soil from either side of the hedge-line. That also creates a shallow ditch on either side for water to collect in. The mound will stay drier, and this will usually allow the plants to grow well and thrive.
  2. If the soil is always very wet and even flooded, then you can install drainage along the hedge-line. Bury a drainage pipe on either side of the hedge-line, and take the pipe to a spot where the water can drain away, such as a lower-lying area.

How Much Sun Will It Get?

Here we usually have no problems, because Thuja Green Giant will grow well in full sun, and in shade down to about 50% brightness. So if you have some shade, or shade for only part of the day, then you have no worries, and your new hedge will thrive. If the area is permanently in shade, then consider planting Skip Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, which is a handsome evergreen shrub with glossy oval leaves. It is fast-growing and easily trimmed to any height you need. In colder areas, Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, makes a wonderful hedge in full shade, with soft foliage and a gentle beauty.

Do You Live by the Ocean?

Here the news is all good. Thuja Green Giant is resistant to ocean salt drift, and since it is also happy in sandy soil, it will grow well at the coast in all but the most exposed locations. Salt-heavy winds blowing in will not bother it at all – which is also true of salt drifting from highways in winter, so it’s great to know you have made the right choice.

Do You Have Deer Visiting?

We all love Bambi, but not so much when he comes visiting in winter, feeling hungry. Lots of hedging plants are eaten by deer, so you have good reason to worry. The good news is that Thuja Green Giant is one of the top plants for deer-resistance, and although deer can be unpredictable, you can be confident that you will not have a problem with them if you choose this hedge plant.

 

So now you have a better idea if you are making the right choice, and you can feel more confident that you will enjoy seeing a great hedge develop quickly on your property, giving you privacy, tranquility and shelter.

Put Color into Your Thuja Hedge

Everybody loves their Thuja Green Giant hedge. It is always lush and green, creating a perfect backdrop to the rest of your garden. But what if your hedge could be its own garden? Imagine a hedge where flowers emerged from the green wall, or colored sections broke up the long wall of green in interesting and novel ways. Seems like a dream? Not really. There are some simple things you can do that turn your hedge into something more than a backdrop, and make it an integral part of the ever-changing picture of flowers and foliage that make gardens so lovely. Interested? Then read on. . .

Basic Ways to Color Your Hedge

The idea of mixing plants together in a hedge is not new, but it is seen more in Europe than America. It is an interesting and attractive way to create a colorful and changing hedge that becomes a garden feature, not a background to the other features. These hedges are often called Tapestry Hedges, and the idea is to plant different hedging plants among the main plants of your hedge. So, when you come to lay out your Thuja Green Giant Hedge, replace some of the plants with something else, with a different color and texture of foliage. This can be subtle, using shades of green, or more pronounced, using stronger colors of blue, gold or red. If privacy is a big consideration, then you will want to stick to evergreens, but if not, then deciduous plants are possible choices. Using deciduous plants also opens up the possibility of having sections of your hedge bloom with flower-color too.

It is best and simplest to put in these different plants when you plant the hedge. They can be alternated, as was done with the hedge in the picture at the top of this piece, or they can be random substitutions, even with several different plants. Once you have established a hedge it becomes more difficult, but as long as the plants are not too large to move, and it is spring or fall when you do it, then you can remove some existing plants to develop a new area, and then fill the gaps with new trees of a different type.

Here are some ideas for plants to consider:

  • Different Shades of Green and Texture
    • Italian Cypress – rich dark green foliage on a tough, drought-resistant plant
    • Spartan Juniper – a tough and sturdy grower with a deeper green color
    • Holly – evergreen for privacy, and often used alone as a hedge, varieties such as the American Holly, or the Nelly Stevens Holly, will grow through the Thuja, mottling it with shiny rich-green areas
  • Blue Highlights
    • Blue Spruce – always reliable, many people don’t realize that spruce can be turned into a formal hedge. This perennial favorite is very cold-hardy, as well as heat-resistant
    • Blue Italian Cypress – this rare variation on the Italian Cypress has a blue tone to its foliage that will heighten the contrast with the Thuja
    • Blue Spanish Fir – a wonderful rich blue color that will really stand out
    • Arizona Cypress – also blue, this cypress tree thrives under adverse conditions, just like Thuja Green Giant does 
  • Golden Highlights
    • Gold Spanish Fir – you will love how the golden needles on this tree sparkle among the green of your Thuja hedge
  • Red Highlights
    • Smoke Tree – we have to move into deciduous plants to get red, but the result will be worth it. With its spreading habit, just where the red ends up will be unpredictable, adding to the fun 
  • Flowering Plants
    • Yoshino Flowering Cherry – as this tree grows, spring will suddenly bring pink flowers garlanding the face of your hedge – wonderful!
    • Cleveland Pear – as tough as the Thuja you mix it with, and bringing white flowers in early spring to the green wall around your garden

Other Possibilities for Color in Your Hedge

If you already have a mature hedge, so can’t insert other hedge plants, it doesn’t mean you are out of luck. Fast-growing climbing plants can be tucked in the spaces between the trunks of the hedge, and they will soon climb up and burst into bloom. The best choices are plants that flower on new shoots, because then they can be cut down to the ground in fall to allow for easy hedge trimming at that time, or in spring before the climbers get going. Fast-growing annual climbers will twine through a hedge, flower, and then can be removed in fall. Many climbers have brilliant flower colors, and purples, reds, pinks and golds are all possibilities.

When doing this, it is important to dig a good-sized planting hole, and use plenty of water and fertilizer for the climbers, otherwise they will not be able to compete with the roots of the hedge for nutrients and water. Depending on the layout of your garden, you can also plant them a few feet from the hedge and lead them up to it on a short pole.

Here are some climbing plant that will grow tall in one season and flower profusely:

  • Clematis – these well-known climbers have some varieties, like the ever-popular ‘Jackmanii’ (rich purple flowers), that will bloom on new growth each year. They can take 2 or 3 seasons to become established and perform at their best, but their large, flat flowers really look spectacular. Cut them to the ground each fall.
  • Morning Glory – if you grow these from seed, by summer they will already be blooming, and can be pulled down in fall for pruning the hedge
  • Cypress Vine – in warmer areas this vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) will grow as a perennial, but young plants from seed will grow large and bloom with brilliant red flowers in the space of a single season. The similar Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri) is more vigorous for a tall hedge
  • Canary Creeper – for fascinating golden blooms on your hedge, plant this annual climber (Tropaeolum peregrinum). It has interesting rounded leaves, but the real beauty lies in the clusters of flaring flowers in bright yellow

Is Thuja Green Giant the Right Plant for Me?

Deciding on which plant to use as a hedge or screen is a big decision. Its appearance is going to be a major part of the backdrop to your garden, and its success will pave the way for success with the plants protected by it. This means it is worth taking some time to make sure you have made the right decision. Thuja Green Giant is currently the most popular hedging and screening plant, across most of the country. It has earned that position with its toughness, adaptability and speed of growth – all areas where it excels. But that doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, so let’s look at the different parameters that you should consider when making your final choice.

Your Location

What climate zone do you live in? The Green Giant is happy anywhere from zone 5, where winter lows can fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all the way into zone 9, where winter lows dip just a little below freezing, to plus 20 degrees, and then only for short periods. So if it sounds like you live in that broad belt, you have made the right choice. If you fall outside those zones, then there are better choices open to you. The Emerald Green Arborvitae, a selected form of the Eastern White Cedar, is as hardy as it comes, living happily when winter lows dip to a polar-bear friendly minus 50 degrees. This plant makes a great hedge, and should be your choice for cold areas.

If, at the other extreme, you live where it rarely if ever freezes, and you want an evergreen hedge with the fine texture of Thuja Green Giant, then the Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, should be your ‘go to’. The hotter the better for that plant, and it needs no cool winter period to keep it healthy, as the Green Giant does. It does thrive best in hot, dry climates, like southern California. In the heat and humidity of southern Florida, an even better choice is the Leyland Cypress, or the Spartan Juniper. Speaking of Junipers, if you live in a very dry area, where watering is going to be a problem, then give some serious thought to the Arizona Cypress, Cupressus arizonica ‘Carolina Sapphire’. This tree produces an extremely drought-tolerant and striking hedge.

Your Soil

Here things are easy. If you have almost any kind of soil, from a very sandy one, all the way through to sticky clay, Thuja Green Giant will perform well. In very dry soil you may need to water more often, and the only problem could be in very wet soils. This great tree is happy in soil that is wet from time to time, but not if it is permanently flooded or always saturated. Over time, this will lead to problems, so if you have this problem where you need a hedge, consider something surprising. Most people know the Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, which grows wild in the Everglades, among other places. It can be clipped into a formal hedge easily, and makes a gorgeous, soft-textured screen. It will grow right in shallow water, and flooded soils are just what it loves best. The only disadvantage is that it loses it leaves in winter, leaving instead a dense screen of branches. This is attractive too, but doesn’t give the same level of privacy.

Sun or Shade?

Consider how much sun your plants are going to get. Remember that shade from deciduous trees is not a problem in winter, and in summer, when the sun is high, they cast only a narrow shadow. If your Thuja Green Giant hedge gets sun for half the dy from spring to early fall, then it will be perfectly happy. It will grow well in full sun too of course, so unless you have a deeply shady area where you need a hedge, you will be find with this versatile tree.

Should you find that you do need a hedge for deep shade, there are several choices. For a finer texture, nothing beats the Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis. This shade-loving evergreen has soft, fine leaves that clip into a superb hedge, even in areas that get no direct sun at all. Other choices include the various Yew Trees, that also make dense hedges in all conditions, from full sun to full shade.

You Need a Fast-Growing Hedge

If this is your need, then you certainly have made the right choice. In trials by the University of Kansas, who weren’t selling anything to anyone, Thuja Green Giant grew faster than any other plant they tested in a large study. From small plants, they grew into upright columns10 feet tall and 5 feet wide in the space of just 7 years. That is remarkable, and means that with a growth rate of 3 feet a year in the early years, most of that growth in height happens in 3 to 4 years. After that your hedge or screen with thicken and fill in, especially if you trim it lightly from Day One. A regular annual trim, or perhaps twice a year if you want a very neat hedge, is all that is needed once you have established the height and thickness you want. The only mistake some people make is to let their hedge just grow and grow, until suddenly they realize it needs more than just a trim. Sadly, if you cut back into wood that has no foliage, those branches will not sprout, and all your work will be wasted. Begin to trim lightly from the first year, including on the sides, and build a dense structure, adding height at ‘only’ a couple of feet a year. The top-quality result you see will show you it was worth it.