Top Tips for Planting Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular fast-growing evergreen, across a large part of the country, for hedges, screens and large specimens. Always fresh and green, with dense, upright growth even when untrimmed, it’s perfect in many locations. Like raising children, getting plants off to a good start in life is the key to future success, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception. So, let’s consider the best way to do that, so that your new plants become established quickly, without any transplant shock, and take off growing fast from day one. The period of fastest growth is between the second and fifth year, where growth-rates well in excess of 3 feet a year, and possibly up to 5 feet, are possible. That period, when your new hedge or screen develops into something substantial, will kick in sooner, last longer, and give you the most growth, if you have planted your trees well and giving them some extra TLC to get stared.

Top Tips for Planting Thuja Green Giant

  • Prepare the soil – deep digging and organic material as the secret
  • Give them room – space out properly to allow for vigorous growth
  • Plant properly – firm your plants down and water well
  • Don’t forget after-care – water regularly during the first season

Preparing the Planting Area

Good soil preparation, no matter what kind of soil you have, is key. There are three principle things to think about, and the most important is opening up the soil to let the roots quickly spread out and down, to find water and nutrients. So be prepared to dig a larger area than the pot – the most common mistake is to dig a hole in hard soil that is just barely big enough to fit the root-ball into. If you are planting a single tree, then the area you dig should be at least 3 times the width of the pot – and more is better. It should also be deeper than the pot, although this is much less important than width, as most tree roots are found in the top 12 inches of soil. If, when digging, you hit a hard, bottom layer, perhaps of clay or stone, as long as it is more than 10 inches down you don’t need to attack it. Focus on turning over and loosening that top area, to the depth of a full-sized spade or shovel.

For a single plant, or a small group, a spade is all you need, but for a hedge it pays to rent the biggest roto-tiller you can find and prepare a strip of soil at least 3 feet wide, or even wider. When using a roto-tiller you can be fooled by it, because you will immediately see nice soft soil. It is very easy to just scratch the surface, and you may need to go over the area two or three times to get down deep enough. Move very slowly, because the faster you go the shallower the prepared soil will be.

Secondly, add organic material to the soil. The type is less important, it is the doing it that counts. It can be almost anything, from garden compost or rotted manure, to rotted leaves, grass clippings, or peat moss. Just don’t use anything woody, like shavings or bark, because these will rob the soil of nutrients, not add them. Keep those materials for mulches on top, not mixed in. Put a layer several inches deep – 2 to 4 is about right – over the soil before you start tilling, and you don’t need to remove any fresh weeds that might be there, just dig them in. If you find thicker white roots of weeds like thistles or dandelions, then take those out, but otherwise you can leave fresh weeds to rot down.

Once you have prepared the area, rake it level and you are ready to plant.

Give Your Plants Enough Room

Thuja Green Giant will grow into a wide plant up to 12 feet across, so give it room. Plant no less than 6 feet away from walls, fences or your property line, and when planting a hedge or screen allow between 3 and 6 feet, depending on how dense you want it. If you plant closer than 3 feet apart the plans will struggle with each other, and grow tall, but spindly, with the lower branches dying in a few years, leaving gaps, rather than dense foliage right to the ground, which is what you need for a good hedge.

Proper Planting Procedure

There are several things to remember when you plant:

  • Water the pots thoroughly the day before you plant.
  • Don’t plant into dry soil – if necessary, water the area well a couple of days before.
  • Remove the plant from the pot 😊
  • If the roots are spiraling around inside the pot, take a box cutter or sharp knife and cut down the sides at two or three places, and across the bottom in a cross. This will encourage the roots to grow out sideways, rather than keep spiraling, which can lead in future years to strangulation of the growing trunk. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt your plants by doing this – just the opposite. The roots will quickly grow out, exploring that great soil you prepared.
  • Plant at the same depth as in the pot – don’t bury your plant with more than an inch of soil on top of what was the surface of the pot.
  • Use your feet to firm the soil down around the roots, as you plant
  • Use plenty of water when planting. This is not really about watering the plant, but it brings the soil closer to the roots, and eliminates air-spaces. Again, this encourages rapid outward growth, and early establishment. The best way is to place the tree in the hole, put back about two-thirds of the soil, and then fill to the top with water. Replace the rest of the soil once that water has drained away completely, and firm it down again. You don’t really need to water again after that.
  • Job done!

After-care is Important

Follow up with regular watering throughout the first growing season. Once a week is usually enough, but if you have very sandy soil, or if the weather is very hot and dry, twice a week may be necessary. Don’t rely on showers or thunderstorms, but you won’t need to water if you have a solid day of rain. Water each plant close to the stem with a slow-running hose, as the original root ball is the part that will dry out first. Standing and spraying with water is never as effective. For a hedge, putting in a trickle-hose irrigation pipe makes it very easy. These are inexpensive, and they can be attached to a tap with a timer, so you can just forget all about it and have your trees watered on a regular schedule. If there are watering restrictions in your area, see if you can divert the water from your washing machine or shower into your garden – it’s a great way to be water-responsible and still grow your garden.

Thuja Green Giant and Mixed Privacy Screens

Thuja Green Giant is a fantastic, fast-growing evergreen, but when we look at how it is planted in most gardens, there does seem to be a lack of imagination. The nation is covered in straight rows of this tree, standing alone in a neatly-mowed lawn, and I hate to say this, guys, (because it is mainly guys that seem to like this row of soldiers) but there is so much more that can be done. I know that your goal is to mark the boundary of your property, and probably also to block an unsightly view, bring privacy to your garden, or perhaps to reduce wind and snow drift in winter storms. Well the good news is that you can do all those things – and more – with something more imaginative than a blank wall of green.

Clipped hedges I get and have always loved. The geometry itself becomes a garden feature, especially when used as a backdrop to shrub beds. But if you are aiming for low-maintenance, without trimming, then with a little more thought so very much more can be achieved. What I am talking about is planting among and around those Green Giants with other plants and building a more natural-looking privacy screen.

Avoid Straight-line Planting

Sometimes, when space is limited, we need to keep everything in a row to fit it in, but if you have room, consider a different approach. Let’s say you have 100 feet to screen, and very smartly want to use Thuja Green Giant. Typical single-row spacing is between 5 and 10 feet apart, depending on how dense you want it, and how soon you want it to become solid. Now if instead of seeing this as a 100-foot-long straight line, what if instead we see it as also 15 feet wide. Now, instead of a neat row, with everything spaced evenly, we were to take our trees and plant them in groups of 2, 3, or 5 trees, allowing about 6 feet between each plant, diagonally to the row, or in triangles. Space these clusters about 15 feet apart, and now you have a more naturalistic planting, with interesting groups of plants overlapping and creating a much more exciting skyline.

If you have even more width available, you can create overlapping diagonals with rows of these scattered clusters, so that you avoid gaps between them, yet also avoid that straight row effect. But a better approach to that gap is . . .

Add Other Trees to the Row

Now we start to have some fun. If you create those clusters, and perhaps put them further apart – maybe 20 feet – then you give yourself the chance to make your screen even more interesting. Into those gaps you can plant something completely different. Consider the purpose of your screening. Is all-year-round privacy vital, or do you need it mostly in summer? If it’s an issue for summer only, then why not add some deciduous trees? The exact choices will depend on where you live, but these could be trees with fall color, like maple or oak, or flowering trees, like cherry or deciduous magnolia. Smaller trees, like Birch, as top choices for this, and birch is also fast growing, so they won’t get left behind. More upright trees, like the Tulip Tree (or Tulip Poplar) fit well too, and they will never have branches spreading into the evergreens. If the area you are planting is exposed, then tuck those flowering trees closer to the evergreens, on the south side of them, while still putting them partially into the spaces. Crape Myrtles are a great choice too – some become tall, and all are fast-growing and incredibly colorful. Like the Thuja they are drought resistant and do well out in the open.

Alternatively, you can use evergreens. These could be other conifers – perhaps with contrasting foliage color, such as some of the blue spruce, like Baby Blue, or the hardy Colorado White Fir, or beautiful Blue Spanish Fir. Alternatively, holly is a great screening plant, and there are a host to choose from. Pick something upright, with a good berry crop, like the classic ‘Nelly Stevens’, or the fiery ‘Dragon Lady’. If you are in zone 5, choose a hardier hybrid, like ‘Castle Wall’, or ‘Castle Spire’. Once you start thinking in terms of variety, instead of sameness, then many options open up. Remember to match your choices to your growing zone, and choose plants that will grow large fairly quickly, or they will be lost among those big Green Giants. Other evergreen options might include Cherry Laurel, which besides its big green leaves contrasting with the fine Thuja Green Giant foliage, has attractive flowers too. In warmer areas the Wax Myrtle is a lovely upright evergreen, with small glossy leaves, and it’s tough too.

What About Some Shrubs?

So far we have been looking at taller plants, to form the backbone of this mixed screening, but there are also the sides, if you have room. On one or both sides there is an opportunity to add flowering, different plant forms, and fruit for wildlife. In open, treeless areas in particular, screens are valuable refuges for birds and smaller wild-life, providing shelter from storms and sun, nesting sites, and also food. Planting berry shrubs, like Pyracantha or Barberry makes sense. To add greater density, those Cherry Laurels already mentioned are great, and along the sides you can use smaller forms like ‘Otto Luyken’. For early spring flowering, you can’t go wrong with the tough, golden-yellow Forsythia. Why not add some fragrance, with some lilac bushes – perhaps something compact like ‘Miss Kim’, or the remarkable Bloomerang Purple Lilac, which has a second flowering. Don’t plant just one shrub, but instead create drifts, using several, and spacing them apart about 2/3-rds of their mature width. In other words, shrubs that become 6 feet wide would be planted about 4 feet apart.

Let Your Imagination Loose

By now you have will have got the idea of this. Think of clusters of reliable and fast Thuja Green Giant, mixed with taller trees – broad-leaf evergreens, plus flowering or deciduous ones, and colorful conifer evergreens too – that will add variety and interest. Then edge it on one or both sides with drifts of shrubs. Think of interest at different seasons – fall color, berries, spring or summer flowers – you get the idea. Instead of the rigid line of ‘all the same’, you can create a colorful and interesting picture, and still achieve the screening you are looking for.