A Fertilizer Program for Thuja Green Giant – Part 2

A well-planned fertilizer program for your Thuja Green Giant hedge can make the difference between simply good growth, and spectacular, dense and healthy growth, giving you a solid hedge or screen several years earlier than it would otherwise happen. In this mini-series, we have been looking at fertilizers, not just saying ‘this one is good’, but giving the basics. If you understand plant nutrition, then selecting a fertilizer from the array available becomes a thought-out activity, not a hit-or-miss process. You can tailor your choice to what you know your hedge needs, depending on how it looks, and at what stage it is growing. You can make smart price choices, and understand the value of certain ingredients. As well, you have the pleasure of knowing more about your plants, and realizing that good gardening is something that can be learned, without the required ‘green thumb’.

In the first part of this series, posted last week, we looked at the ‘Big Three’, the major plant nutrients – Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium – that figure in the three numbers of the Fertilizer Ratio on every bag of fertilizer. We looked at what they do, and their roles in the good health of your plants. To summarize that, we can say the Nitrogen is the ‘growing’ nutrient, that causes shoots and leaves to develop; Phosphorus is the ‘rooting’ nutrient, that helps your plants develop strong, extensive root systems; and Potassium is the ‘protecting’ nutrient, that strengthens cells, and makes them more resistant to cold, insects and diseases.

Now let’s look at some of the important minor nutrients, which, like vitamins for us, are only needed in small quantities, but which are just as important as those Big Three.

The Minor Plant Nutrients

There are several nutrients that are used by plants in moderate quantities, although a lot less than N, P, K (these are the scientific symbols for the Big Three). These are Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulphur. Only in very acidic soils, with pH values below 5.5, can there be a lack of calcium and correcting that is not a matter of fertilizer, so we will put that one aside. Sulphur is present everywhere, and is almost never an issue for plants. That just leaves Magnesium.


We all know about the ‘wonder chemical’ called chlorophyll in plants that turns sunlight into sugar. It is what makes leaves green, and it is what feeds everything on the planet, directly or indirectly. Inside the heart of this big molecule is a single atom of magnesium. Without enough of that metal, no matter how fast the plant tries to grow, it will not be able to. Plants can rob older leaves to feed the more important younger ones if magnesium is in short supply, and Thuja will do that, leaving the older parts of the stems yellow instead of green, while the growing tips still look healthy.

This is not very common, mainly because most good fertilizers include magnesium in them. Look for the letters ‘Mg’ to find out if the fertilizer you are looking at has some, which will usually be listed as a percentage. It doesn’t have to be very much, and sometimes it isn’t even needed, but it’s good to see some in there.

The Micro-nutrients

These nutrients are also called ‘trace elements’, and both names tell us that they are only needed in minute quantities. These are sometimes called ‘vitamins for plants’, because they are just as important to plants as the big nutrients, but only tiny amounts are used. There are several, but only a couple are of importance. Iron, boron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, nickel and chlorine are the micro-nutrients that plants need, bringing the total needed to just 14 elements. Others are sometimes listed, but at this point those are not strictly essential, as they can be replaced with one or other of the 14. From a practical point of view most of this list can be ignored, since some, like chlorine, are so widespread that it is almost impossible to even demonstrate in hydroculture that they are essential. Nickel is needed only in very, very, minute quantities, and it need special equipment to even detect such small amounts. In most parts of the country, boron, manganese, zinc and copper are common in soil, and no supplements are needed. That just leaves iron, which we will look at in a moment.

Because it is hard to decide how much of these nutrients are needed, in modern fertilizers they are almost always simply included in small amounts. You will usually see them listed somewhere on the bag, given in ‘ppm’, which stands for ‘parts per million’. This is a commonly-used way of expressing very small amounts of something. Only the cheapest fertilizers will have no micro-nutrients, and the good news is that the materials in them will probably be a little impure, so they will be ‘contaminated’ with enough of these elements to provide your plants with what they might need.


This element is the only micro-nutrient that is regularly needed by plants as a supplement. We said that magnesium is in the chlorophyll molecule, well iron is in the enzymes that make chlorophyll, so no iron means no enzymes, which in turn means no chlorophyll. However the difference is very easy to see, because iron deficiency shows up on young, new shoots, which turn pale yellow. Like the other micro-nutrients, iron will often be in fertilizer you buy. Look for the letters ‘Fe’, which is the chemical symbol for iron. To get maximum growth from your Green Giant Hedge, iron is an important additive, since it will give your hedge that rich, lush green color that makes such a perfect backdrop for your garden. Nobody wants a pale hedge, and making sure you are adding iron will prevent that. This is by far the most common micro-nutrient deficiency seen, especially on soils that are alkaline, or if you have recently put down a lot of lime, hoping to improve your soil.

Enough for Now. . .

We seem to be on a roll here, so next week we will look at using organic fertilizers on your Thuja Green Giant hedge.

A Fertilizer Program for Thuja Green Giant – Part 1

When we plant a Thuja Green Giant hedge or screen, we want fast, strong growth. That is why we chose such a fast-growing tree. Usually hedges are put in for privacy, and it is hard to really feel at home in the garden until that lush green wall goes up, keeping the outside world truly outside, and screening us from unsightly views, traffic noise, wind, drifting snow, and even the entry of unwanted animals into our gardens. So it makes sense, right from the start, to have a well-planned fertilizer program in place, so that the growth of our new hedge is fast, lush, healthy and durable. There are many products on the market, all claiming to be ‘the best’ fertilizer available. It is a great help to understand the basics, so that the label can give us some real information, and we can read past the advertising and get exactly what we need. Let’s begin with some basics:

The Big Three Plant Nutrients

Plants are very different from animals, and the first thing to realize is that the food groups and vitamins we need have no relevance at all to plant nutrition. Plant live on minerals from rock, dissolved in water, making everything else they need from them, from carbon dioxide in the air, and from the energy of the sun, unlocked by the process of photosynthesis. The only part of that we have any control over is those minerals, and plants use just three in significant quantities. These are the represented by the three numbers seen in the fine-print on fertilizer packaging, called the Fertilizer Ratio, and looking like ’20-20-20’ or ’12-5-15’.


If we want an analogy with our own diet, nitrogen is the protein of the plant diet. It is the nutrient used the most, and indeed, it does go into all the proteins needed by plants, which are not as numerous as they are for us. The main plant proteins are all enzymes for growth. As well, nitrogen makes DNA, and the pigment chlorophyll for photosynthesis. From a practical viewpoint, we can see immediately that for plants to grow, cells must divide, and each dividing cell needs DNA. As well, without chlorophyll, no growth can take place. So nitrogen is the growing nutrient, encouraging new shoots, green leaves, and in our Thuja Green Giant, nice long stems, of a rich green color, and quick recovery after trimming.

High levels of nitrogen are found in all general-purpose hedge fertilizers, and you should look for a big first number in the Fertilizer Ratio.’20’ or ‘30’ are numbers that indicate a fertilizer bursting with nitrogen. When you use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, it is easy to overfeed, and encourage soft growth, easily damaged by cold or insects. In extreme cases it is even possible to kill plants completely, as is seen when you spill some lawn-food on the grass, leaving a dead patch. So always follow the directions for dilution and frequency of application. In this case a ‘little extra for good luck’ can have exactly the opposite effect.


This mineral is the second most important one for your hedge, because it develops strong root-systems, and balances the tendency of nitrogen to stimulate soft growth that is sensitive to cold, and more easily attacked by pests. Phosphorus is used by your plants as another essential component of DNA, so it is found in all the growing tips of both roots and shoots. Since a plant has a lot more roots than shoots, it needs a lot more phosphorus for the root-system than it does for the top growth. Phosphorus is the second number in that Fertilizer Ratio, and you will find big numbers, sometimes as high as 52.

Your soil conditions are just as important as how much phosphorus there is in the box, because soil pH – its acid/alkaline balance – plays a big part in making soil phosphorus soluble, and so able to be taken up by plants. Slightly acid soils, with a pH of 6.5, have the best uptake, and if you have very alkaline or very acidic soil, you may not get the full benefit of the phosphorus fertilizers you use.

Thuja Green Giant uses phosphorus to make strong roots, establishing itself well when newly planted, and sending roots deep into the ground to give drought resistance and the ability to absorb all the nutrients needed for optimal growth. For this reason, extra phosphorus, in the form of superphosphate, is recommended when preparing your planting areas. Work all phosphorus fertilizers well into the soil. they dissolve slowly, and only move a few inches a year through the soil. So scattered on top as an after-thought, once planting is over, really is a complete waste of time.

Fertilizers sold as ‘starter’ or ‘planting’ aids usually have lots of phosphorus, and they are ideal for feeding freshly-planted trees. Use them during the vital first few months of growth. They really get your plants off to a flying start, and any extra remains in the soil for decades, so it is almost impossible to over-use phosphorus fertilizers.


The last number in that Fertilizer Ratio stands for Potassium. This mineral is not used by the plant to make any structural components of its cells, but it is used inside the cell to keep everything rigid and strong, and its presence stimulates plant cells to build big, sturdy cell walls. This protects them from insects and cold. So you will see large numbers for potassium in ‘fall fertilizers’, designed to bring the growth of your hedge to a conclusion for the season, strengthening and thickening the stems, and increasing cold-hardiness and resistance to being pushed over by snow and ice. Plenty of potassium is especially important if you grow your Thuja Green Giant in colder zones, because cold-hardiness is an important aspect of good health for your hedge.

Enough for now. . .

That’s a lot to absorb, if  you will excuse the pun, so in the second part of this blog series we will take a look at the minor nutrients, which play an important part in the color and vigor of your hedge, even though they are not shown among the ‘big three’ nutrients in your fertilizer.

Seven Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

So you want to grow a screen or tall hedge, right? And you are trying to decide which plant you should choose. Well here are some good reasons – seven of them – why Thuja Green Giant remains the top choice of gardeners across the country looking to plant a screen or hedge.

7 Reason why Thuja Green Giant is the right choice:

  • Fastest growing evergreen available – grows at least 3 feet a year when young
  • Adaptable to a wide range of climates – all the way from zone 5 to zone 9
  • Resistant to deer – usually ignored, so no need for deer-proof fencing
  • Grows in most soils – whatever your soil, this tree will grow for you
  • Lush and green all year round – no browning or bronzing in winter
  • Grows in partial shade – will grow densely with sun for just half the day
  • Pest and disease free – significant problems almost never seen

Screening is important in our gardens. Privacy means we can relax, and the enclosure created by a tall screen gives our gardens that sense of intimacy and completeness that is so important. Planting screening is often the first step in laying out your garden. Once that is established, you can move on to decorate the space inside, taking advantage of the shelter from strong winds it will give you. Inside a sheltered area it can be a whole zone warmer than your official ‘post-code’ zone number. So let’s look at Thuja Green Giant, and see more about why it should be your top choice.

Fastest growing evergreen available

This is not just a claim by a salesman. Some years ago, the horticulture scientists at the University of Arkansas planted a wide range of hedging plants. These were small plants, placed out in a field. The Green Giants outgrew every other plant, growing into dense, upright bushy plants 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide in just 7 years. Starting with larger specimens, you will have a 10 tall, solid hedge or screen in no more than 5 years, and the first 5 or 6 feet happen in the first two or three growing seasons, especially if you use a fertilizer program and water regularly.

Adaptable to a wide range of climates

All the way from zone 5, where winter temperatures can fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all the way south and east into zone 9, where summer is long and hot, Thuja Green Giant will thrive. This is because it is a hybrid plant, created from two wild species of arborvitae. Hybrid plants display all the most vigorous genes, and mask the weakening ones, so these plants are tougher and faster-growing than either of their parents. Isn’t Nature wonderful?

Resistant to deer

While deer have minds of their own, and can eat almost anything when hungry enough, they almost always leave the Green Giant alone. This is quite different from other arborvitae (Thuja species), which are typically eaten by deer on a regular basis. If you see a general statement that ‘arborvitae are not deer-resistant’, that doesn’t apply to Thuja Green Giant, which is not attractive to them at all. Even if some light grazing does happen, the growth-rate is so fast that it will grow back in a few weeks, once spring comes.

Grows in most soils

We all know about plants that need specific types of soil, such as ‘acid soil’, or ‘sandy-loam’, and that will grow poorly in anything else. Because of its hybrid vigor, this doesn’t apply to Thuja Green Giant. Not at all. In almost any soil type, from sandy to clay, and from acid to alkaline, this evergreen grows well. Of course, in sandy soils you will need more water and fertilizer, and some clay soils are regularly saturated with water, which is not good for most plants. If you do have more ‘extreme’ soil, put a little more into soil preparation, by adding lots of rich organic material, which holds water and nutrients in sandy soil, improves the drainage in clay soils – and counters high alkalinity too.

Lush and green all year round

Especially in colder regions, winter is a long, dull season, with not much happening in the garden. So evergreen plants are great, because they stay green, and make the garden look brighter. The last thing you want is to have your lush, green hedge turn bronzy-brown as soon as colder weather sets in, and stay that way until all the new spring growth has flushed out. Sadly, quite a lot of the traditional hedging plants do exactly that. Not the Jolly Green Giant, who stays a bright, rich-green throughout the winter, with no yellowing or bronzing, brightening the garden all winter long.

Grows in partial shade

Most evergreens do very badly in shade. Some that do grow well in it, such as yew trees, or hemlock, are slow-growing, so usually they are only used in the deepest shade. If you have moderate shade, with some direct sunlight for part of the day during spring and summer, then rather than use those slow-growing plants, pick Thuja Green Giant. It will grow vigorously and stay dense even in 50% shade, standing apart from other arborvitae and most other evergreens. If you have a lot of beautiful shade trees on your property, the chances are that the places you want hedges and screening will not be in full sun. Simply by choosing Thuja Green Giant you know that your hedge will turn out great.

Pest and disease free

Some other arborvitae are very prone to pests and diseases. Some plants like Leyland Cypress were widely planted in the past, only to fall to disease in many parts of the country. if you are planting a new hedge, or replacing an old one, Thuja Green Giant is an excellent choice, because it is much less susceptible to pests and diseases that most other hedge plants. Even the most reputable university and school sites say ‘No serious insect or disease problems’ when describing this plant. Yes, it is possible to have some attack by the insects called ‘bagworms’, which are caterpillars that strip branches of their leaves. But like a deer attack, because of the fast growth-rate of this tree, any damage will quickly be replaced by new growth. It is also possible, if the soil you plant in is almost constantly wet, that root-rot diseases will strike. But that will happen with almost every tree in those conditions, and it is the one time where another plant is the best recommendation for a hedge.


Taken overall, these are seven very sound reasons for choosing Thuja Green Giant for a hedge or screen – it’s hard to go wrong with this remarkable evergreen.

Extending the Life of Your Hedge

Don’t end up like this. . .

Hedges have a long life, but sooner or later they can reach the end of that life, and become just too big. Disease may strike, or a severe storm, but the biggest problem is usually that they become too broad. No matter how tightly we trim, we end up adding a little width each year, until eventually the hedge encroaches on our garden, neighbors’ property, or public spaces such as sidewalks. Some novice gardeners try to control this by cutting back hard, leaving bare branches, but for almost all hedges this simply doesn’t work. The main problem is that all the commonly-used plants, like cedar and arborvitae, cannot sprout new growth from bare wood. They can only regenerate from wood with some foliage still on it, and hard cutting back usually means the end of your hedge. To prevent this, and keep your hedge healthy and functional for decades, it is vital to control the width before that point of no return is reached. Otherwise, you are looking at significant labor and costs removing an old hedge and re-planting, as well as several years waiting for the new hedge to grow.

Tips on Extending the Life of Your Hedge

  • Trim right from the start – to build a dense structure
  • Keep an inward sloping face – to maintain growth to the ground
  • Keep the top narrow – to reduce the risk of ice and snow damage
  • Maintain good health –fertilize regularly at the right times
  • Protect from drought – especially in the early years

If you do have to remove an old hedge, then growing a speedy replacement is usually high on the list, and that is where Thuja Green Giant steps up – the fastest thing on roots, this reliable evergreen is the number-one choice among knowledgeable gardeners to replace a hedge that has been removed. Forward planning is important, so let’s consider some ways we can extend the life of an existing hedge, one newly planted, or an older one that you have been tending for some time.

Build a Dense Structure

The biggest mistake, and the most common one too, of inexperienced hedge-growers, is to leave trimming until the hedge is as tall as you want it. If you do this the internal structure of your hedge will be weak, with a small number of very tall, straight branches reaching upwards. These tall branches are vulnerable in several ways, chiefly to bending outwards and snapping if the upper part is weighed down with snow or ice, or if fierce winds dislodge them from the hedge. Once these branches go, big spaces are left open, and the visual effect of your hedge is lost. It is hard to fill in these large gaps once they develop, and it can mean the end of your hedge.

The solution is to lightly trim the top of your hedge, beginning as soon as it is planted, and continuing throughout the growing phase of its development. This encourages lots of internal branching, so that no part of your hedge is vulnerable to opening out and creating a big gap. Any pieces that could become dislodged will be small, and smaller spaces fill in quickly from lateral growth by the surrounding parts of the hedge.

Create the Right Profile

This is the best way to extend the life of your hedge, and it is something to pay attention to from the moment you plant your hedge. The correct profile for a hedge should be a tall narrow pyramid. The base should be wider than the top, and the top should be kept as thin as possible. There are several ways to achieve this, either by free-hand trimming or using a wooden guide you can assemble at home. Even just holding up a long spirit level will show you if you are leaning inwards or not. Whatever way you choose to check it, keeping that inward lean will serve several purposes. Most importantly, it will let light reach the lowest branches, and so keep them vigorous and healthy for decades. Once the top growth widens, it will draw up water and nutrients, starving and shading the lower parts, as your plant aspires to become a full-sized tree. When you are trimming, you should expect to remove considerably more growth from the top, which is more vigorous, than from the bottom. If you aren’t, that is probably a warning that you are not trimming enough from the upper parts.

Go for a Narrow Top

The biggest danger to any hedge, especially a tall one, is breakage from snow and ice. If this builds up on the top, then it can split the growth and pull down branches.  They may in turn break, or if that doesn’t happen, be forever after prone to falling outwards and ruining the look of your hedge. Building internal structure will reduce this risk, but in addition it is important to maintain as narrow a top as possible. A lot of people pay attention to cutting the top rounded, rather than flat. This is important too, but not as much as keeping a narrow top. Rounded or square, a width of less than a foot, even on a very tall hedge, will help it survive the worst storm.

A Healthy Hedge is a Durable Hedge

A good fertilizer program throughout the life of your hedge is the best insurance against an early death. Sturdy growth, resistant to pests and diseases, and able to grow vigorously, is important not just in the years of development, but for the mature hedge too. Just as our own diet, or that of our pets, should change as we grow older, so for your hedge that high-nitrogen diet of youth should be shifter to something with more potash (potassium) in it as they age. Hedge fertilizers sold for fall use have extra potassium, and they can be used all season on a hedge that has reached its full size. You will get less extension growth, which means less trimming, and the growth you do get will be denser and more compact – better able to resist harsh weather, drought, pests and diseases too.

Don’t Forget the Water

During the establishment phase of your hedge, periods of drought mean periods without growth, so they add time to that needed for your hedge to reach the size you want. Drought also weakens the plants, and in severe cases can lead to death, even in a hedge that has been in place for several years. Although watering in fall, winter or spring will almost certainly be unnecessary after the first few years, a few deep soakings during summer dry periods will really make a difference, not just to the appearance of your hedge, but to its health and longevity too.


These are some simple, concrete steps you can take to keep your hedge growing well, and keep it healthy and trim for decades. That big job of hedge replacement can be something only other people have to think about, because you grew yours the right way.



Summer Care of Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is a tough plant – millions of happy gardeners can testify to that. However, that doesn’t mean it is made of steel, and some basic care will make the difference between a relatively poor performance, and an outstanding one. We think of summer as a season of relaxation and fun, and hopefully that is what we will all enjoy, but for plants it can be a season of high stress, with lack of water, high humidity and of course high temperatures all putting pressure on your trees to perform well.

Now for Thuja Green Giant, summer should be a season of growth, and a continuation of that spring spurt, when new shoots emerged rapidly and threw a fresh coating of bright green over plants darkened by months of winter. if water is in short supply, instead that promise of adding a foot or two can turn into a few inches, since without water plants cannot grow. This is especially likely to be a problem in the early years of growth, since mature trees have developed deep, extensive root systems. These allow the tree to draw on water reserves in deeper soil levels, even when the top foot is parched and dry.

Don’t wait until you notice your new hedge looking crisp and brown – by then it is probably too late! Keep an eye on it, check the soil by scraping a little away from the surface, which will always be dry long before lower levels dry out. While it is important not to drown your plants, in summer, dryness is almost always a greater threat.

Soil Preparation

To encourage the deep rooting needed for long-term drought resistance, you need to prepare the soil well before planting. Deep digging when preparing your planting area will make it easy for those roots to begin their journey to lower levels, and encourage them to go down, rather than stay in the shallow upper layers. Smart gardeners dig deeply – 12 inches down is not too much at all. If you cannot easily push a full-sized spade its full length into the ground, then you need more soil preparation. Borrowing or renting a full-sized tiller is a good idea, as by running it over the area several times you can get good, deep soil preparation without the sweat and work of hand-digging. Don’t be fooled by the way a tiller makes the top few inches look good – go over the area several times until the tiller has sunk right down.

Regular Watering

Even with the best soil preparation, it still takes a couple of seasons for your trees to become well established, so plan on regular watering until then, especially during these dry summer months. Newly-planted trees may need watering twice a week if you plant just before or during hot weather. Remember too that thorough watering when you actually plant is important too. No matter the weather, or how wet the soil seems, water deeply when planting. The easiest way to do this is by pausing while returning the soil to the planting holes. After you have replaced and firmed down about two-thirds of the soil, flood the hole with plenty of water. It will drain right down around the roots, not run away across the surface, as can easily happen if you wait to fill the holes with earth before watering. Then you can put back the remaining soil, and leave the surface neat and tidy, without mud everywhere.

Once you have finished planting, plan on watering once a week during cooler weather. Now that summer is here, and especially if you have sandy soil, twice a week is not too much. Regular watering through the growing season will keep your plants growing flat out, not falling to a crawl when the soil around them becomes dry.

A useful way to make watering much easier, if you have planted a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant, is to install a porous pipe. These pipes are inexpensive, and look just like a black hose pipe. When they are filled with water it flows gently from them all along the length. Thread one in and out of your hedge, and connect the end to a hosepipe. To water, all you need to do is open the tap, go away, and come back a few hours later to turn it off. An inexpensive timer can be put on the tap to do the whole job for you – even if you are away on summer vacation. You also save a lot of water by this irrigation method, instead of using a sprinkler, where a lot of the water evaporates immediately, especially during hot, windy weather.

Adding a mulch layer over the root zone area will help prevent water from evaporating into the air, and even more importantly, it will keep the soil cooler, which plants enjoy. Most plants like a root zone that is significantly cooler than the atmosphere, as roots grow best at lower temperatures.


Now that you have taken care of the water needs of your hedge, don’t forget nutrition. Young plants do best on a diet of liquid fertilizer, so stock up on some liquid hedge food. These come either as powder you to a can of water, or as liquids that you also add to a can. Even easier is to use a hose-end applicator, as you can simultaneously water and feed that way, without carrying cans back and forth. Once every two to four weeks from spring to early fall is best during the first couple of years, and your Thuja Green Giant plants will reward you with lush, rich green growth and several feet of it.

Once your plants are better established, you can switch to a slow-release formulation. These granules only need adding once a year, in early spring, so the work is greatly reduced. They release their nutrients steadily, so it is important to get the dosage right. Most come with applicators that make it easy to do that. This is one time when more is not better at all. You may pay a higher price for these types of fertilizer, but the pay-back is in reduced effort for you.

With these simple tips, summer will become a time when your plants put on their best, instead of languishing in dry conditions, and even suffering long-term damage.

Which Thuja Should I Choose – Green Giant or Emerald Green?

When it comes to planting hedges, the most important thing is to make the right choice of plant variety. After all, you are going to live with this hedge for many years, and you are going to invest some money into it – so you want to make the right choice. The evergreens called arborvitae, cedar, or thuja by gardeners are the most widely planted, by a long way. In some areas, you might choose instead Leyland Cypress, Italian Cypress, or even the tough Spartan Juniper, but for most people, in most areas, cedar tops the list.

Comparison of Green Giant and Emerald Green

These two varieties of arborvitae are definitely the most popular varieties to use for hedges, and no wonder. Both are fast growing, generally pest and disease free, and they thrive in a wide range of climatic zones and soils. They both also look very similar. Even though they are different species, it can take an expert to tell them apart. But they certainly perform differently. So what questions should you ask, to help make a choice? Here are the key ones:

  • What zone do I garden in?
  • What type of soil do I have?
  • Are deer a concern?
  • How fast do I want a hedge?
  • How shady is it?
What Zone do I Garden In?

This is the easiest thing to consider, as it might lead to an immediate decision. If you garden in zones 2, 3, or 4, then Emerald Green is your choice. It is the only plant hardy enough to survive your winters, and it will do that easily. Similarly, if you live in zones 8 or 9, then Green Giant is for you, as long as you are able to provide water, especially during the early years. If water is an issue, you might want to look elsewhere, perhaps to Italian Cypress, or a Juniper. If you live in between those extremes, in zones 5, 6, and 7, then you still have choices, because both arborvitae will grow well in those areas, and you should move on to some other considerations.

What Type of Soil Do I Have?

Both Green Giant and Emerald Green are tolerant of a wide range of soils, from sand to clay, and from acid to alkaline. Although it is good to know your soil type, as it is a great help when you choose many other plants, here that basic information is not going to make much difference. When it comes to water however, there is a difference. Both do well in damp soil, but Emerald Green has a definite preference for moisture, so if you have poorly-drained soil, or you get a lot of rain and snow, so your soil is often wet, then that is a slightly better choice. On the other hand, if your soil tends to dry, and you are prone to dry summers, then the tough Green Giant is your friend – standing up to drier conditions better.

Are Deer a Concern?

With this issue, the answer is clear. One of the big failings of Emerald Green is that deer love it, and if that is a problem for you, then choose Green Giant right away. Although deer are always a little unpredictable, and if hungry enough they will eat just about anything, the experience of many gardeners is that under normal conditions they will avoid Green Giant. If you live in a place where the first snow brings deer to your neighborhood, that is the arborvitae for you – a clear winner in this category.

How Fast do I Want a Hedge?

Here too, although both plants are fast-growing trees, everyone agrees that Green Giant is one of the fastest growers around. It will easily add 3 feet a year under reasonable conditions, which is perhaps a foot more than Emerald Green will do. Most people want speed, and a hedge in a hurry, which is why Green Giant is such a popular plant – nothing but grass grows faster!

How Shady is it?

Shade is a fact of life in many gardens, and the last thing we want to do is cut down those majestic shade trees we have around us. On the other hand, especially on a new property, the site can be very open, and the sun shines down relentlessly all day long. This can lead to two problems. One is the obvious summer issue of dryness, and here Green Giant, with its higher drought tolerance, is also the best choice for full sun. If you have a lot of shade, then Emerald Green is just a little more tolerant of that, so other things being equal, it could be a better choice for shade.

The second issue is a winter one. When the weather is cold, it can be hard for plants to draw up enough water. So, when warmed by the sun, the foliage losses water, and if it can’t be replaced, discoloration called ‘bronzing’, and even foliage death, is possible. If you water well in late fall, death is unlikely, but bronzing happens more easily. Emerald Green is more prone to this, so again, if the area you want your hedge is very sunny, then Green Giant is the way to go.


You can see that there are no hard and fast rules here, and there are several things to consider when making this important choice. Perhaps one more general thing to consider is this. Thuja Green Giant is a hybrid plant, a cross between western redcedar and Japanese arborvitae, and hybrid plants are almost always tougher, more vigorous, faster growing and overall the better choice. So if at the end of this exercise you have no clear winner, the best advice is to choose the jolly Green Giant.

As many gardeners have come to realize, this outstanding plant is the top choice, unless other factors are strong enough to swing the scales to something different. It is hard to go wrong with this plant – it’s the safest option for almost everyone.

Seven Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

Planting a hedge or screen for your garden is a big step – you will be looking at it for a long time, and it will be a backdrop to everything else you do in the garden. Getting it right is important, and that means making the right choice of plant. There are lots of plants suitable for building hedges and screens, but some stand out as top choices. Many gardeners these days are choosing Thuja Green Giant, and there are lots of good reasons they make that choice. Here are seven, and considering them will help you decide if this plant is the right choice for you too.

7 Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant:

  • Fastest grower of all – you won’t wait long for results
  • Grows well across a wide area – hardy in all but the coldest areas
  • Tolerant of many different soils – grows well in many different conditions
  • Shade tolerant – grows well in partial shade
  • Always reliably green – beautiful every day of the year
  • Easy to trim and shape – quickly develops a solid structure
  • High pest & disease resistance – stays healthy naturally

Fastest Grower of All

Building good hedges and screens is usually a priority in a new garden. Sheltering your property from wind, roads, or neighbors is top of the list for almost everyone – and makes it possible to truly enjoy your garden. So fast growth is really important to give you that tall, dense hedge as soon as possible. This is where Thuja Green Giant literally stands head and shoulders above the competition. With growth rates of three feet a year easy to achieve with some basic watering and fertilizing, in just a few short years you will be looking at a substantial hedge that gives you the screening you want. No decade-long wait for privacy, no hedges growing a paltry few inches a year. This plant really delivers on the fastest growth possible.

Grows Well Across a Wide Area

You can plant Thuja Green Giant everywhere from zone 5 to zone 9. This covers almost all the continental USA, with the exception of the most northerly parts of the north-east and mid-west. In those areas, the best choice is Thuja Emerald Green, a super-hardy relative of the Green Giant, which will grow well in all the coldest parts of the country.

Tolerant of Many Different Soils

Whatever your soil – sand, loam, silt or clay, Thuja Green Giant will grow well. With the hybrid-vigor coming from its two different parent species, it is tougher and more vigorous than any other Thuja, and soil is not a problem. If you have very sandy soil, or heavy clay, then adding plenty of organic material to the soil when you prepare the planting area will really give your trees the best opportunity to grow well for you. In sandy soil the organic material holds water and nutrients, in clay soil it improves the drainage and air penetration into the soil. These are very beneficial improvements, and energy put into soil preparation is always rewarded by optimal growth.

Even wet soil is not a problem, if it is not constantly wet. Soils that stay damp are tolerated well, and it just means you don’t have to do much watering! Some other hedging plants develop diseases of the root system when the soil is often wet, but this is never a problem with this plant. Only if your soil is permanently wet, such as along a stream or beside a lake, will you need to choose a truly water-loving plant, such as the Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, a deciduous conifer that grows well with its feet right in water.

Shade Tolerant

In many gardens ‘full sun’ is an ideal, not a reality. Once you have some trees growing, areas of shade are inevitable, and your hedge must grow evenly in a wide range of light conditions. Thuja Green Giant does just that. It will grow well in full sun, in areas that are shady for 50% of the day, or with dappled shade, with some sunlight coming through. Only if the shade gets very deep will the growth slow and thin significantly. This means that with a long hedge passing through different light conditions, the growth will be even, and you will be able to easily maintain a level top and a solid hedge. Remember too, that shade from buildings is not the same as overhead shade from trees, so on the north side of a tall building, even if there is very little direct sunlight, growth will still be good, because the light is not filtered by passing through the leaves of taller plants.

Always Reliably Green

Thuja Green Giant is truly evergreen – it doesn’t turn brown or bronzy in winter, as so many other hedging plants do. All year round you will have a beautiful green wall behind your garden, fresh and attractive in the coldest weather. Some evergreens always bronze in winter – the foliage turns brown and dull in freezing weather. Thuja Green Giant stays a healthy green right through the depths of winter, so it always looks great. Note: if plants are not adequately watered, especially if they are newly planted, and at the limits of their hardiness, then drying out of the foliage may occur, turning the branches brown. This is not winter bronzing, but actual death of the branches. Always soak plants in late fall, and in very exposed locations use an anti-desiccant spray for the first few winters after planting.

Easy to Trim and Shape

The soft foliage of Thuja Green Giant is easy and pleasant to trim. No sharp needles to deal with, and if you trim regularly the foliage can just be blown under the hedge as a natural mulch. This tree responds well to trimming, growing denser and denser, making an impenetrable barrier. Just remember the basic rules of hedge trimming – start when young, don’t wait till it reaches full height, and trim the top more than the bottom, to keep the lower parts thick and green.

High Pest & Disease Resistance

After investing both time and money into developing a good hedge, the last thing you want is to have it start dying of pest attacks or diseases. This can happen with some popular plants that are choosy about the climates they like, and can easily be planted in the ‘wrong’ locations. Thuja Green Giant is resistant to major pests and diseases, and if you give it some basic care, it will respond by growing well and never giving you any serious problems at all. You can expect to have a healthy, vigorous hedge or screen for decades to come.

Five Tips for Growing Thuja Green Giant

When it comes to fast-growing evergreens, we all know that Thuja Green Giant is right at the top of the list. But even the best of us can use a little help, and your plants are no exception to that. If you are planting Green Giant for a clipped hedge, a taller screen, or as a beautiful specimen tree, here are some tips on where to put your energies most effectively, to give you the fastest, strongest and healthiest growth from this plant.

5 Tips for Growing Thuja Green Giant:

  • Prepare the soil well – give your plants a great start in life
  • Keep up the water – especially at first
  • Fertilize regularly – we all need a healthy meal
  • Start trimming right away – build a sturdy, dense structure
  • Go for the right shape – a good profile is always best

Prepare the Soil Well

Strong roots mean strong growth, and for your trees to make the strongest root system, they need good soil to grow into. Thuja Green Giant is a tough plant, but if you prepare the area well, and break up the soil deeply, across a wide area, then the result will amaze you. You can easily prepare the area for one plant by digging with a spade, but for all but the shortest hedge, a powerful rototiller is the way to go. Rent the biggest one you can handle, and make sure you go down deep. It is easy to skim across the surface and it will look great, but your trees need broken-up soil underneath them. If you can break up the soil 12 inches down, that is ideal. Prepare an area at least 3 feet wide when planting a hedge.

No matter what kind of soil you have, adding organic material always improves it. Sandy soils will dry out more slowly, and have more nutrients, while clay soils will drain better and allow more vital oxygen down to the roots. Use something rich – like well-rotted sheep, cow or horse manure – if you can get it, otherwise garden compost, rotted leaves, or peat moss will be great too. A layer 3 inches deep all across the area you are preparing is about the right amount.

Keep up the Water

More plants die or suffer badly from lack of water when newly-planted than for any other reason. Start out by watering the plants in their pots the night before you are planting. If the area you are planting into is dry, then water it well a day or two before you plant. When planting, put back about two-thirds of the soil and firm it down around the roots – use your feet for this job. Then fill the hole to the top with water, and let it drain away before you replace the rest. Unless the soil is dry, you don’t really need to water again – the watering you did down into the hole will make sure those root-balls have plenty to get them started.

Immediately after planting the roots haven’t spread into the surrounding soil, and they rely on the soil in the root ball. For the first few weeks, water by letting a hose-pipe trickle water slowly down close to the stem, or use a gentle spray nozzle to soak the area right around the plant. Trees can die of drought surrounded by damp soil, especially if they are planted too loosely, meaning the root-ball is not firmly connected to the surrounding soil. Water every day in hot weather for the first two weeks, or every second day in cooler weather, or if you have heavy soil. Then taper down to a once-a-week soaking during that vital first year of growth. After that you will only need to water when the top few inches appears dry.

Fertilize Regularly

Use a fertilizer blended for evergreen hedges. It will have a big ‘first number’ in the fertilizer formula. Always follow the directions, as too much, or too often, can be even worse than nothing. At first a water-soluble fertilizer that you mix in a can, or apply with a hose-end dilutor is best, because the nutrients are quickly available to plants with a limited root system. These must be applied regularly, at low doses, so to reduce the work involved, switch to a granular fertilizer after the first season. Although they are more expensive, if you have a busy life you will probably find slow-release fertilizers a worthwhile investment. They only need one application a year, and release their food steadily over the whole growing-season.

Start Trimming Right Away

Don’t wait for your plants to reach the final height you are planning – this is the commonest mistake in growing a hedge. For a solid, dense hedge, you need a well-branched internal structure, and the way to develop that is by trimming early. You only need to take the tips off the new shoots, just an inch or two. Do this regularly, and your plants will respond by branching much more, and developing a strurdy structure. You can also begin to create the right profile, which is the last tip we have for the best hedge you can grow.

Go for the Right Shape

Older hedges that are thin and dying at the base at common, but that is exactly the area most seen, and most important for privacy too. The mistake is always the same, letting the top grow too wide, and even deliberately trimming the bottom into a rounded shape, undercutting the upper part. The right way to do it is to keep the bottom wider than the top, starting at ground level. The sides should slope in a little, not go straight up, or worse, widen out. It is easy to make this mistake, because the top will always grow the fastest, so if you trim off an even amount, the upper part will naturally end up wider. Take more from the top than the bottom, and let light penetrate right down, so that the lower branches remain healthy and green, giving you screening right to the ground.


With these few simple tips, you can be sure that your Thuja Green Giant hedge or specimens look great, and grow as fast as they can, giving you the perfect finished effect.

What’s the Best Shape for a Thuja Hedge?

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular hedging plant there is, for all but the coldest areas. Many people are planting it, and then asking themselves exactly this question – what is the best shape for me to train me hedge into? The answer is not difficult, although there are some things to think about, and how to achieve the best result it is also something to consider.

The Best Shape for a Thuja Hedge

  • Narrower Top than Bottom – it just looks so much better
  • Rounded Top – If you get snow in winter
  • Sides sloping inwards – lets light to the lower branches
  • Flat, not bulging – keeps the lowest parts living for the longest time
  • Keep the top horizontal – for that perfect look

Narrower Top than Bottom

Your hedge will tend to grow faster and more vigorously in the top few feet, than it does lower down. All the water and nutrients are sucked up there, and the bigger that part grows, the more it will take everything away from the lower parts. That way, in nature, it will make a tall tree with a trunk – keeping its branches safe from grazing animals. But we don’t want that, we want green all the way to the ground. We need to control that vigorous upper growth more than the weaker lower growth, to keep a good balance. When you trim, if you find yourself taking several inches more from the upper sides and top, than you do lower down, then you are doing it right. Another practical reason for keeping a narrow top is that it greatly reduces the risk of your hedge splitting open under a heavy snow fall, or even in fierce winds. A big, fat hedge is much more likely to break apart than one that is slim and upright. It is clipping that keeps it dense, not thickness. The more you clip, the denser your hedge will be, even if it is only a foot wide.

Rounded Top

This is a perennial discussion topic among hedge growers – should the top be rounded, like half a circle, or trimmed square, with a flat top, and crisp corners? Many people find the square look more attractive, especially if you have a formal-looking garden. If you can keep the top thin – just 8 to 12 inches across, then a square top will be fine. In warmer areas it can be thicker, but if you get a lot of snow where you live, especially the wet, heavy kind, then it will stick on that flat top and build up. The weight can bend and snap branches, ruining the profile of the hedge you so lovingly created. If you anticipate that problem, then rounding off the top, while still keeping it thin, will encourage snow to slide off before it gets too heavy and does damage.

Sides Sloping Inwards

If you are making a neat hedge, it seems to make sense that you would have the sides exactly at ninety degrees to the ground. It makes sense, but it is not the best idea. A perfectly straight hedge will throw too much shade onto its lower parts, and they will not get enough light to keep them growing vigorously. If you slope the sides in a little, just a few degrees, which will only show if you stand exactly at the end and look along, then more light reaches the bottom. This means that those lower branches stay healthy and green for many, many years, giving you a green wall right to the ground.

We talked in a blog a few weeks ago about how to get that angle perfect, all along your hedge. This give the best professional look, and it is not hard to do. To quote that earlier blog:

Take three pieces of wood, one 6 feet long, one 3 feet long and one 6 feet 8 ½ inches long. Join them together to make a triangle. You will see it has a right-angle in one corner, but if you attach the 6-foot piece at a point 6 to 7 inches inside the corner of the 3-foot piece, that 6-foot piece will make an angle of about 80 degrees to the vertical, not 90 degrees. If you hold the resulting triangle up to the hedge, with the small piece horizontal on the ground, that is the perfect slope for the front of your hedge. Just lean it against the hedge as you trim, and you will always keep the same slope, no matter how big your hedge is.

Sounds a bit tricky, but it’s just a few minutes work. Once made, you can keep this guide forever, and always have the perfect hedge. For a shorter hedge, you can usually judge the slop by eye. Doing this will also solve problem number one – the top will automatically be narrower than the bottom.

Flat not Bulging

Keep the sides flat as well as sloping inwards. Letting it bulge in the middle, and trimming the bottom so it is rounded inwards, is a mistake that will only encourage the bottom to die out, leaving bare stems where you want lush green right to the ground.

Keep the Top Horizontal

Especially if you have a sloping garden, don’t slope the hedge to follow it. Keep the top horizontal for that perfect look. Use a tightly-stretched string, and a line-level (a small gadget from the hardware that hooks onto a string) to get it perfect. The human eye is very, very good at judging horizontal, and a drunken hedge sloping up or down is very disconcerting! If you have a very sloping garden, and you are going to end up with a difference in height of more than a few feet, consider stepping the hedge down in two or three sections, with a nice vertical spot where the level drops. That is so much better than an irregular top, and just as easy to maintain, once established.


If you follow these basic rules, your hedges will be the talk of the neighborhood. Remember to start trimming almost as soon as you finish planting. Don’t make the most basic mistake of all, and wait until you reach the final height before starting to trim. You will get the sturdiest, healthiest and densest hedge by trimming regularly, but lightly, while the hedge is growing up.

Thuja Green Giant in Windbreaks

Many larger gardens benefit from windbreaks. If you live in an exposed location – either to wind, snow, or both, then a properly designed windbreak will create a haven of calmness and shelter, in which your garden – and your family too – will flourish. A sheltered location creates a micro-climate, which is an area where the seasons are a little longer, the growing conditions more hospitable, and where a greater variety of plants can be grown. A windbreak, or shelter belt, is different from a screen, which is just planted for privacy. A screen is usually a row, or at most a double row, of a single type of plant, and although a dense screen will have some effect on wind, and slow it down a little, its benefits will not be as great as you might think. A properly-planted windbreak has several different kinds of plants in it, to slow the wind gradually, and over a much larger area, than a single row of trees can ever possibly do.

Of course, a windbreak takes up more room, and it may not be possible in a smaller garden, but if you have the room for one, the space it takes up will be balanced by the benefits it brings. When choosing plants for it, Thuja Green Giant stands out as a number one choice for the vital core component, so let’s look at windbreaks, and how this fantastic plant can become an integral part of yours.

Thuja Green Giant in a Windbreak

  • Fast-growing for the central core rows
  • Tough, reliable and hardy
  • Provides internal shelter as the other rows develop
  • Needs no trimming to maintain the correct density

What are the Benefits of a Windbreak?

While it’s obvious that a windbreak slows windspeed, the benefits of that effect are much more extensive than you might imagine. Speeds are typically reduced between 50% and 90%, depending on the actual speed. By reducing wind-chill, heating costs in your home are reduced substantially, by up to 44% in studies. The garden is enjoyable to be in for more days of the year, a big bonus for family pleasure. Crop yields from your vegetable and fruit gardens will increase dramatically, as well as the quality of the crop, especially fruits. You will be able to succeed with a greater variety of crops, and any animals you are raising will grow faster and be healthier. Wild-life such as birds will benefit, from the increased nesting-sites, food sources, and winter shelter, as will many other animals and beneficial insects.

How do I Create a Good Windbreak?

A 35-foot windbreak creates a shelter zone up to 1,000 feet away, but since the effect is minimal towards the end of that range, the effective protected zone is upwards of 500 feet. So when locating windbreaks, plan on that as the area that will be protected. Find out where the prevailing and strongest winds come from, and place the windbreak at right-angles to that direction. If strong winds are likely to come from more than one direction, you may need a curved or angled windbreak. To be effective in preventing the wind simply coming around the planting, it should be at least ten times as long as the expected height of the trees in it.

A windbreak consists of several rows of trees and bushes, with taller ones in the middle and shorter ones on the outsides. Three to five rows are normal, and these are spaced 20 feet apart for the taller plants, and 15 feet apart for the smaller ones. Within the rows, taller plants go 12 feet apart, and smaller ones can be as close as 6 feet from each other. Perhaps surprisingly, the goal is not to create a solid wall, but rather a filter to the wind. Too solid a planting will cause turbulence, which can be worse than the original wind. 50% final density is about right, so plants should not go too close together.

Thuja Green Giant as the Core of a Windbreak

The two central rows of a windbreak are usually a row of deciduous trees and a row of evergreens. It is as that core row of evergreens, which is perhaps the most critical row of all, that Thuja Green Giant is the perfect choice. Only in the coldest places would another choice be needed. With its extraordinary rapid growth, it will itself create shelter for the slower-growing plants in the other rows, acting as a nurse to their growth. Its upright habit, combined with good width and density, makes it idea for the core of any windbreak, providing 365-days a year strength and stability to any planting. At 12 foot spacing in the rows, they will give just the right density for ideal wind filtering.

For a simple but effective windbreak, plant two rows of Thuja Green Giant, 40 feet apart, with a suitable deciduous tree as a row down the middle. Finish off with a row on either side of a mix of medium-sized evergreen and deciduous shrubs, preferably with flowers and berries.

You won’t need to trim Thuja Green Giant for good structure, so they will grow as rapidly as they can. In trials at the University of Arkansas, tiny starter-plants reached an amazing 10 feet in just 7 years, way ahead of anything else in their trial plantings. Before you know it, your windbreak will be looking great, and starting to do its job.  The other plants will grow faster too, with the shelter it provides. Because it is free of pests and diseases, it will never need any special care, and after some initial watering in the first season, it will take care of itself. The plants in a windbreak all need to be self-reliant, naturally sturdy, drought-resistant and reliable. Thuja Green Giant tops the list in all those qualities.

So when you come to create a windbreak for your property, to give yourself the best garden experience you can have, make sure that Thuja Green Giant is at the heart of it – a choice you will never regret.