How to Fix Common Problems with Evergreen Hedges

Sometimes things in the garden don’t work out as we thought they would. With hedges, that vision of a lush green wall framing our garden and bringing privacy doesn’t materialize – instead we have poor growth, gaps, thinning out, and other issues that arise. We want to fix them – and also understand where we went wrong. Some fixes are easy, others perhaps not, so this can also be a cautionary tale on how to avoid things going wrong.

‘My hedge looks pale and thin’

Instead of thick, bright-green foliage on your Thuja Green Giant, or other evergreens, they are growing slowly, and the leaves look pale, perhaps with some of the older pieces looking yellow. There are two possible reasons for this – lack of nutrients or lack of water – or both. Evergreens need plenty of nitrogen, and if your soil is sandy and lacking in organic material, then there will not be enough available. As well, if your plants have been dry for some time, perhaps due to drought, or because you haven’t watered them, they are not absorbing water. The pathway for nutrients is via water, so if there is very little water uptake, even if you have fertilized, and have rich soil, the minerals are not making their way into your plants – which are in survival mode, trying to cope with dryness by going dormant.

This one is an easy fix. First, establish a regular watering pattern. This will be a lot easier if you install a simple ‘leaky pipe’ trickle hose along the base of your hedge. Wind it in and out between the plants, so you cover the area well. Attach this to a regular hosepipe, and let it run for several hours, so that the water makes its way down to the roots. To restore your hedge, do this weekly for a couple of months, and then it will only be needed when the soil is dry. If this is a newly-planted hedge, then you should keep up the weekly watering into the fall on a weekly schedule. An easy way to do this chore automatically is to attach a timer to the outdoor faucet. These are inexpensive, and can be programmed to come on automatically, without the expensive of a full irrigation system.

If the problem is poor soil, then the best fix is to improve your soil when planting. Add plenty of rich organic material, like compost or rotted manures, when digging the area over before planting. If you didn’t do this, there is still hope. Start with concentrated fertilizer – it could be something organic like fish meal or fish emulsion, or alfalfa pellets, or a synthetic fertilizer. The quickest fix is with a liquid fertilizer – look for a high first number, perhaps around 20, in the fertilizer formula. This should be watered thoroughly into the ground over the root area, and you can also spray it at half-strength directly onto the foliage. Repeat 2 weeks later, and again a month later. You should see a big improvement. Once you have restored growth, start using fertilizer regularly, in spring and through the summer. Once your plants are healthy again you can switch to a granular fertilizer, which is much easier to apply. There are also slow-release formulations that only need one application a year – an even bigger time saver.

‘The bottom part of my hedge is looking thin’

Once a hedge has grown to its full size, the lower parts can weaken and thin out. In extreme cases the whole bottom section for several feet may die, leaving your hedge on bare trunks. Yet that lower part is usually where we want it to be thick and green. What to do?

This problem is most often seen on the north-facing side of a hedge, and there are two possible causes. It might be you have planted shrubs in front, and as they grow they are making a lot of shade on the bottom of your hedge. That shade will reduce growth, and it may kill the lower branches. Evergreens like Thuja Green Giant need sun or bright light, and in the shade of shrubs, especially other evergreens, they will abandon their lower branches, and put their energy into the upper growth – which is not what we want in a hedge. The fix for this is simple – trim those plants in front, if necessary removing some – you can transplant them somewhere else in your garden – to let the light in. it is best to leave a pathway at least 3 feet wide between the outer branches of other plants and a hedge.

The second reason could be poor trimming, specifically, letting the top growth become too wide. Look at your hedge from the end. Is the top wider than the bottom? If it is, then the upper part will draw all the energy, leaving the lower branches to starve and weaken. If you catch this problem while the lower parts are still reasonably healthy you can turn it around. Start trimming more from the top, in stages, until you have a slight inward slope on the face of your hedge. Remember that you can’t trim evergreens back to bare branches and expect then to re-shoot. With a few exceptions, like yew trees, they won’t. So you need to cut back in stages, always leaving some green. If the problem is not too extreme you will be able to reverse this error. Of course if you are starting a new hedge, don’t let it happen in the first place, and always lean the face of the hedge backwards a little, to let light to the bottom, and inhibit the upper growth from taking over.

Sadly, once that lower part is dead, you won’t be able to bring it back. Planting small plants along the bottom sometimes works, but it often doesn’t. It is almost always better in the long run to start again with a new hedge.

‘Every spring my hedge is brown’

There are three reasons this might happen. The first and most obvious is that you have chosen plants not hardy enough for your location. Thuja Green Giant is hardy to zone 5, but not colder. Other evergreens will take colder conditions, while others need more warmth. Always match your choice of plants to your location.

The second possible reason is salt damage. If your hedge is along a roadway that is salted, then drifting salt can burn the foliage. Thuja Green Giant is tolerant of some salt spray, but other evergreens for hedges are not. The best solution, if this is a regular problem, is to erect a burlap screen a couple of feet in front of your hedge, to catch the spray. Don’t let it touch the hedge, otherwise the salt will just sit there, and the damage can be worse.

The third reason is lack of moisture at the roots. If neither of those first two reasons seems to be the problem, then soak your hedge well shortly before the soil begins to freeze up. Apply a mulch over the roots as well. This will keep the ground from freezing so hard, and your hedge plants will not desiccate in the cold, dry, winter winds.

Fall Fertilizer for Thuja Green Giant and Other Evergreens

In almost every garden situation, evergreens benefit from a fertilizer program. This is especially true when you are developing a screen or hedge – there you want maximum growth in height, but density too, not just tall, skinny shoots. It is also true for specimen plants, which we want to always look their best, with rich green foliage and healthy growth. Even mature plantings benefit from fertilizer programs, which keep them healthy, and encourage rejuvenation, especially following trimming. Plants that are regularly trimmed must constantly replace the growth removed, so their nutritional needs are much greater than in plants that are just left to grow. This explains why feeding the lawn is the most common fertilizer activity among gardeners – all those clippings must be replaced.

Fertilizer doesn’t replace caring for your soil

Always look at your fertilizer use as a supplement to your overall soil care, not a replacement for it. Good soil preparation before planting, and maintenance of soil fertility afterwards, are the key to good gardening. It is perfectly true that such management is all you really need – Mother Nature has been gardening that way for millions of years. They key to good soil preparation and maintenance is organic material – rotted plants, and the waste from animals. Garden compost, farm and stable manure, the by-products of seed oil production (corn, soya, etc.) – all these are good sources for garden use. Materials like peat moss, for all their availability, are low on the list of suitable materials, but if that is all you can find, it is better than nothing.

Not only should you add plenty of organic material when preparing the area for evergreen planting, but established plantings should be mulched with these kinds of materials regularly. How regularly depends on your soil. Sandy soils need it every year or two, loam soils every 3 or4 years, and heavier soils perhaps every 5 years. Heavy clay does benefit from plenty of organic material, because it improved drainage, but it is not truly needed very much as fertilizer in those very rich soils.

What’s so special about fall?

But we digress. . . so to return to our subject, what is special about fall when it comes to fertilizing evergreens like Thuja Green Giant, Arborvitae, Cypress, or other evergreens? While deciduous plants solve many of the problems of winter by just shedding their leaves and going to sleep, evergreens keep their foliage, so they can face more problems as a result. Evergreen foliage has evolved to protect itself from severe cold, but in garden situations the very act of gardening changes the plants – particularly when we accelerate growth. The high levels of nitrogen applied in spring and summer create larger cells in the foliage, with thinner walls. It doesn’t make much difference if you use chemical or organic sources of nitrogen either. Anything that accelerates growth will do this.

Those thinner walls are easier for insect pests to feed through, and for diseases to penetrate, and even more importantly in fall, those thinner walls are more easily damaged by cold. The sap inside the leaf is thinner too, so it freezes to make large ice crystals, which in turn rupture the cell walls, killing that part of the plant.

This means that in fall we want to reduce the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer for our hedges and evergreens. This is the first number in the fertilizer formula, and while in an evergreen fertilizer for spring and summer you will see a high number, in fall mixes it should be smaller.

Special fall mixes that prepare for spring

Now there is a complexity that steps in at this point. Some more sophisticated formulations of chemical fertilizers use special sources of nitrogen that are only released when the soil temperatures are above about 45 degrees. These are sometimes used in fall fertilizers, so if you look at high-end products promoted for fall use, that first number can be surprisingly high. Don’t be concerned. The purpose in using these materials is to get an early start in spring – as soon as the soil warms that nitrogen will be released, and you don’t need to make an early fertilizer application. So you are saved a job at a busy time of year – a great idea, yes?

Make those cell wall tough and hardy

But usually you will see a low nitrogen number in fall fertilizers. The next number to look at is the last one – the element potassium, also called potash. For a fall fertilizer for your evergreens, like Thuja Green Giant, look for a big number here – 10 or more. Potassium is a slightly strange fertilizer element. It doesn’t take part in building proteins, as nitrogen does, or in making DNA or fats, as phosphates do. In fact, it doesn’t appear in any structural parts of plants (or humans for that matter). It is found, however, in the sap of plant cells, where it plays a vital role. It causes the cells to absorb water – and the nutrients that water contains. It is essential for the plant roots to take up plant foods, and in the cells of the leaves it keeps them full-up with water. This way the leaves stay rigid, stand up and catch the sunlight. Plants low in potassium will often look like they are wilting, even when they have enough water available at the roots.

For plants strength and resistance, potassium is important too. By ‘pumping up’ the cells, pressure is applied to the cell walls. Remember we said they are softer than normal in plants that are fertilized for quick growth? Well potassium in fall reverses that. The pressure of the cell contents on the wall makes it grow thicker (rather like resistance training for people), and restores its protective functions, giving better resistance to cold, wind and diseases. That pressure also sucks in more minerals and sugars, lowering the freezing point of the cell contents, and creating small, mushy ice crystals that won’t break the cell walls. So the cells don’t die.

Take care of the roots too

Finally, all that rapid upper growth can make the top parts of the plant outgrow the roots. Fall is when plants renew their root systems, and roots have a high need for that middle number in fertilizers, phosphate. So look for a reasonable number here – over 10 – so that you feed the roots as well, strengthening and extending them, so that come spring they can deliver everything the top-growth needs.

Fall fertilizer is often overlooked, but as you can see it should be a vital part of your annual program, if you want the very best Thuja Green Giant and other evergreens can give you.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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 Your New Thuja Green Giant

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

For the Best Growth of Your New Trees:

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

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

Keep Watering

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

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

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

Use Fertilizer

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

Start Trimming Right Away

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

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

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


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

Green Giant or Emerald Green – What is the Difference?

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

What is the Difference Between Green Giant and Emerald Green?

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

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

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

Which One Should I Grow?

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

Which One Grows Fastest?

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

Which Grows Biggest?

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

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

Where Do They Grow Best?

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

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

Will Deer Eat Them?

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

What Kind of Soil Do They Like?

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

Which Makes the Best Hedge?

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


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

The Beginners Guide to Thuja Green Giant

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

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

Why is Thuja Green Giant the Top Choice Evergreen?

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

What Is Thuja Green Giant Like?

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

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

Where Will Thuja Green Giant Grow?

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

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

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

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

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

How Do I Plant Thuja Green Giant?

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

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

How do I Take Care of Thuja Green Giant?

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