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.

Keep Your Hedge Green to the Ground

Thuja Green Giant is a very popular hedging plant, partly for its amazingly rapid growth, but also for it hardiness and how easy it is to make great hedges and screens with this terrific plant. Once your hedge is growing strongly – and that won’t take long – it’s time to settle into some long-term care, and that is where some gardeners need a hand in doing things right. If you make mistakes – and we all can – then you might end up with a hedge that is less than you dreamed about.

There is one problem that we see quite often on older hedges, after the first 5 or so years of regular trimming. The lower part of the hedge has started to thin out, and all the growth is at the top. Gradually the lowest branches die, causing bare spots to develop, and they just don’t seem to re-sprout. Eventually you end up with a hedge that has a couple of feet of bare trunk along the bottom, even though the upper parts are green and healthy. Gardeners often ask why this has happened, and the reason is usually the same – poor trimming habits. There is not much that can be done to bring back that growth once it goes, so if you want the maximum life from your hedges, trimming properly from the start is the secret. Let’s look at the commonest reasons why Thuja hedges become thin and bare at the bottom. The good news is, it doesn’t have to happen to you if you follow a few simple rules.

Plant Far Enough Apart

This is essential when you plant your hedge. Some people are so anxious for a solid hedge they pack the plants root-ball to root-ball. That is a mistake, because the plants respond to the shade that makes by immediately growing up, not out, and the bottom doesn’t get a chance to thicken and develop at all. Allow at least 3 feet between the plants, so that there is room and light to build a solid base for your hedge. Don’t worry, Thuja Green Giant is so vigorous and fast-growing, it is going to fill in sooner than you thought possible.

Start Trimming Early

This is a big part of the secret to a solid, dense hedge right to the ground. Don’t wait until your hedge reaches the height you want, start trimming lightly as soon as it begins to grow, shortly after you have planted it. Just take a couple of inches off at a time, so that you get lots of small branches developing close in to the main stems. As these grow they will give you a dense structure that will stay that way for many, many years. Don’t forget to trim the top a little too, you want thick all the way up.

Allow Enough Width for Development

Nobody want their hedge to take up the whole garden, so we always want to keep it thin, not allow it to spread too wide. But we must be reasonable, and allow enough thickness for the branches to develop a dense structure. Especially at the bottom, it must be wide enough to support the smaller branches that give us a thick hedge. When planting, reckon on a mature width of at least 3 feet, and remember that gradually, over time, it will add ½ an inch a year, so eventually that will become 4 feet, no matter how tightly and carefully you trim.

Trim Your Hedge with a Sloping Face

Although we are talking about this one last, it is the most important one, and it’s an easy one too. When your Thuja Green Giant bushes grow, they want to grow tall, and a lot of their energy will go to the top of the plant. So growth in the top couple of feet will always be stronger, and the shoots longer, than lower down. This is a big part of why, eventually, the bottom starts to thin out, as more and more water and food goes to the greedy upper parts. When we come to trim, we need to take more growth from the top than from lower down, to push that growth back down into the lower branches. If you trim off the same amount all over the hedge the upper part will start to bulge out, taking the lion’s share of the energy, and also shading the lower growth, which just makes the problem worse. The answer is simple. When you are trimming, cut more from the upper parts than the lower ones, so that the side is flat, but it is leaning inwards by a few degrees.

Some professional hedge-trimmers make a simple structure with a few pieces of wood as a guide. 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.

If that sounds too complex, don’t worry. Most hedge-trimmers just judge it by eye, looking for a slight inward lean, and with a bit of practice that is the best way for all but the most formal, large hedges. If you can see the hedge from one end, and you have trimmed it correctly, you will see that the side has a uniform inward slope. It is hardly visible at all when you look at the hedge straight on.

That Was Easy

If you follow these simple rules, your hedge will be the envy of your friends and neighbors. When they ask how you did it, just pass on the link to this blog. Thanks!

Maximize the Growth of Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is known for its rapid growth. This is a major reason why so many people are choosing it for screens and hedges – besides its beautiful green foliage and attractive appearance. But of course, just how much growth it produces in a year is not fixed. Some people might complain that their plants didn’t grow as fast as they were ‘supposed to’, but the causes can almost always be traced back to the way they were grown, not to the plants themselves. There are several things you can do to speed things up, and get that hedge of your dreams as soon as possible.

Ways to Speed-up the Growth of Thuja Green Giant

  • Prepare the soil well
  • Water regularly
  • Have a fertilizer program
  • Trim lightly from the beginning

Let’s look at each of these ideas in turn.

Prepare the Soil Well

The secret to good growth of all plants is in the soil. The difference between success and mediocre results is how much attention you pay to preparing it for the plants you put into it. Some people even say you should spend as much on the soil as you do on the plants, although in truth that is not necessary. None the less, it does get across the idea that making your soil better is as important as choosing good plants.

The first step in preparing the soil is to dig it. You can do this by hand, with a spade or fork, or you can use a rototiller. If you use a tiller – which will save a lot of time – then rent the biggest you can operate. Many people who use tillers do a bad job, because the machine will trick you by making the top layer of soil look nice, while doing nothing just a few inches down. You need to dig 12 inches deep if possible, which is the full depth of a full-sized spade, and the depth when the tines of the tiller are completely buried in the ground. It might take you several runs along the area to get it that deep, but it is important to do it.

Prepare the area for a hedge at least 3 feet wide. The purpose of making the soil loose over a large area is to make it easy for the plants to quickly send out their roots into the soil in search of food and water. Only new roots can take up those vital things, so plants need to constantly be growing into new soil. If that soil is hard and compacted, they will need more time to do that, and may even not be able to do it at all.

As well as digging, it’s best to add some kind of rich organic material to the soil. All soils benefit from it, from sandy ones to heavy clay. In sand, organic material holds water and adds nutrients as it decays. In clay, it also adds nutrients, but even more importantly, its coarse texture opens up the soil, allowing water to escape and air to enter. It doesn’t really matter a lot exactly what material you use, although most gardeners agree that rotted animal manures – cow, sheep or horse – are the richest and give the fastest growth. But home-made compost, rotted leaves, and peat-moss all do a similar job. Dig into the soil a layer between 1 and 4 inches deep, and mix it well down into the soil. Once your plants are growing you can replenish that organic content – which disappears over time, simply by mulching with it in spring. A layer a couple of inches thick is enough for that job.

Water Regularly

Now you are ready to plant, it is time to water. Begin by watering the pots the night before – if the root-ball is dry when you plant, there is a danger it will stay that way even after you water the ground. For a hedge the best approach to planting is to dig a trench a little wider than the pots, along the line you want. This makes spacing out evenly and getting the row straight a lot easier. Once you have the plants in the trench, put back most of the soil, firming it down around the roots. Now flood the trench with water – that way you get it right down into the soil. Once it has drained away, put back the rest of the soil. Mulch over the root area – but not against the trunks – will help conserve moisture. Water twice a week for the first month, then once a week after that for the rest of the season. Even if it rains, water anyway, as rain often does not penetrate dry soil very deeply at all.

To maximize the growth in the years that follow, weekly watering from spring to fall will give the fastest growth. Only if your soil drains poorly can you over-water with a weekly soaking. A porous irrigation pipe makes watering very easy. Just connect it to a regular hosepipe, turn it on, and let the water flow for several hours – until the area is thoroughly wet. Try digging a hole in the earth after you think they have watered enough. You might be surprised to see that only the top few inches are wet. If that is true, water longer.

Have a Fertilizer Program

Even with that soil preparation and watering, using a hedge fertilizer will accelerate the growth even more. It really doesn’t matter very much what type you use – solid or liquid, but the simplest to use is a slow-release form that is applied once in spring for the whole season. These can cost more, but the saving in time might be worth it to you. Whatever you use, follow the directions carefully. Giving too much is worse than giving too little, and if you don’t continue through the season, much of the benefit will be lost.

Trim Lightly from the Beginning

It might seem counter-intuitive to trim plants before they reach the size you want – surely, they will get there more slowly if I do that? Not really. Taking an inch or two off the ends of the branches every couple of months in the early years will thicken up the growth, and encourage more shoots to develop. You will reach the final height with denser growth more quickly. A few wispy stems getting there first doesn’t really count now, does it?


If you follow these simple steps, your Thuja Green Giant hedge will grow the fastest it can for you. Before you know it, the hedge of your dreams will be yours.

A Hidden Path to Easy Hedge Trimming

When it comes to hedges, Thuja Green Giant stands alone. Faster growing, hardy and disease-resistant, with perfect green foliage every day of the year, it is the premium choice for hedging. Like all hedges, to keep it neat and trim, and to keep it green right to the ground, it needs regular trimming. In some gardens this can be a problem, because you have shrubs and flowers planted in front of the hedge. This effect – of flowers in front of a perfect trimmed wall of green, is a garden classic, but making it work is not so easy. Walking through beds to trim a hedge, and putting up ladders, can cause a lot of damage to flowers and more delicate bushes, and collecting the trimmings can cause even more damage. Also, the trimming goes more slowly, and can become frustrating.

As well, the roots of the hedge spread out sideway beyond the hedge, and they love to grow in the rich soil we prepare for our flower beds, and the mulch we put around roses and flowering shrubs. This means that the shrubs and flowers grow less vigorously, as the hedge takes water and nutrients away from them. In addition, the shadow of the hedge causes the plants to lean away from it, towards the light.

The Hidden Path

What to do? This problem has been around as long as hedges have been made, and in the past there was a simple solution, which seems to have been lost. So lost is it that you won’t find a single image of this on the internet, or a description of how to build it. Sometimes in exploring older gardens you might come across this trick, but you probably won’t have noticed it unless you explore ‘behind the scenes’. Maybe the absence of images is because in big gardens, even the owners weren’t aware of this trick, put in by the gardeners, because you really can’t see it when you stand in front of the beds. Visitors won’t see it either.

What is this secret way to enjoy the beauty of flowers, roses and shrubs displayed against the perfect green backdrop of a lush, trimmed hedge? It’s easy . . . a hidden path. Yes, by simply running a narrow path between the hedge and the bed, you have instant access for trimming, without trampling on anything, and with the space to easily put up a ladder. When you come to clean up, the trimmings are easy to rake up from a hard surface, and the whole job goes faster. The path also creates distance between the hedge and the bed, reducing root invasion from the hedge, and allowing the plants to grow straight and strong, not weakly and leaning over towards the light.

Making a Hidden Path

What you are going to do is run a pathway right up against the hedge, and put a bed on the other side of the path. Sounds simple? That’s because it is. The path should be narrow – usually no more than 3 feet wide, and it’s construction can be very simple too, since it really isn’t seen from the garden itself. If you use a ladder to trim your hedge, make sure the path is wide enough to be able to stand it up parallel to the hedge, and wide enough to get a wheel-barrow along. Narrow is good, as it makes the path harder to see.

For a surface, you can use almost anything. Perhaps you have some left-over pavers, or some simple concrete slabs. You don’t even need a paved surface. Spread some gravel over the soil and run a vibrator over it all so the gravel beds-down into the soil surface. Don’t use mulch or anything like that – you want a surface you can easily rake to get up the hedge trimmings.

This walkway can be put in at any time, but it is best to do it when you develop the bed in front of the hedge. If the hedge is newly-planted, or young, remember to allow some space for it to expand to its final width. That is another thing – the walkway gives you an automatic line to trim the hedge perfectly flat and even. Make sure you lay the path straight to get that result.

There is also a secret to making this pathway less visible. Build a low wall – perhaps 6 or 8 inches tall – along the bed side. Again, this can be made of almost anything. Eight-inch planks of pressure-treated lumber nailed to short stakes works well and is low-cost. When you prepare in the bed, and finish off the surface before planting, grade it backwards so that it ends up the height of the low wall. You don’t want to see the wall from the front of the bed. Now, when you stand in front, most of the path will be hidden by the slope of the bed. This slope also improves the drainage in the bed. You will get good concealment once the plants in the bed grow. Be sure to plant right up to the back edge of the bed, so that some plants overhang the path a little. Once they have grown a little, the path will be invisible.

Easy Hedge Trimming

Now, instead of the time-consuming chore of picking your way among shrubs and flowers, trying not to damage them, you have complete, easy access to the hedge, for both trimming and cleaning up. The job will go quickly, with no hassles, and your flowers will be completely untouched. Reviving this lost trick will make your life so much simpler, and your garden so much more enjoyable.

Is Thuja Green Giant the Right Choice for Me?

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

Where Do You Live?

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

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

How Soon Do You Want a Hedge?

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

What is Your Soil Like?

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

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

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

How Much Sun Will It Get?

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

Do You Live by the Ocean?

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

Do You Have Deer Visiting?

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


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

Put Color into Your Thuja Hedge

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

Basic Ways to Color Your Hedge

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

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

Here are some ideas for plants to consider:

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

Other Possibilities for Color in Your Hedge

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

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

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

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