Monthly Archives: December 2016

Winter Care of Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular hedging plant in America, except in the coldest areas, where Emerald Green Arborvitae is a better and hardier choice. Although Green Giant is completely hardy throughout Zone 5 – that is, where winter minimums can reach minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit – if you do live where it is close to its minimum hardiness, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your plants from potential injury, especially if some exceptionally cold weather should come your way. These few simple steps will give you ‘top-up’ insurance on your plants, and make sure they come through the winter untouched, and looking as great as ever. Of course, if you are in a warmer area, these steps will be completely unnecessary, because this is a tough plant, adapted to grow well across a large part of the country, with no special care at all.


It seems odd to suggest watering trees in late fall, when the temperatures fall, but for evergreens this is a vital time when water is very important. Especially following a dry summer and fall, the ground may not be fully saturated with water. This is especially true around the base of a hedge, where the thick foliage can prevent rain penetrating right down to the roots. When the ground freezes it becomes harder for trees to draw the water they need, and this can lead to problems. The foliage continues to lose water, especially when cold, dry winter winds blow, and if that water cannot be replaced, the foliage can wither and brown.

Thuja Green Giant is normally resistant to this kind of burning, but it makes sense to take the little time needed, and give your hedge a good soak before the ground freezes hard for the winter. This is especially true for newly-planted trees, whose root-balls have only limited access to water, since the roots have not yet spread out. If the ground is saturated when it freezes, it will not freeze so hard or so deep, and the roots of your trees will still be able to get all the water they need, and brown foliage will never strike your plants.

If you have a soaker hose in place for regular watering, this job is as easy as turning a tap on for a few hours. If you don’t have a hose in place, then moving a trickling hose along the hedge, leaving it in each spot for an hour or two, doesn’t take much effort either. A slow flow of water for a longer time will penetrate much deeper than a fast flow for a short time.

Screen Young Plants

The first winter in the ground is an important stage in the life of your Thuja Green Giant plants, and in cold areas a little extra care will be well rewarded. If your new hedge is in a position exposed to strong northerly winds, or along a highway, then a simple screen of burlap attached to poles will break that wind. Since the plants will still be smaller, a standard six-foot wide roll will be all you need. Leave about a foot between the screen and your plants, so that it does not freeze onto the plants. This simple method will give good protection from strong winds and keep your plants happy and healthy throughout the coldest weather. Do not wrap the plants completely, as they may become too warm inside, and start to grow too soon. Then, when you unwrap them, that new growth will be easily damaged by any late frost that may strike.

Don’t Let Snow Build Up

Whether this is the first winter for your plants, or they are well established, a heavy snow fall can cause damage, even to such a tough plant as Thuja Green Giant. Young plants can be pushed over by a heavy blizzard, and if not correctly trimmed, hedges can break open. With new plants, removing snow that may have pushed them over is best done when it is fresh and soft. Just push away the worst of it and make sure your plants are back upright.

With an established hedge, prevention comes from correct trimming. Keep the top of your hedge narrower than the base, both to keep the lower branches growing strongly, and to have less area on top where snow can build up. If you live in an area where heavy snow is normal in winter, a rounded top, rather than one cut flat, will shed snow more effectively. When you trim, run the trimmer down as well as up, so that the side branches are approximately horizontal, not growing upwards. Long, upward-facing branches can easily be pushed outwards, and break. If your side branches are horizontal, this can never happen and the heaviest falls will be shed by your sturdy hedge.

Next Fall

If you have problems with your hedge in winter, consider applying a special winterizing fertilizer in fall. These contain the right balance of nutrients to strengthen the foliage, and make it more resistant to cold and freezing conditions. Your hedge will be a rich dark green all winter, and come into spring ready to burst into rapid growth. These extra nutrients applied at the right time can really make a difference in an extreme winter.


Thuja Green Giant is a reliable and hardy plant across most of the country. If you live at the limits of its hardiness, these simple tips, that take just a little work to put into effect, will help you avoid any winter problems that may come along.

How Much should I Water my Thuja Green Giant Hedge?

When it comes to making a hedge, Thuja Green Giant is without doubt the top pick. With its vigorous growth it soon makes a thick, strong hedge, without needing a lot of care. There is one thing that new gardeners do want to know, and that is how much and when they should water their hedge, for maximum growth and good health.

New Plants need Plenty of Water

When you first put your plants in the ground, make sure you give them plenty of water. The best way to do this when planting is to only put back part of the soil around the roots, and then fill the hole right up with water. This will drain down into the root zone, so when you put the rest of the soil back you know there is plenty of water around the roots – where it counts. If you wait until all the soil is back before watering, you may only wet the top few inches, and you could be leaving the soil around the root ball dry.

During the first few weeks your new plants have no roots growing into the soil, and they only take water from the root ball that was inside the pot before you planted them. They can easily dry out even if the surrounding soil is damp. It is important in those early days to soak plenty of water right up against the stems of your plants, so that it trickles down into that root ball. The surrounding soil should also be kept moist, to encourage roots to move out in search of water and food, but don’t neglect the root ball itself.

Watering During the Early Years

Water at least once a week during the first growing season. If you are planting in fall or winter you may find the soil and the root balls remain damp, so you may not need to water so much, but during spring and summer your Thuja Green Giant plants will need plenty of water, so weekly watering is necessary. If the weather is very hot and dry, and your plants are in an exposed, sunny place, then more frequent watering, perhaps every two or three days, may be necessary.

By the time the second growing season rolls around, your trees will have sent out roots into the surrounding soil. So now it is important to keep the soil further away from the stem moist. You want your trees to establish a wide root system, so they can access the food they need, and resist drought, so watering over a wider area is important. You may still need to do this weekly during the hottest weather, but now you can water less often, since the roots have spread further out. You will get maximum growth from your young plants if they are getting all the water they need, so don’t neglect watering them during those critical early years.

Watering a Mature Hedge

After a few years, your Thuja Green Giant trees will be well established, and they will be drought resistant and independent. However, after fertilizing, or during long dry periods, a good deep soak will make sure your hedge stays lush and healthy. It is always better to soak the ground slowly for several hours, than it is to spray a lot of water in a short time. Don’t be fooled by a torrential thunderstorm either – most of that water runs away and never penetrates the ground at all.

Making Watering Easy

Getting out and watering can become a chore, but there are lots of labor saving ways to take care of it and free up your time for more exciting things.

You don’t need to install a full irrigation system to water your hedge easily. There are several low-cost options available, and the best choice is black porous soaker hose. This comes in 50 or 100 foot lengths, and you need about 50% more than the length of your hedge, so a 50-foot hedge needs about 75 feet of hose. You can join sections together easily, but if you don’t have good water pressure you may find it better to have separate sections, that you can water one at a time.

The ideal thing is to bury this pipe around the root zone when you plant the hedge, but it can also be laid on the surface of the soil at any time later. Snake it over the root balls and around the stems, which is why you need that extra length. One end has a fitting to attach it to a regular garden hose, and that in turn goes to your water tap. When you want to water, just turn on the tap and leave it running for a couple of hours, until the whole area around your hedge is thoroughly soaked.

To eliminate the need to think about watering at all, add a simple controller to the tap, which you can program to come on at any interval you want, for as long as you want. You can even add a soil moisture sensor, so that your hedge only gets watered when necessary, and with a small solar cell attached you don’t even need to worry about batteries. Everything will be automatically taken care of, and your hedge will get the best care possible.

Thuja Green Giant in the Garden

Thuja Green Giant has a well-deserved reputation as one of the very best screening and hedging plants for your garden. Ideas for this plant shouldn’t stop there – it has so much more to offer, since it is also a great plant to use around the garden as part of your planting schemes. Its evergreen foliage means it is attractive in every season, its strong upright lines makes it a great accent plant, and its rapid growth and reliability makes it a real workhorse in building a great garden.

In Foundation Planting

Surrounding the house with plants is a great way to join your house and garden together. Plants against the walls protect you from heat and cold, reducing heating and cooling costs. They soften the hard outlines of architecture and create a flow of green from the walls right out into the garden. Although flowering plants are excellent around the house, evergreens give a look of permanence and longevity to your property, and should be used liberally in your foundation planting. Trees are not a good choice, because their root systems can damage foundations, but even large evergreens have relatively small roots, and can be planted close to walls without causing damage.

Thuja Green Giant is the perfect choice for tall blank walls, since it has a good height without being very wide. It will grow up to the roof-line of a two-story home, but it won’t overshadow it, or become a danger during storms. Tuck one into a corner to create a curving line around the house – perfect for smaller plants to go in front. Plant one on either side of the front door to create columns of green to frame your entrance and create a real ‘presence’ to your entrance. During the holiday season, you can wrap them in lights for a true festive feel.

Many people like to clip the plants around their home into more formal shapes – it is a good way to make a transition from the straight lines and right-angles of a building into the natural rounded shapes of most garden plants. You might choose a simple upright conical shape, or pyramids, flame shapes, large balls or even cubes or spirals. With its rapid growth rate, Thuja Green Giant will quickly grow to the size you want, and it is easy to clip, quickly developing the shape you are looking for. If you have plenty of room, try grouping three plants together and clipping them to three different heights to make an attractive grouping.

Around the Garden

Out in the main part of the garden there will often be awkward spots to deal with. These can be corners, where you don’t want something wide that will hang over neighboring properties, but that will fill the corner and perhaps hide a less-than-attractive feature. Thuja Green Giant has the potential height to hide that feature and make a bold statement, as well as the width to fill a blank corner without spreading widely and crowding out either neighbors or your own garden. In a large garden you want to fill space effectively, and often reduce the total area, so that your flower beds stand out more, and you garden needs less high-level maintenance. Well place groups of Green Giants in the back areas will do just that – creating a visual backdrop to your detailed work with flowering shrubs and plants.

Allow Enough Room when Planting

Perhaps the biggest single issue for beginner gardeners is understanding the final size of the plants the put into the garden. Thuja Green Giant is an upright plant, but it does need enough room for its width. So here is a useful way to check you are leaving enough room. Take a piece of string. Make a loop that will fit loosely around the pot. Measure out from the trunk about 4 feet along the string and tie a stick at that point. Now place your new tree on the ground where you would like it to be, and circle around it with the stick. The area you go around is the size of your tree at 8 feet wide, which is what it will be in about 10 years. Have you got enough room? If not, move it around a bit until you have it in a suitable spot. When you first plant the tree it may look like there is far too much space, but with such a fast growing tree you won’t have to wait long for that space to be filled with a terrific plant.

A Final Word

So don’t limit your thinking about Thuja Green Giant to hedges and screens. This fast growing and vigorous tree is a great plant for your gardening too, and makes a bold statement wherever you plant it.