Category Archives: Planting Guides

Now that we have entered the summer months, the spring planting season has drawn to a close. That doesn’t mean that we need to stop planting. One of the great benefits of plants growing in pots is that they can be planted at any time of year.

This is very different from 30 or 40 years ago, when a lot of plants – evergreens in particular – were grown in fields and dug out of the ground in spring or early fall, and then sold for immediate planting. This change doesn’t mean, though, that we can treat summer plantings the same way as we might a spring or fall planting. While bargains are often available in summer, as nurseries clear their remaining spring stock, they can need some additional care, if they are to succeed, and not suffer any set-backs. Let’s look at the way to handle summer planting of evergreen bushes, such as Thuja Green Giant, Emerald Green Arborvitae, or any of the multitude of ornamental evergreens available to us.

Care of Evergreens Before Planting

Once your evergreens arrive home, either from a shipping delivery, or from a shopping expedition to a garden center, you need care. In spring or fall we can often just put them in the garden for a few days, and more-or-less leave them to their own devices. Not in summer.

Shade is best

Find a shady spot in your garden, and unwrap the plants immediately, including any string that has been used to hold them together during shipping. If you have bought several, perhaps for a hedge or screen, then space them out a little, so that the air can circulate around them. Close packing can lead to yellowing, or fungal diseases.

Water regularly

Water the pots thoroughly, so that water drains out through the holes in the bottom of the pot. Do not stand them in saucers – let the water run away into the ground. If you are not planting for a few days, check the root balls each day, and water if the top inch is dry.

Shade the pots

Sometimes, in a new garden, you may not have a shady area available, since you have no large trees yet. There may be a zone of shade along a fence, or on the north-facing side of your house, but if not, then place them in the sun. In this situation the foliage will normally be fine in full sun, but there is a danger that the pots, which are usually black, will absorb a lot of heat from the sun’s rays. This can raise the temperature inside the pot, damaging the roots. In this situation, wrap some old burlap, or some scrap cardboard, around the pots. If you have lots of plants, arrange them in a block, and put some shading on the south and west sides, which will be the ones that pick up the most heat. Cardboard, or some burlap attached to sticks works well, and so does white plastic sheeting, which will reflect the heat away.

Planting Evergreens in Hot, Dry Weather

Now you have taken care of your plants for the time you need to start planting, we can look at the planting site, and modifications to planting when you are doing it in the summer.

Preparing the planting area

In spring or fall there is usually enough rain around to mean that the soil you are planting into is damp. Often in summer it won’t be, but instead the area will be dry. For good establishment of your plants it is best if the ground is damp, so a day or two before planting, arrange for a thorough watering of the whole area, not just the planting holes. If you plant into dry soil there will be no encouragement for the roots of your plants to spread out, even more if you keep the root ball watered, so the surrounding soil needs to be damp too.

The best way to do this is to put a sprinkler on the whole area for a few hours. If you stand with a hose you may simply wet the top couple of inches, without their being time for the water to penetrate. By doing it a day or two before planting you leave time for the water to drain down, and you won’t be planting in mud. Especially if you have clay soil, allow two days for it to drain well.

(I am assuming here that you have already dug or rototilled the area and added organic material to the soil, as we have described in lots of previous blogs)

Prepare the plants

The night before you plant, give all the pots a good soak. That was easy!

Planting time is here

Finally, we get to do the planting. Since you have already prepared the area, just remove enough soil to fit the pot. If you are planting into soil that has not been prepared, take out a hole three times the diameter of the pot, and mix some organic material into the soil you removed from the hole. Just dig the hole to the depth of the container, and roughen up the bottom with a digging fork, or spade.

If you are planting several bushes, don’t remove them all from the pots before starting. The delicate roots will dry and burn quickly in the hot sun, or dry wind, and die. Only remove the pot when you are ready to immediately put the plant into the hole.

Put back two-thirds of the soil, and firm it down around the root-ball. Now fill the hole with water, and let it drain away completely. Replace the rest of the soil and firm it down gently.

After you finish planting, water the whole area well, and add a layer of mulch – organic material like compost or manure, or shredded bark, are better materials than gravel and bark chips, as they will feed the soil as they break down, while reducing water loss from the soil surface. Cover an area triple the pot diameter with mulch, leaving the stem and foliage uncovered.

Caring for Newly-planted Evergreens in Summer


Newly planted bushes are entirely dependent on their root balls for water, until they send out new roots, which can take a month or more. So, in summer, let a hose run gently, close to the stem, for a while, every second day for the first week. The water around the plant over a bigger area twice a week for the first month. After that, water weekly until the end of the season.

Don’t make the common mistake of skipping a watering session because there was a summer thunderstorm. That water rarely penetrates the ground at all – scratch the surface the next morning if you don’t believe it, and you will see dry soil.


To help your plants start growing strongly, use a liquid fertilizer for evergreens every two weeks during this first season. In the following seasons you can switch to granular feeds, which are usually cheaper, certainly quicker to apply, and work well on established plants with bigger root systems that can absorb them.

That’s It

If you follow these simple steps, you will have great success with summer planting, even in the hottest conditions, and you can take advantage of the reduced prices that are often available. Don’t put it off until the fall, or next spring – get planting now.

Thuaj Green Gaint Screen

Thuja Green Giant for Screening and Shelter

A top priority for many people is privacy. No-one likes to be on their property and being viewed by passing cars, nearby homes, or from apartment buildings. The value of a home reflects this – if you lack privacy your home will be harder to re-sell. So adding shelter and privacy is often the first piece of gardening done, and sometimes the only major part – a garden with screening, a lawn area and perhaps a couple of trees is fine for many people.

Our minds tend to jump to hedges when looking for that privacy, but hedges can be a lot of work, especially tall ones, which can be needed if your privacy issue is being overlooked from nearby buildings. So instead of thinking ‘trimmed hedge’, why not think ‘screening trees’ instead? With no trimming needed, a well-planned screen will take care of itself for many years, and once established ask absolutely nothing of you – surely a great thing in these days of us always being busy.

Choosing the Right Plant

Suitable plants for this will be fast-growing – because who wants to wait a decade or more while your screen grows? – and evergreen. While deciduous trees can often be grown quickly into a screen, all through the winter months they are pretty transparent, so the privacy is limited to summer, which is often not enough. The plants also need to be self-supporting without trimming, and they must give cover all the way to the ground. To do that you need plants that are relatively narrow and upright, because plants with broad crowns will always become bare at the bottom, there simply isn’t enough light penetrating to keep the lower branches alive for too many years.

A plant that really satisfies those criteria is Thuja Green Giant. This arborvitae is a relative of the white cedar known to many people in the north-east. A hybrid plant, it combines an Asian and an American tree, and hybrid plants are well-known for vigor, rapid growth and resistance to pests and diseases – this one is no exception, and incredible tough and reliable. Thuja Green Giant is certainly fast growing. Independent trials have shown it to be the fastest of all the evergreen trees. They usually take a growing season to become established, adding a foot or two in height during that time. Then this tree really takes off. For the next several years it will add 3 or even 4 feet a year, so that your trees will easily be 10 to 15 feet tall within 5 years. After that the growth does slow down a little, but by then you have a substantial screen.

Planning the Planting

Often, when putting in a screen, trees are planted too close together. The idea is that this will give a solid screen sooner, but it’s a mistake. Plant too close and each tree will fight with its neighbors, growing tall, yes, but not thickening up. A spindly, narrow planting is the result, which is easily damaged by wind and snow, and which remains open lower down. In fact, the bottom branches will often die in a few years, completely defeating the purpose of the planting.

The goal should instead be to develop sturdy, bushy plants, which Thuja Green Giant will do naturally, and well, if given a little room. For a screen that won’t be trimmed, it’s especially important to give each plant enough room, because they need to stay bushy, without shooting out all over the place, which crowding will cause.

Within seven years even a small plant of Thuja Green Giant will have grown to be 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide, so that 5 feet is a good planting distance apart for a screen. The young plants won’t crowd each other, and they will each develop into sturdy individuals, able to stand up alone, with dense growth to the ground, and no need to trim. You could easily extend that spacing to 8 feet, and still have solid coverage within ten years. Remember too that you don’t need a solid wall to reduce wind-flow and give privacy everywhere except at 90 degrees to the line of your screening. Not only do you reduce the cost of your investment in this screen, you get a result that requires no maintenance. Even when the plants do start to grow together, they are sturdy enough to do that without weakening and being easy for storms to break.

Usually a single row is planted, but if you have more room a double row will give you better screening sooner, and a more solid barrier to noise and wind. Space the two rows 5 feet apart, and stagger the plants, so that each one sits in the gap of the other row. They can be 8 feet apart in the rows, or even more, up to 12 feet, and you will soon have a fabulous, dense screen that needs no work at all.

Initial Care Makes a Big Difference

Thuja Green Giant will certainly grow fast, and well. But some care in preparing the planting area, and in looking after your plants during the first year or two, will still make a big difference.

  • Soil Preparation – even the best soils benefit from adding some good-quality organic material before planting. Garden compost or rotted manures are best, but almost anything, from rotted leaves to peat moss, is beneficial. Dig good-sized planting holes, three times the width of the pots your trees are in and mix 2 or 3 buckets of organic material into the soil.
  • Fertilizer – because it takes time for the root system to spread outwards, and for your trees to enjoy that rich soil you have prepared, applying liquid evergreen fertilizer during the first season, and even in the second one. Liquid fertilizers are much more effective on young plants than granular ones, but they are more work, so by the third season you can switch to a slow-release granular formulation that only needs one quick application a year, in spring.
  • Watering – after planting your trees are still almost completely reliant on the soil from the pot that is around their roots. So for the first few months you should water close into the stem at least once a week, or more frequently during the hottest and driest part of the summer. Keep the surrounding soil damp too, otherwise your trees will have no reason to spread outwards. By the next season the roots will have spread out considerably into the surrounding soil, and you should only need to water during dry periods.

Watering Thuja Green Giant – Everything You Need to Know

How and when to water plants is always an issue, and one of the most common basic questions about Thuja Green Giant, and almost every other garden plant as well. It is said that in Japan an apprentice gardener had to work for 7 years before being allowed to water plants, so if you find it a tough issue, no wonder!

Thuja Green Giant is certainly a sturdy and reliable evergreen, but it too needs the right amounts of water, at the right times, so let’s take a look at the issues around watering properly, to have the greatest success.

Watering Before Planting

Good planting is the key to success with almost all plants, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception. When it comes to watering, there are two key things to keep in mind, and to do. The first ‘rule’ is never to plant a dry tree. If the root ball inside the pot is dry, the roots exposed to the air when you take off the pot will quickly dry, and they can die. As well, a dry root-ball can repel water, so it is easy for it to still be dry after you have planted – something that should definitely be avoided.

The best way to make sure these problems don’t happen is to water your plants, in their pots, thoroughly the evening before you are planning to plant them. Just give each pot a thorough soaking, allowing plenty of water to flow through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If the plant is very dry, even that may not be enough, as a dry root-ball will shrink away from the pot, allowing water to flow through without wetting the soil much at all. If you think your plants are very dry, then take a large bucket, fill it ¾ with water, and place the plant and pot into the bucket. It may float for a while, but don’t worry, soon it will sink and become thoroughly wet. After 15 minutes to half an hour, lift it out, allowing the water to flow back into the bucket, and then place it on the ground to finish draining. Repeat as necessary until all your plants are properly wetted. Good job!

Watering During Planting

Now you have good moist root-balls, you are ready to plant. Here too, some people make the mistake of waiting to water until they are all finished. Then a quick splash with a hose is all that happens. No, there is a better way. You want to have the water deep in the soil, around the root-ball, to attract those roots outwards. So when you have put back about 2/3 thirds of the soil, firm it down around the roots, and then fill the hole to the top with water. Wait for that to drain away, and then put back the rest of the soil. You really don’t need to water again, unless the soil you are planting into is very dry. So no muddy puddles, just a neat finish to your planting, and plenty of water where it is needed.

Watering After Planting

Follow-up watering is vital for the successful establishment of your new Thuja Green Giant, and there are several factors to consider.

  • Time of year – if you are planting in spring, the warm weather and rapid growth of your plants means regular watering is needed. Once a week should do it. If you plant in summer, make that twice a week. If you plant in fall or winter, you may not need to water at all, although if you don’t see much rain, soaking every couple of weeks is worthwhile.
  • Type of soil – if you have sandy soil it will not hold much water, and it will dry fast (you probably already have experienced this!). You should increase the frequency of watering new plants accordingly. For example, newly planted trees in sandy soil in summer may need water every second day for the first couple of weeks, and then twice weekly for the first month. At the other end, don’t be fooled by clay soil. Although it looks sticky and wet, it becomes effectively dry to plants quicker than a loam soil does. Clay will bake hard and crack, which you don’t want, so keep to a good watering schedule with it.
  • Weather conditions – this one is just common sense. If you have unusually hot weather, you need to water more frequently.

So here is what to do: Water once a week for the first two months – allowing extra or less based on the points just raised. Then reduce that to every two weeks for the rest of the first growing season. In the second season, water whenever the soil looks dry for the top few inches. Don’t be tricked by thunderstorms and sudden downpours of rain, as these often only wet the top inch, and most of the water simply runs away into the drains.

How to Water

Now you know when to do it, here is how. Water should always be applied slowly, so although standing with a hosepipe spraying water can feel like a ‘good deed’, it is not very effective. Much better is to place a trickling hose a few inches from the base of your plants, and let it run for a while. The water will spread outwards, but more importantly, downwards, and everything will be well-soaked. Not only is this better for your plants, but you use less water too, as hand-sprays lose a surprising amount of water to evaporation, especially on a hot, dry day. When it comes to watering, slow and steady always wins out.

If you have a hedge, this method can take some time, so invest in a length of leaky pipe. This low-cost piping sheds water all along its length, and it can be coiled around and along a row of plants and left in place. Simply connect it to a hosepipe and turn it on for as long as it takes for the whole area to look wet. Once you have an idea how long it takes for your particular situation, you can install a simple timer on the tap, and it will do the job once a week without you having to do anything at all – what could be simpler?

If you do a little research, you will usually find that Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae is listed as an evergreen that needs full sun. Yet look around, and you will see good specimens and hedges of this plant growing pretty well in shade – so what’s going on?

To understand this a little better, we need to look more closely at the different types of shade in gardens. Understanding this will help you grow not only Thuja Green Giant, but all your other plants too. Basically, there are three or even four distinct types of shade found in gardens, and each of them has a different effect on plants growing in them. Once you understand the differences you will see why it is that you see the same plant doing well in shade in one place, and badly in another, including plants of Thuja Green Giant.

Types of Shade – One: Open Shade

The first type of shade we find is what is often called open shade. What is ‘open’ about it? Simple – just look up. Can you see the sky, free of tree branches or any other obstructions? If you can, then you are looking at open shade. Even though the direct rays of the sun don’t come through, the atmosphere scatters and spread the light, and all the wavelengths of sunlight are present, in a very similar balance to direct light. This is important, and it explains why many plants will grow well in these locations. We find this kind of shade on the north side of buildings (or south side, if you are reading this in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or most of South America) and in the shadow zone cast be trees, most noticeably between fall and spring.

Sunlight contains all the wavelengths and colors of visible light – all the colors of the rainbow. Plants use mostly red, and some blue light, but not green light. This is why they look green – the green part of the light is reflected back to our eyes, and the other colors are absorbed for photosynthesis and growth. Open shade gives plants all the necessary colors, just less of them, so growth is possible, even if it is reduced. Indeed, many plants grow very well in open shade – hydrangeas for example. Especially in hot states, and in the south, some plants prefer to be in open shade, since the very strong sunlight can burn the leaves and inhibit growth.

So if you want to grow Thuja Green Giant in a place in open shade, it may grow well. Not as fast as in full sun, and it may not be quite as dense, but this reliable plant will survive and grow, especially if it gets a few hours of direct sunlight, as we will discuss a bit further down.

Types of Shade – Two: Overhead Shade, Deciduous Trees

If you look up in this kind of shade, you will see that it comes from tree branches overhead. These may be solid and dense, or they may be more open and showing some blue sky. They may be close overhead, or high up above you. The denser and closer they are, the less light there will be. This kind of shade has another disadvantage. Most of the light that reaches the ground has passed through the leaves, and the valuable red and blue colors have been extracted by the chlorophyll. This creates that lovely cool look in shady spots – at least to us – but for plants growing in these areas the light has less value, because a lot of the ‘photon goodness’ has been taken out before it reaches them. This is why plants that will grow happily in open shade will grow less well in overhead shade.

Now, the shade from deciduous trees has some advantages, because in spring most trees are slow to leaf out, allowing much more direct sunlight through. In fall too, after the leaves have gone, light comes through, and in warmer, southern areas this is especially helpful in winter, where temperatures may be warm enough for plants to still be growing slowly. So a Thuja Green Giant, planted in the overhead shade from deciduous trees, especially in a warmer zone, may still do OK. It will certainly be a bit thin and more open, but with some trimming it should be possible to keep a reasonable look to it.

Types of Shade Three – Overhead Shade, Evergreen Trees

Now we come to the really difficult shade, the sort of thing you find underneath a big old spruce or fir tree, or a laurel bush. Not only are many evergreens very dense, allowing very little light through, but the shade is unrelenting, just as dense in fall, winter and spring as it is in summer. Gardeners know from experience just how few plants will grow in these conditions, especially if the branches are low and close to the ground. Here, Thuja Green Giant is simply not going to make it, so use something more shade tolerant, like Yew or Plum-yew (Cephalotaxus).

Types of Shade Four – Seasonal Shade

Most of us know that the sun is in the sky for longer in summer than in winter – pretty basic stuff. As well, the sun is higher in the sky in summer, especially between the two equinoxes, March 21 and September 21. Each day up until June 21 the sun is a little higher, and then it goes lower again, until everything turns around on December 21 and starts again. So if you look at your garden in winter you will see a lot of shade, from buildings and the long shadows of trees, especially evergreen ones. But as the shadows shorten, areas that were in shade are now in full sun, and this coincides with the growing season too. If you plant Thuja Green Giant in a spot that is only shady in winter, it will grow almost as well as in a spot that is sunny all year, because most of the growth happens between spring and fall, even though the plant is evergreen. If you want to know if you can make a hedge with this great plant, or plant a specimen or two, it is best to look at the available light during the summer period, as any shade in winter has very little effect.

Ah, I See. . .

It’s obvious that shade is a complex subject, and simply rules like ‘grow in sun’ have to be thought through in each garden, and the areas more closely identified. Then you will be able to plant more effectively and get ‘the right plant in the right place’. Hopefully that will mean that you can grow Thuja Green Giant in more places than you thought possible.

Is Thuja Green Giant Right for My Garden?

When it comes to screens and hedges, the name ‘Thuja Green Giant’ is on everyone’s lips, but a hedge is a big decision you will live with for a long time, so let’s dissect that decision, so that you are sure this is the tree you want to be planting.

How Big a Plant do You Need?

Size matters, and untrimmed Thuja Green Giant are large plants, reaching 10 feet in 7 years in recorded trials in Arkansas, and ultimately growing more than 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Of course, trimmed regularly you can keep it under 10 feet tall, but if you want a hedge just 6 feet tall or less, and are prepared to wait a couple of extra years for it to mature, then there are a whole range of plants, from boxwood to Juniper, or for exactly the same look, Emerald Green Arborvitae, that will give you a great evergreen hedge that you can be more relaxed about trimming.

Of course, many people choose Thuja Green Giant exactly because it will become large. If you need screening from a highway, or some privacy from a neighboring tall building, then those extra feet are exactly what you want. Left unclipped the natural density of this tree makes for a solid barrier, and with regular trimming you can easily have 20-foot hedges if you want.

Where do You Live?

Thuja Green Giant is a tough plant, but it does have climatic limits. Its ideal growing range is between zone 5 and zone 8, and even into zone 9. That is a broad sweep across the nation, and if you are in those zones, then you will be making the right choice. But that does also leave a significant area where you might want to look to other hedging plants.

Considering the upper end first, it really depends on your exact climate. In damper zone 9 it will thrive, and certainly do better than Italian Cypress, which is often planted in Florida. There that tree will often suffer from fungal diseases, due to the humidity. In the same zone in the west – Arizona and southern California – Italian Cypress thrives, enjoying a similar climate to its southern European home, while Thuja Green Giant will find the extreme dryness a problem. So in humid, hot zones, stick with Thuja Green Giant, but in drier, drought-prone areas, you will find the Italian Cypress superior, unless you have excellent irrigation.

Looking north, there are significant parts of the country in zones 3 and 4, and even in zone 2. Sadly, if this is you, Thuja Green Giant is not for you. You can make excellent hedges however with its relative Thuja occidentalis, the arborvitae or white cedar. A top form for dense growth and ‘hedginess’ is Emerald Green Arborvitae. This plant is slower growing, and of course in colder areas the growing season is noticeably shorter. Since nothing beats Thuja Green Giant’s three feet a year plus growth rate when young, Emerald Green does still manage a respectable 18 inches a year in good growing conditions, so it will mature soon enough.

Do You Have Sun?

Like almost all evergreens, Thuja Green Giant is best when grown in sun. If you are looking at a partially shady spot for your planned hedge, then how many hours of direct sunlight does it get? Six hours a day, certainly in spring and summer, would be a minimum, and for a really dense hedge sun all day is best. If you have shade, then consider other possibilities for an evergreen hedge. The yew tree (Taxus) is the classic shade hedging plant, but boxwood is also a good choice. You might also move into broad-leaf evergreens, like English cherry laurel, or holly is also a good choice.

What is Your Soil Like?

Because it is a hybrid plant – a natural cross between two different species – Thuja Green Giant is tougher and more adaptable than either parent. So it grows well in almost all types of soil. From sand to clay, and in both acidic and alkaline soils, it does well. If you do have very sandy soil, prone to rapid drying, and lacking in nutrients, then the classic solution of adding plenty of rich organic material when planting is still the best solution. Using plenty of fertilizers may solve the nutrients shortage, but they will be rapidly lost, so you will need to do a lot of feeding. As well, they won’t tackle the water issues at all.

Organic material solves all three problems. It retains moisture, it provides a steady nutrient supply as it decomposes, and the humus created – a term for the long-term, very slow decaying parts of organic material – acts as a store for the mineral nutrients in the soil, preventing them from washing out in drainage water. An annual mulch with more of the same over the root zone will keep that soil in good shape, and reward you with rapid growth, and rich, deep green plants.

Not every garden is dry, and some suffer at the other end, with constantly wet soil. Perhaps you live in a low-lying area, or the place for this hedge is in a hollow. Maybe you are beside a stream or lake. Whatever the reason, if your soil is constantly wet then Thuja Green Giant will struggle. Most plants need oxygen at the roots, and wet soil is almost always low in oxygen, so roots are weak, and diseases easily attack them. The best strategy, and one that is often successful, is to mound up the earth in a long row, raising it at least 6 inches above the surrounding ground. If you do this by throwing up soil from trenches on either side, making the ridge at least 3 feet wide, and preferably wider, then you will also create natural drainage channels around your mound. Open them up for water run-off at the lower end, and you now have a well-drained planting area. It is some work, but the payoff is the great result. Now Thuja Green Giant will thrive, with good access to both water and oxygen around the roots. Problem solved.

Do You Have Deer?

Most Arborvitae are popular with deer as winter food, but Thuja Green Giant stands out as being deer resistant. This is not the same as ‘deer proof’, because of all grazing animals, deer are highly unpredictable. Young, inexperienced animals will test just about anything, and can damage plants even if they quickly give up. Very hungry deer, in the depths of winter, will eat just about anything too, so personal experiences can differ. Allowing for that, the consensus is that Thuja Green Giant is among the best of the deer resistant evergreens, so it’s a top choice is you are in an area where deer come around in winter.

Hopefully this run-down has been helpful in reaching a decision that will give you the best results. Thuja Green Giant is a great plant for many locations, but it is better to make a different choice than to make a wrong one.

So you planted a hedge last fall, you have just planted one in the last few weeks, or you are about to do it very soon. Congratulations – hopefully you chose something tough and fast-growing, like Thuja Green Giant, or in colder areas, Emerald Green Arborvitae. In very hot, dry areas you perhaps went with Italian Cypress, but whatever you chose, what happens in the first year after planting will set things up for the rest of your hedge’s life. Let’s see what you can do – nothing complex you can be sure – that will give your valuable new hedge the best start in life.

Prepare the Soil Well

If you have already planted your hedge, then this may be advice too late, but if not, then three things are important:

  • Dig Deeply – try to prepare the soil as deeply as possible. Try to go down 12 inches, mixing the soil, and adding suitable materials. For a single tree, prepare an area at least 3 feet across, or a line 3 feet wide for planting a hedge row. If you use a roto tiller, these machines can fool you into thinking you have done a great job, while in fact they just went over the surface. Go over two or three times, working the machine slowly, and letting it sink into the ground as far as it will go.
  • Add Organic Material – it doesn’t matter much what kind, just as long as you add it. A layer 2 to 4 inches deep is usually best, and garden compost, rotted farm manure, rotted leaves, even lawn clippings and fresh weeds, are all good materials to incorporate into the soil. These increase the water-holding capacity of light soils, increase the drainage and air content of heavy ones, and add nutrients and valuable microbes too.
  • Add Phosphates – this nutrient, needed for root growth, doesn’t move into the soil from the surface for many years, so it must be dug in to be effective. Sprinkling it on top after you plant is completely ineffective. You can use bone meal, superphosphate, or triple superphosphate, it really doesn’t matter, so consider cost. Sprinkle a layer over the soil before you add the organic material. You can’t damage your plants if you use too much, and a solid dusting is about right, so that it is clearly visible.

Water Regularly

This is so important, and basic, that it cannot be over-emphasized. New plants only have the soil that was in the pot to depend on, and in warm weather, or when growing vigorously, they soon use that up. It takes some time for roots to move out of this limited space and explore the surrounding soil. So when watering your new hedge, don’t use a spray and water the top only. Use a gently rain head, or a slow-running tap, and soak down close to the stem of each plant, letting the water run deeply down. This will keep your plants happy. You do also need to keep the surrounding soil moist, to tempt the roots to spread out, and this is why many smart gardeners put a ‘leaky pipe’ watering hose – the black, porous kind – down along their hedge. Weave it in and out of the stems, and let it run for a few hours, until the whole area is thoroughly watered. It does a great job, and also saves you the trouble of standing their watering.

Fertilize with Liquid Fertilizers

Feeding hedges is important. Like lawns they get clipped regularly, so foliage is lost, and it has to be replaced. This means more nutrients are used than by an untrimmed plant. Granular fertilizers are the easiest to use, and the most cost-effective, but young plants don’t have big root systems, so they can’t easily access the nutrients from these materials, which need time to migrate down into the soil. Far more effective is a liquid fertilizer, that carries the nutrients right down to the roots with the water. Choose something designed for evergreens, which will have lots of nitrogen to stimulate rapid growth. These fertilizers come as concentrated liquids – the easiest to use – or as a powder – the most economical. The only issue is that because they are dissolved in water, they cannot be very strong, so you need to re-feed every 2 weeks to a month. But for the first year they really make a noticeable difference in the growth rate and foliage density of your new plants, making them sturdy and strong. Stop feeding in early fall, to allow your trees to slow down and toughen up for the coming colder weather.

Start Trimming When Your Start Growing

When creating a hedge, we want a dense, twiggy structure, with lots of tight branching, to give you the solid structure that makes the most private hedge, the best looking one, and the one that resists winter breakage too. The single biggest mistake when people plant new hedges is to let it grow until it reaches the height you want, and then start trimming. This never gives the best structure. Far better is to trim lightly and regularly from day one. As soon as you see new growth, snip off the end inch of it. This will encourage the dense branching you want. It will also allow you to direct the growth upwards, not outwards, so that you have a slip hedge. Don’t forget to keep the upper part narrow, to encourage plenty of growth lower down. Once it gets going, trim very lightly once a month from spring to mid-fall.

Try to keep the front flat, but sloping slightly inwards, and the top horizontal – you might need some strings and a level to get started. Don’t trim at the very end of the season, especially in colder areas, as soft, young growth can suffer winter damage. In the end you won’t reduce the rate of growth significantly, as your new hedge works its way up to your target height, but you will have a great hedge as a reward for that bit of extra work.

With spring arriving across the country – sooner in some places than others – planting time has arrived, and many people will be planting hedges and specimens of America’s most popular evergreen, Thuja Green Giant. This fast-growing tree is the top choice for taller hedges and screening, but when faced with that shipment of plant, sitting in their pots, some new gardeners may not be too clear on the best way to plant them, so let’s consider that. After all, getting plants off to a good start is always the first secret of success, and equally, a bad start can set you up for poor results, and even failure.

Prepare the Ground

Although we don’t see it, the life of plants below the ground is at least at important to them as what goes on above ground. Scientists have laboriously excavated the root-systems of plants from grasses to big trees, and in every case the roots occupy a vastly bigger volume than the above-ground parts. Many times bigger. So it follows that we should give it just as much attention, since we want to see much faster growth than a tree is nature will achieve. Most young seedling trees sprouting in the wild die, and those that don’t usually struggle for years to gain a foothold, but in gardens we want rapid growth and establishment from Day One. To do it properly you need two things when preparing the soil for your Thuja Green Giant plants – organic material and a source of phosphates.

Organic material

The exact type you use is not so important, but adding it is. No matter if your soil is sandy, clay, or something in between, the magic of organic material always improves any soil. Sandy soils retain more moisture and nutrients, and clay soils (which usually have lots of nutrients already) develop better drainage and more vital air penetration into the soil. You can use garden compost if you have it, rotted leaves, old potting soil from planters, rotted farm or stable manure, or even peat moss (which despite its popularity is not such a good choice). If you are planting a single tree, you need about a bucket full, and if it is a row for a hedge, you need a layer 2 or 3 inches deep, over an area 3 feet wide.


Of the three major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate, and potash) you only need to add phosphate when preparing the ground. Why? Because this nutrient doesn’t move around in the ground easily, so if you sprinkle it on top it will quite literally take years and years to work its way down to where the roots are. All other nutrients are quickly carried down into the soil by watering or by rain.

There are several good sources of this, and most gardeners know bone meal. Expensive for a big job, its great for a couple of trees. Otherwise track down some superphosphate (or triple superphosphate, which is a bit stronger) and use that – it does the job at lower cost. A heavy sprinkling of this – like a light snowfall – should go down before digging, and in poor soil as some more as you go too. You can’t hurt your plants with too much, and it stays in the ground for many years.


Scatter the phosphates and then spread the organic material on the ground before digging or rototilling, which should then be done as deeply as you can go. For a row, prepare a strip at least 3 feet wide, or 5 feet wide if you are planting a double row. For an individual plant, dig an area at least 3 times the width of the pot, and again, go deep. Then level of the surface and leave it to settle for a few days before planting, if you can. If it was dry when you dug, setting up a sprinkler and giving the area a thorough watering is also a good thing to do.


Now to get down to the real job. The night before you plant, give the trees in their containers a good watering, soaking the soil. Never plant a dry tree, because it can be hard to get the root-ball wet after planting is over. Doing it the night before will mean it is not soggy on the day, and easier to handle than a freshly-watered tree.

You will have worked out the spacing for your plants, as we went into in detail in this previous blog, so set out your plants according to your plan. With hedges and screens, the best future look requires careful, even spacing, so put some time into adjusting this until you are satisfied. Use a stretched string to get the row straight.

If you have prepared the planting spot well you will only need to dig holes a little wider than the pot – just enough to be able to easily plant. Dig the holes where you have placed each plant, to the same depth as the pot only. Leave the tree standing next to each hole.

Preparing the Root Ball

Some people find the next step surprising, and hesitate to do it, because they are fearful of damaging the plant. Don’t be. This is an important step in helping your trees become established quickly and preventing future problems with roots strangling the growing trunk of your trees – a problem called ‘girdling’. It is similar to what you may have seen with trees tied to tightly to a pole – the rope cuts into the bark, and it can kill the tree. Roots wrapped around inside the pot can do the same thing as they and the trunk grow larger. Preventing this is important, so don’t be afraid for the tree.

Slide your Thuja Green Giant out of the pot. Take a sharp box-cutter and make 3 or 4 deep cuts from top to bottom around the root ball, going in about one inch deep. This will cut through the girdling roots.

Into the Ground

Now it is time to finish, and this is the easy bit. Sit the tree in the hole. Use a short stick laid across the top of the hole to adjust the position so that the top of the soil in the pot is level with the soil surface. Don’t bury deeply, and if your ground is poorly-drained, raise it up an inch or two above ground level. Now push back some soil, and using your foot, firm it down around the roots. Once you have about two-thirds of the soil back, fill the hole to the top with water. While it drains down, move on to the next tree. Once the water has drained away, put back the rest of the soil, firming it gently down. Rack the surface level, and you are done – no need to add more water, although if you want to you can.

To finish, mulch over the root balls with an inch or two or organic material, keeping it away from the trunk and foliage.

That’s it! You have given your Thuja Green Giant trees the best possible start for their life in your garden.

It is the green parts of plants that we see, and beneath the ground is often ignored. But for trees, that area is so important, as vital activities happen there. Successful growing should emphasize what we do with the root system, and if we do that, the upper parts will usually take care of themselves. Let’s see what we should be doing to care for the roots of our evergreens, to give us the fast and healthy growth we want to see.

Give them Room

We are (hopefully) going to consider how much room above ground our plants need. For example, Thuja Green Giant has a spread of as much as 12 feet, so it should not be planted closer than 6 feet away from walls, fences, property boundaries and foundations. Its root system takes up even more room, and although it will adapt to obstructions, growing around or underneath them, you cannot grow a full-sized tree in a very small volume of soil. So when planting around buildings, or between construction features like driveways and garden walls, consider if you have enough room. As well as your plant suffering, your construction can too, as large plants too close to retaining walls can weaken them and cause their collapse, and planting right alongside a walkway or drive can result in cracks and lifting developing in a short time.

For the best growth of your trees, creating a large volume of soil is essential, as often the ground is too hard for them to easily penetrate. This is especially true in newer properties, as heavy construction machinery will have been driven over the site, making the soil hard and unyielding. This problem is called ‘compaction’. Soil where you are planning to grow Thuja Green Giant, or other trees, should be dug or roto-tilled to loosen the soil. For a hedge a section at least 3 feet wide, and preferably wider, up to 6 feet, should be dug or tilled to a depth of 12 inches, or as deep as you can go.  For individual plants, an area at least 3 feet in diameter should be prepared. This will separate the pieces, and even if your soil is poor, it will make it much easier for your young trees to spread out and down, finding water and nutrients over a large area, and so growing stronger and healthier. This is far better than planting into a small hole in hard soil, and then finding you have to water all the time and fertilize too, to keep your plants growing. The extra work of good soil preparation will be re-payed many times over with great growth and good health.

Enrich the Soil

No matter what type of soil you have, adding organic materials to it will improve it. In sandy soils, it helps retain moisture and provide nutrients, and in clay soils it improved drainage and air penetration into the soil. Suitable materials include garden compost; well-rotted animal manures like cow, sheep or horse; rotted leaves; spend mushroom compost; peat moss; or almost any other well-rotted organic material. Do not use woody material (such as wood chips) as these things rob the soil of nutrients as they decompose, and only years into the future do they feed your plants. Usually a layer 2 to 4 inches deep over the area is sufficient. Spread it over the surface and dig it in. If you are using a tiller, run over the area once, spread your organic material, and then till one or two more times. Mixed into the soil it will hold water for the roots, and as it rots down it creates drainage, and releases nutrients too.

Once you have finished planting and watering, then spread another layer 2 or 3 inches deep over the dug area. Keep it away from the stems of your trees, and don’t cover the low foliage close to the ground. This layer will act as mulch, conserving moisture. It will also prevent the growth of weeds, as these should not be allowed to grow up around your plants, especially when they are still young. As well, mulch of this kind, rather than bark chips or stones, will feed your plants too, as it rots down into the ground. Mulch should be renewed in spring for a couple of years at least after planting, and if your soil is very sandy, mulching each year is recommended. In richer soils it is not so necessary, and it may only need replacing every two or three years.

Water Regularly

The soil is where your plants get water from, and even if your plants look healthy and green in dry soil, they are not growing. So watering is often necessary, especially when plants are young, and especially in sandy soils, and in hot places. New plants should be watered at least weekly during dry weather, even in the temperatures are not so high. Remember that newly-planted trees depend for a while on the root ball that was inside the pot, until they spread their roots outwards. So even if the soil looks damp, that root ball may have already dried out. Use a slow-running hose to trickle water down around the roots, rather than standing with a spray nozzle and squirting water about. Most of that will be wasted and simply evaporate into the air. This watering during the establishment phase is vital for your plants to get off to a flying start and put on lots of new growth for you.

In the longer term, putting in a trickle line will make watering easy. This can be connected to your irrigation system is you have one, or connected directly to a tap with a timer so that it comes on automatically, meaning less work for you.

Fertilize your Plants

New plants can take several years to develop an extensive root system. Without that they may not be able to access enough nutrients for maximum growth, even if you have enriched the soil. Today chemical and natural sources of fertilizer are available, so you can use which ever kind you prefer. The important thing for growing evergreens is that there is enough nitrogen in them for growing all those green shoots, especially if you are clipping, which removes the growth which then must be replaced. Look for fertilizers with a high first number in that set of three – it is the level of nitrogen. It should be close to 10 in a natural fertilizer, and close to 20 in a chemical one.

The simplest approach is to choose a blended fertilizer designed by experts for evergreens. Apply this a week after planting, unless you are planting in late fall or winter. If you are, wait until spring to fertilize, and in sandy soil or in the early years, a second feeding in mid-summer and another in early fall is beneficial, especially in warmer zones. In colder areas a spring and summer feeding should be enough.

With these steps – dig and enrich the soil, water regularly, and fertilize – you will see the best growth possible. It pays to focus on the ground if you want the best results in the air.

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

Top Tips for Planting Thuja Green Giant

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

Preparing the Planting Area

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

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

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

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

Give Your Plants Enough Room

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

Proper Planting Procedure

There are several things to remember when you plant:

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

After-care is Important

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

Thuja Green Giant is the number-one choice evergreen for hedges, screens and specimens, so lots of people have lots of questions about this plant. Here are some of the common ones – with answers.

Question: How fast does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Apart from the obvious answer, ‘very fast’, we are lucky to have some real research to tell us this, which is by far the most common question about this plant. Luckily, we have some accurate information from research at the University of Arkansas a few years back. They planted some small trees from 1-gallon pots 10-feet apart in some fields at three different spots across the state, in three climate zones, and measured their growth over 7 years. At the warmest site, in zone 8a, the trees were 11 ½ feet tall by the end of the trial. Even in the coldest location, a windy spot in zone 6b, they were just a few inches shy of 10 feet tall. The fastest growth happened in the second, third and fourth years after planting. The plants grew as much as 3 feet a year during those fastest years and at the warm site the trees added 5 feet in a single year, the third, which had ideal growing weather.

These plants were in full sun, and they had drip irrigation, but only limited fertilizer, so you can see that with good care, in good soil in a warmer zone, you can grow a respectable 12-foot hedge in 7 years, and in even less time starting with bigger plants. Remember, don’t expect to see a whole lot of growth the year you plant, but you will see some big changes in the following few years!

Question: How big does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Left without trimming, in good soil, Thuja Green Giant will grow over 30 feet tall, and it will be between 8 and 12 feet wide. This is a plant for taller hedges, or for untrimmed screening, so be sure to leave enough room for it. It is important to plant a screen at least 6 feet inside your property line, so that it doesn’t encroach on neighboring property, and even if you don’t trim it regularly, consider cutting the top down every few years to reduce the shade it will throw in winter. You should also consider this final height and width if you are planting near your home, so that you don’t block windows. This plant doesn’t have a big root system, as many deciduous trees do, but even so allow 6 feet from the foundations when you plant. The most common mistake seen when planting around your home is not considering the size of the plants in 10 or 20 years.

Question: How good is Thuja Green Giant for screening?

Answer: A screen is like a hedge, but with little or no trimming. Plants need to be naturally upright, and not likely to fall apart when they become older. Thuja Green Giant is great for screening, as it does grow naturally dense, stands up tall, and resists breakage during storms and heavy snow. All this makes it perfect for screening. The only consideration is the height if untrimmed, but of course you can deal with that by simply having the top cut back by several feet every few years. Trimming the sides at the same time is also a good idea, just to keep it tidy and really solid. If height is not an issue, the great thing about this tough plant is that it is fine without trimming. This means a screen is basically ‘plant and forget’ – except for watering attention during the first season, and perhaps some fertilizer in the early years too. For screening, plant your trees 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on how solid you need this barrier to be. It will take a while for the plants to touch if they are 10 feet apart, but 5-foot spacing will fill in just a few years. If you have plenty of room, a good way to make a really solid screen, for maximum sound screening for example, is to plant a double row, with 5 feet between the rows and 8 to 10 feet between the plants, staggering them in the space between the plants in the opposite row. This doesn’t take very many extra plants, but it grows into a really solid screen.

Question: Will deer eat Thuja Green Giant?

Answer: The basic answer is, ‘probably not’, but deer being a little unpredictable (!!) nobody can say for sure. Many people do report that deer leave this plant alone, while it is well-known that deer will eat other Thuja plants, like the eastern white cedar. So while we are not going to say an definitive ‘No’, the chances are good that your Thuja Green Giant plants will be left alone. Another good thing is that since this plant grows so fast, if there is some limited damage, your bushes will grow back so quickly it will soon recover.

Question: How much watering does Thuja Green Giant need?

Answer: This depends on how long they have been in the ground. During the first growing season, from early spring to the middle or end of fall, it is best to water your plants well, soaking them once a week. Standing with a hose and spraying water is not the best way to water them (or most other plants either). It is much better to have a hose trickling slowly at the base of each plant for an hour or two, so that the water soaks deeply down, to where the roots are, and to encourage the plant to go down looking for water, not to grow on the surface, where the roots are much more vulnerable to drought. Even better is a leaky-pipe or drip-line irrigation system, attached to a hose. This will water all the plants at once, and you can even set it on a timer to do it automatically without any effort from you at all.

Whatever way you do it, that regular watering in the first year is vital for the survival and establishment of your bushes. After that you can reduce it a lot, although regular watering during dry periods will give you the strongest and fastest growth.

Question: Is Thuja Green Giant drought resistant?

Answer: Except for the first year, where regular watering is needed, and perhaps in the following two or three years as well, the answer is, ‘Yes’. Once established normal summer dry periods are not a problem for a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant. They won’t grow much during very dry periods, but they will almost certainly survive without damage. In areas where extended dry periods are normal, such as the south-west, then a better choice would be the Italian Cypress.