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.