When to Plant Arborvitae – Planting Guide 2024

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If you’re looking to add a touch of greenery to your yard all year long, having an evergreen shrub is the best option. Arborvitae is an evergreen tree but it won’t grow very large so it makes for the perfect accent anytime you want a living wall of privacy. Find out when to plant it and the best way to keep it healthy.

When to plant arborvitae: Arborvitae is a type of conifer and while there are many varieties, most are around 15 feet tall and thus perfect if you want a hedge or an alternative to a fence. These trees can be planted in both the spring and the fall. For spring planting, you don’t have to wait too long as you just need to be able to work the soil. As for fall planting, give them enough time to establish themselves before the ground starts to freeze. Early April and late September are common planting times. Once your arborvitae is in the ground, you will want to regularly water it in the first year. Aim for moist soil. After a year of growth, you only need to water when the weather becomes very hot. You will then enjoy the vibrant green of this evergreen, all year long.

Planting Arborvitae in Different Climates

Tropical Climate

Even though arborvitae like moist soil, which a tropical climate can provide, the constant warmth will not support this tree. Arborvitae needs both a warm and a cool season.

Dry Climate

Arborvitae is a type of tree that needs water. Especially in its first year of life, the soil needs to be continually moist. As such, a dry climate will not be able to sustain it.

Temperate Climate

Perhaps the best location for arborvitae is a temperate climate. With heavier rainfall, you don’t have to worry too much about this tree and instead can bask in the green beauty it offers.

Continental Climate

While you can grow arborvitae in a continental climate, you will have to be vigilant about watering. The hot summers of this climate mean you need to add more water to your tree, sometimes even daily.

Polar Climate

As there is not enough warmth or hours of sunlight in a polar climate, arborvitae will not be able to grow.

Choosing Arborvitae Seeds

Arborvitae is Latin for “tree of life” and once you plant it you will quickly understand how it gets its name. With green foliage year-round, planting arborvitae in your yard will definitely add some vibrant life to it.

There are many varieties of arborvitae to choose from. However, one of the most important factors to consider is height as these varieties can really range in size.

Tom Thumb

While we often think about arborvitae as a hedge, you can actually find very miniature versions. This variety only grows to be 12 to 15 inches tall and is a great addition to a rock garden or if you have a container garden.

Emerald Green

Those that want a vibrant, green addition to their yard will appreciate this variety. It grows to be about 15 feet tall and its lush green foliage will astound all year-long.

North Pole

Aptly named because of its height, this variety is tall and lean. It can grow to be 15 feet tall but you can also keep it smaller in a container.


With a tall height of 15 feet and a width of 8 feet, this variety is perfect for adding that much-needed bit of privacy to your yard. It has a subtle fragrance to it and can be planted in most types of soil.

How to Plant Arborvitae Seeds


Unlike other plants that are pretty picky about when they go in the ground, arborvitae is much more resilient. There are two options for planting, one in the fall and one in the spring.

For spring planting, you can get an early start and start digging in April. The only requirement is that the ground needs to be thawed enough that you can work it and dig your hole.

As for the fall, you want to give your arborvitae some time to allow the roots to settle in, so it shouldn’t be too close to the frost date. Late September or early October will be cool enough for the tree but are still times when the soil isn’t too hard.

Dig a hole

To give your arborvitae the best chance of successfully growing, it’s important to spend a bit of time on the soil. Start digging where you want to plant your tree and then remove a bit of the soil.

Add aged manure or compost to the area and then mix back in the dug-out soil. This will supply the needed nutrients your arborvitae requires.

When you do dig the hole for your arborvitae, you want it to be about two times as deep and wide as the root ball. This will give you enough space to maneuver it in.

The root ball of your arborvitae can be pretty compact so gently loosen some of the roots as you place it in the hole. Loosening the roots will help your tree get going and create a solid hold in the ground.

Finally, back-fill the hole. The goal is to have the top of the root ball sit flush with the top of the hole. Everything should be at ground level.

How to Water Arborvitae

Water is key for your arborvitae, especially in the first year of its growth. After you place your tree in the ground, give it a long, solid watering.

The roots of your arborvitae are going to grow outwards and downwards so watering for a long period of time will allow the water to really sink into the soil and find the whole root structure.

Aim to have consistently moist soil for the first year of growth. While this may be easier in the spring or fall, it will be quite difficult in the summer.

Get used to a watering schedule and water daily if need be. Any time there is a particularly hot spell, check the soil of your arborvitae and amend your watering as needed.

How to Grow Arborvitae

Add mulch

Arborvitae needs soil that is consistently moist in its first year before the roots are able to grow and sustain the rest of the plant. After you plant your arborvitae, you should add a solid layer of bark mulch or pine straw that is about 2 inches deep.

While this mulch can be pretty wide, you don’t want it to actually touch the stem of the tree. Otherwise, it can choke the arborvitae while it is growing.

Add a stake

Depending on how young your arborvitae is, you may need to steak it at first. This will help protect your tree against especially windy days.

When staking your tree, make sure you use a brand that is gentle on the bark and won’t gouge it.


Overall, you don’t need to worry a lot about pruning your arborvitae. This is a tree that will naturally grow in a slow, bushy manner.

If you have a line of arborvitae trees as a hedge, you might want to trim the branches for a more even look. To do this, use hedge shears.

A bit of pruning can keep your hedge looking nice and neat. It will also encourage new growth to start to sprout up.

Those that want to prune should do so in early spring. This time will target older growth and new growth will start to grow as spring gets underway.

If you do see any broken branches on your arborvitae, you can clean these up anytime.

Pests and Diseases

As with any type of plant, you may have issues with certain pests or diseases. Common insects that like arborvitae include spider mites and leaf miners.

Unfortunately, deer love arborvitae. If you live in an area that has deer roaming through the neighborhoods, prepare to have a peculiarly-looking hedge that can even be stripped down if a group of deer decides they are quite hungry.

You can add wire mesh around your arborvitae to protect it from deer. However, it’s hard to fight nature so this tree might not be the best if you are always worried about deer.

How long does arborvitae take to grow?

Depending on the variety you plant, your arborvitae should grow to around 10 to 15 feet in length. However, there are some varieties that can tower up to 40 feet tall.

In the first few years of growing, your arborvitae will add up to 2 feet in length. Once they are established, this will slow down to about 6 to 8 inches per year.

So, your arborvitae will take about five to seven years to reach maturity.


If you want a bit of privacy but want something that looks nicer than a fence, planting a row of arborvitae is an excellent option. This evergreen tree grows nicely and round. Plant in the spring or the fall, as long as the soil is easily workable.

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