Arborvitae Planting Tips

The arborvitae shrub's teardrop shape makes it a common accent piece and hedging shrub. Landscapers and gardeners prize the arborvitae for its exceptionally hardy characteristics, since it thrives in soils that many evergreen shrubs do not tolerate, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Various planting principles and strategies can help gardeners maximize their newly planted shrub's health for years of vigorous growth.

Site Selection

Arborvitae shrubs grow best in full sun but can tolerate light or dappled shade, according to Ohio State University Extension. Anything darker and the shrub looses the compact, dense shape for which it's grown. The plant's final size should also be taken into consideration when choosing a site. A mature arborvitae reaches up to 20 feet in height and 15 feet across, according to University of Florida Extension. Don't plant it too close to other shrubs, buildings or outdoor structures.

Soil Requirements

An arborvitae will thrive in well-drained soil, but can grow in almost any type of dirt. The University of Minnesota Extension suggests using arborvitae shrubs in problem sites like clay soil, while the University of Florida Extension says arborvitae have been grown successfully in trouble areas with poor drainage, air pollution or drought. In a backyard situation, ensure optimal growth by amending the ground with enough aged compost to create a crumbly, loose soil texture.


A newly planted arborvitae shrub will establish itself faster if given the extra nutrients found in fertilizer. Because the plant has no specialized nutrient needs, Ohio State University Extension recommends using any standard fertilizer intended for use on lawns. Mix the fertilizer into the soil from the shrub's base to the edge of its outer branches. Use 4 lbs. of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of surface soil.


New plants under the stress of being planted are more susceptible to disease. Fungal blight commonly attacks the arborvitae shrub's foliage. University of Florida Extension recommends minimizing the chances of your new shrub contracting this disease by only watering the plant at its base, since wet foliage creates the environment needed for the blight fungus to grow. Symptoms include the shrub's inner branches turning brown. The disease can be controlled with a standard fungicide spray, such as one formulated with fixed copper.


Deer like feeding on arborvitae. A newly planted shrub can be quickly decimated by hungry deer. North Dakota State University Extension recommends using Plantskydd, which it cites as the best deer repellent available to gardeners. If the product is not available, use any odor-based deer repellent, whether it's a spray or a granular product.

Keywords: arborvitae planting tips, arborvitae management tips, growing arborvitae

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.