How to Care for Arborvitae Thuja Trees


There are many species of Thuja ranging from 3-foot shrubs to 80-foot trees. These trees and shrubs grow well in a variety of soils and require little maintenance once established. Arborvitaes are members of the cypress family with soft scale-type leaves instead of prickly or needle-type leaves. These rapid growers are used in the landscape as single accents, fast-growing screens and hedges. There are species that are hardy from USDA planting zones 2 through 8. Most keep a dark green color to bronze throughout the winter, giving your landscape a distinctive winter interest.

Step 1

Water the Thuja tree to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy during the first growing season. This will establish the root system that will make the tree drought resistant for years to come.

Step 2

Apply a slow-release general purpose fertilizer in the spring when the tree starts to green up again. Follow manufacturer's directions for the amount to use per size and age of the tree.

Step 3

Spread a 3-inch layer of shredded pine bark or similar mulch under the canopy of the Thuja tree. Keep the mulch at least 3 inches from the main trunk of the tree. This will keep the area over the root system cooler in the summer, help retain moisture and provide nutrition as the mulch decomposes.

Step 4

Place a 2-inch layer of well-rotted compost over the mulch in midsummer. As you do your normal watering, the compost will leach slowly into the soil, providing needed micro-nutrients to the tree.

Tips and Warnings

  • Thuja will not recover from severe pruning. Arborvitaes' thick canopy provides homes for many species of wildlife, so take care when shearing and pruning.

Things You'll Need

  • General purpose shrub fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Compost


  • Ohio State University: Thuja occidentalis
  • The U.S. National Aboretum: Thuja "Green Giant"
  • NC State University: Thuja plicata
Keywords: Thuja plicata care, Thuja occidentalis care, Thuja tree care

About this Author

Dale DeVries is a retired realtor with 30 years of experience in almost every facet of the business. DeVries started writing in 1990 when she wrote advertising and training manuals for her real estate agents. Since retiring, she has spent the last two years writing well over a thousand articles online for Associated Content, Bright Hub and Demand Studios.