How to Plant a White Cedar


White cedar tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and has become a very popular hedging and landscape plant across North America. Known botanically as Thuja occidentalis, these trees grow in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 7, which encompasses most of the continental United States and Canada. White cedar is best planted in the early spring or in the fall, well before the first frost.

Step 1

Choose a well-drained location that gets plenty of sunlight for your white cedar tree. The ideal soil is moist and loamy but these trees will adapt to most conditions. Bear in mind that Thuja occidentalis can reach 40 feet in height when fully mature. Consider the proximity of the tree to buildings or power lines before planting.

Step 2

Make the hole as deep as the root ball and twice its width. Loosen the soil around the edges of the hole so that the tree can take root more easily. Remove any twine or string from around the tree.

Step 3

Place the tree in the hole so that it is centered. Check that the planting depth is correct. The point where the trunk flares, just above the root ball, should be a few inches above the ground level after planting. Cut any of the twine that binds the root ball and push the wrapping down so that it will be buried after backfilling.

Step 4

Shovel the soil back into the hole and tamp it down lightly to make sure the white cedar is held firmly in place. Use the excess soil to make a ring around the perimeter of the hole so that water will be held close to the tree.

Step 5

Give your thuja a good watering and spread several inches of wood chips or bark mulch around the base of the tree. The mulch will moisten and warm the soil while also reducing weeds and other competing plants. Keep the mulch off the trunk to avoid rot problems.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always contact your local utility company to check the location of underground pipes and wires before you dig. Even small trees can be heavier than they look. Lift trees carefully or roll them into position to prevent back strain. Having another person help you when planting trees is always a good idea.

Things You'll Need

  • Round point shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Measuring tape
  • Garden hose


  • United States Forest Service: Thuja occidentalis: White-Cedar
  • Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: The Ten Commandments of Tree Planting
  • International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting
Keywords: plant white cedar, planting white cedar, planting thuja

About this Author

Based in Surrey, British Columbia, Stephen Oakley is a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues, travel and all things outdoors. His background includes many years spent working in the Canadian wilderness and traveling worldwide.