How to Care for Arborvitae Plants


Arborvitae is an evergreen from the cypress family with scale-like leaves on flat branches. The trees are native to North America and eastern Asia, and have varieties that grow up to 40 feet in height. It is a fast-growing tree that is easy to grow and requires low maintenance. This makes them suitable as home foundation plants or used as a hedge.

Step 1

Find a planting location that is in full sun or partial shade and has a well draining soil.

Step 2

Test the soil with a pH test kit. Arborvitae prefers a neutral pH soil that is 6.8 to 7.2 on the pH scale. Lower the pH value by adding lime to the soil, or raise with the addition of ground rock sulfur.

Step 3

Dig a hole that is wider than the root ball and slightly deeper. The top of the root ball should be just below the surface of the soil. Add compost to the bottom of the hole and place the root ball on top. Fill the hole with a mixture of compost and soil, and gently pack in place. Plant arborvitae so the trunks of each tree are 2 feet apart.

Step 4

Water the arborvitae generously after planting to stimulate root growth. Continue to water regularly for two weeks to keep the ground moist. Water the root base when there are periods of summer drought.

Step 5

Apply a slow-acting granular fertilizer each fall for the first four to five years. Water the ground generously after application to promote absorption.

Step 6

Prune arborvitae in late spring after the new growth has occurred. The trees can also be pruned in the fall or early winter in climates without harsh winters. Pruning is not necessary and is done mainly to limit height or make ornamental changes to the trees.

Step 7

Propagate arborvitae plants through seed collection or cuttings. Collect seeds from the trees in fall, and allow them to dry. Plant seeds indoors in early spring by sowing them in peat pots. The seedlings will be ready to transplant outdoors in two to three weeks. Gather cuttings by clipping a 4- to 5-inch branch of new growth. Remove the lower leaves and plant in well-draining, coarse sand that is kept moist.

Step 8

Provide winter protection in climates with harsh winters, as snow and ice can build up in the branches and cause damage. Wrap the tree in multistrand netting designed for winter protection. The netting will also protect against deer and rabbit damage.

Things You'll Need

  • pH test kit
  • Lime
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Water
  • Pruning shears
  • Peat pots
  • Coarse sand
  • Multistrand netting


  • Arborvitae Care
  • Arborvitaes
  • Caring for Arborvitae
Keywords: growing arborvitae, growing evergreen trees, how to care for arborvitae

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.