Growing at a remarkable rate of 3 to 5 feet a year once established in a landscape, thuja trees are among the world's fastest growing evergreens. These trees are resistant to drought, pests and diseases, and easily adapt to many different types of growing conditions. Fast-growing thuja trees require little attention or maintenance and can provide a substantial privacy screen for any yard.
Native to western North America, the Thuja plicata is also known as the Giant Arborvitae, Giant-Cedar or Western Redcedar. Thuja occidentalis, also called a white cedar or Eastern Arborvitae, is found over much of the eastern United States as well as eastern Canada. Some nurseries refer to the thuja hybrid trees they propagate and sell as Thuja Green Giants.
Thujas typically grow to a height of 20 to 70 feet in most areas, depending upon how the trees are planted. If planted alone many thuja trees will grow from 10 to 25 feet wide, but thuja hybrids will only grow about 5 feet wide when planted side-by-side in rows. Thuja trees form an upright pyramid shape while growing, with soft fragrant dark-green needles on sturdy horizontal branches. Small yellow flowers appear on the tree each year, followed by 1/2-inch cones that drop to the ground in winter.
Although the wood of thujas is used commercially to manufacture roof shingles, siding, and deck boards, thujas are often grown to create barriers in private landscapes. Because thujas grow large quickly, these trees can easily hide a neighbor's house or unsightly lot, particularly when planted side-by-side in rows. Large thuja trees also offer superior protection from the elements, because their hardy root systems make them strong and wind resistant.
Thujas are adaptable to a variety of growing conditions. Like many other types of evergreens, thujas prefer sunny locations but also thrive in partially shaded areas. Thujas can also grow well in almost any type of soil--heavy clay, sandy loam, alkaline or acidic, as well as occasionally wet--are drought tolerant and resist damage caused by cold winter weather.
Pests and Diseases
Resistant to many diseases that bother other evergreens, thujas are a great low-maintenance alternative to hemlocks and pines. Although thujas are also resistant to most pests, these trees can occasionally be disturbed by bagworm, but chemical spraying is seldom required.