How to Plant, Grow, and Care For ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae

‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae are commonly planted as hedges or privacy screens. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago explains everything you need to know to plant, grow, and care for these useful evergreens.

Tall and lush ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae shrubs stand gracefully, their verdant foliage catching the sunlight. Against the backdrop of a cloudy sky, they create a serene and picturesque scene, blending nature's hues harmoniously.


Privacy screens and hedges are an increasingly popular component of our gardens. If you have noticed evergreen hedges in your area, they are probably ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae. These plants large and dependable, with beautiful evergreen foliage and low maintenance requirements. 

If you are looking for the perfect evergreen privacy shrub for your garden, you have come to the right place. This shrub is simple to care for. Let’s take a look at how to grow ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae successfully with a few simple tips!

‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae

‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae:

  • have lush, emerald foliage
  • make excellent hedging or container plants
  • are cold-hardy
  • thrive in zones 3-8

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A close-up of a row of 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrubs stands tall, their green foliage creating a lush, inviting boundary. The delicate, feathery leaves sway gently as they soak in the warm sunlight, painting a picturesque scene of natural tranquility.
The ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is a shrub conifer belonging to the Cupressaceae family.
Plant Type Shrub, Conifer
Family Cupressaceae
Genus Thuja
Species Occidentalis
Native Area North America
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 10-15 feet
Watering Requirements Average
Pests and Diseases Leafminers, bagworms, mealybugs, mites, scale, fungal canker
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well-draining
Hardiness Zone 3-8

What is ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae?

‘Emerald Green’ is one of the most popular arborvitae varieties for residential hedges. You may also know this variety by the trade name ‘Smaragd’. This translates to “emerald” in Danish. 

This shrub is a member of the Thuja genus, which is quite large and diverse. The plants in this genus are all evergreen but they vary greatly in size

Native Area

A row of ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae shrubs lines the garden, their lush foliage vibrant under the sun. These evergreens stand tall and dense, offering privacy and a touch of elegance to the landscape.
This North American native thrives in moist environments like riversides.

‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is native to North America, specifically the northeastern parts of the United States and Canada. These large evergreen shrubs grow in moist areas such as riversides, wet forests, swamps, and lakeside shores. 


A close-up of 'Emerald Green' arborvitae leaves reveals intricate textures. Blurred background softly accentuates the verdant foliage, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for contemplation and relaxation in nature's embrace.
This attractive shrub has dense, glossy green foliage.

The ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is very attractive and perfect for privacy hedges. This dense shrub has flat sprays of needles that are bright, glossy green. It also produces attractive cones that turn red in the fall, adding a slight pop of color. However, this shrub is not usually grown for its cone production.

The shrubs grow up to 10-15 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, depending on the spacing. They are fairly fast-growing and add 12-24″ of growth per year under the proper conditions. 


Fall or spring are the best times of year to plant arborvitae. These shrubs do best when they have time to establish new roots before it is too hot or too cold.  


Rows of black pots hold 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrubs, their vibrant foliage adding a lush touch. Surrounding them are assorted potted plants, creating a tapestry of colors and textures.
Plant the shrubs carefully and ensure proper watering.

Arborvitae are easy to plant. Depending on the size of the shrub you have purchased, you may want to enlist some help. These shrubs come in nursery pots or burlap wrapping

To plant:

  1. Water your shrub before you dig a hole. This will help prevent transplant shock.
  2. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and a little bit deeper. 
  3. Loosen the roots a bit and spread them evenly throughout the hole.
  4. Situate the crown of the plant level with the soil surface.
  5. Begin to backfill your plant with garden soil. 
  6. Lightly pack the soil with your hands.
  7. Water thoroughly.
  8. Add mulch and compost around the base of the plant for added nutrition and to retain moisture. 


Most arborvitae do best when spaced 3-4 feet apart. Closer spacing creates a denser privacy screen, but you don’t want to plant the shrubs so closely that they compete with each other.

The minimum spacing is 18 inches, but this will yield smaller, ultra-dense trees. Wider spacing will yield the tallest trees (up to 15 feet), but it may take more time for the privacy screen to fill in.

How to Grow

This attractive privacy hedge is easy to grow and very low maintenance. Let’s learn more about how to care for these evergreen shrubs. 


An 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrub, its foliage rich and lush, stands prominently in the foreground. Behind it, a soft blur reveals more of its kind, accompanied by a neatly manicured lawn, creating a serene green landscape.
These evergreen shrubs thrive with six hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth.

‘Emerald Green’ grows best in full sun, but this variety tolerates partial shade. Aim for six hours of direct sunlight per day. Too much sunlight can cause the foliage to burn, while too much shade can cause sparse growth, which will impact the overall beauty of this shrub. 


A close-up of 'Emerald Green' arborvitae leaves, radiating a lush green hue and delicate, feathery texture. Glistening water droplets gracefully adhere to the surface, enhancing the verdant beauty with their shimmering presence.
Shrubs need regular watering as they establish their root system.

Your newly planted shrub needs to be watered every day or two as it develops its root system in its new home. 

Once your arborvitae is established, your shrub will need about one inch of water per week. Use a rain gauge to make sure that your shrub is getting enough water from rainfall and supplement if needed.


A close-up reveals rich, brown soil, teeming with moisture and life. Its earthy texture hints at fertility, promising a nurturing environment for seeds to take root and thrive, sustaining a cycle of growth and renewal.
Proper soil moisture balance can be achieved with mulch and compost.

‘Emerald Green’ grows best in moist soil that is well-draining. These shrubs are not picky about soil type so long as the soil retains the right amount of water. If the soil around the root zones is wet for too long, the roots may become soggy and prone to root rot or other issues. 

Adding mulch and/or compost around the root zone can help to balance the moisture content of your soil.  

Temperature and Humidity

 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrubs, small and short, border a grass pathway. The pathway, adorned with lush grass, invites a tranquil stroll through the verdant embrace of nature, framed by the elegant presence of the shrubs.
Plant away from windy areas to prevent the foliage from drying out or turning bronze.

When it comes to humidity, ‘Emerald Green’ prefers dry conditions. If you live in an area that experiences high humidity, don’t worry— your arborvitae will still grow nicely, but you may need to take a few extra steps. Ensure plants are spaced properly, about four feet apart, to ensure proper airflow. Keep your eyes open for any signs of fungal disease, and treat as soon as you can. 

Avoid planting this species in areas of your yard exposed to high winds. Wind will dry out your arborvitae and bronze the foliage, detracting from the green beauty that you are longing for. 


A lush 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrub stands tall, its foliage casting a verdant hue. Around it, identical companions create a lush, uniform green backdrop, creating a serene and cohesive garden atmosphere.
Fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer when established.

Once a shrub is established in your yard, you can begin fertilizing. These shrubs benefit from a balanced fertilizer application in the springtime. The amount of fertilizer you should use will differ depending on the product you are using and the size of your plant. Over-fertilizing can harm your shrubs, so follow the label instructions carefully. 


In general, arborvitae are extremely low-maintenance. Once they are established your main concern will be keeping them watered properly. 


A row of 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrubs stands tall, catching the sunlight's golden glow, creating a lush green hedge. A gloved hand, clad in black and orange, carefully wields pruning shears, expertly trimming the shrubbery with precision and care.
Prune occasionally to maintain shape using loppers.

On occasion, you may need to prune to remove broken limbs or slightly shape your shrub. ‘Emerald Green’ naturally grows in a narrow pyramidal shape and will not typically require your help to maintain its attractive shape. 

Prune with a simple pair of loppers or hand pruners


Several 'Emerald Green' saplings bundled in burlap at their base, each meticulously wrapped in white plastic to nurture growth. Surrounding them, the earth is blanketed in a layer of crisp, dried leaves, hinting at the changing seasons.
Protect your shrubs from winter damage by wrapping them with burlap.

One of the biggest selling points of ‘Emerald Green’ is its cold tolerance. If you live in a colder climate, you may want to take a few precautions to ensure that your shrub does not endure any damage.

Snowfall and ice can snap limbs, and winds and salt can cause the foliage to brown or dry out. To protect from physical damage, wrap your shrubs with burlap, securing the fabric in place with twine. 

Drought can cause foliage to dry out and become discolored. Unfortunately, you cannot control how much snow or rain you may get over the winter. But you can do a few things before the ground freezes to send your shrubs into winter with their best shot:

  1. First, continue to water your arborvitae until the ground freezes.
  2. Secondly, mulch is not just for spring!
  3. Mulching around the base of your plant in the autumn can help the soil to retain as much moisture as possible while also insulating the roots from high winds. 


The most successful way to propagate arborvitae is through semi-hardwood cuttings. Semi-hardwood cuttings have both new growth and foliage but also partially matured wood. The best time to take these cuttings is in late summer.


Black plastic pots display 'Emerald Green' arborvitae shrub cuttings, their glossy leaves catching the sunlight. The green hues of the foliage contrast starkly against the dark containers, creating a striking visual display of growth and vitality.
Propagating through semi-hardwood cuttings involves trimming and dipping in rooting powder.

Taking semi-hardwood cuttings is very simple. Timing is important. You are looking for new growth that has had some time to mature. Late summer is the perfect time to spot this type of growth

To propagate by cutting:

  1. Trim a section of your arborvitae about 12 inches long. 
  2. Remove the bottom foliage.
  3. Dip your cutting in rooting powder if you choose.
  4. Prepare a container with sterile growing material such as sand. Moisten the material.
  5. Stick your cutting into the pot and cover with a plastic bag. 
  6. Place your container in indirect sunlight. 
  7. Keep the growing material moist, and gently tug on the cutting from time to time.
  8. When your cutting shows resistance, it has formed roots.
  9. Keep your cutting in this container for as long as you like. The longer the better, this will allow the cutting to develop more roots.

Before planting your new ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae, move the container outdoors to a protective area. This process is called hardening off, and it allows the plant to get used to the unprotected elements. It also helps to reduce shock.

Common Problems

Despite being very low maintenance plants ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae can run into a few issues in your gardens. Let’s look at some of the more common problems you may notice on your shrubs and how to solve or prevent these issues.


A close-up of small brown soft scales infesting a branch, their round bodies blending into the bark. These pests, often mistaken for harmless bumps, can drain sap from the tree, weakening its health and stunting growth if left unchecked.
Use neem oil to address scale and caterpillar infestation on the plants.

Any insects you find in your garden may also be spotted on your arborvitae. Scale, caterpillars, mealybugs, mites, and leaf miners are all common on ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae. Treat these insects with neem or horticultural oil. Do your best to prevent infestations by ensuring the best plant care that you can. This includes adequate watering, proper fertilization, and proper planting techniques

These large evergreen shrubs are not the favorite food of any wildlife. But keep in mind that, in times of need, animals will eat any available plants, including your ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae. Deer and bagworms will take a nibble here and there, but often don’t do enough damage which would require you to take action.


A close-up reveals an 'Emerald Green' shrub, vivid and lush in its hues. Yet, a majority of its leaves have turned a somber brown, a stark testament to the toll of disease on its once verdant foliage.
Prevent fungal diseases by managing watering and soil saturation.

The most common diseases that ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae will run into are fungal, such as root rot and canker. The good news is that fungal diseases can be prevented. Check your watering schedule and make sure the soil is not over-saturated. Proper planting depth and spacing are also crucial to increasing airflow. 

Prune away any diseased or damaged parts of your tree as they arise, and you should have no problem keeping the issue under control.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are needles falling from my ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae?

Do not panic if you notice needles falling to the ground. This is normal. Every year ‘Emerald Green’ drops old needles from the plant’s interior. Use a long rake to remove these needles from around the trunk of the tree. The needles can retain moisture which can lead to fungal issues with your arborvitae.

Is ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae safe for pets?

While the ASPCA toxic plant list does not list arborvitae as a toxic plant, there have been reports of digestive issues in pets that have ingested large amounts of this plant. To be safe, plant these shrubs in areas where your pets do not wander.

Is ‘Emerald Green’ a quickly growing shrub?

Yes! These shrubs will grow from 1-2 feet per year in their first few years of life. As they reach their mature height this rate will slow a bit. This quick growth rate is why ‘Emerald Green’ is an excellent choice for privacy screens or hedges.

Can I grow ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae in containers?

Absolutely! Yes, these shrubs get large and grow quickly but they grow nicely in containers. Use high-quality potting soil in a container with drainage holes and you will be able to enjoy your ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae for years.

Final Thoughts

‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is an elegant and dependable shrub which makes them versatile in your gardens. These evergreen shrubs are easy to care for and will grow well in most climates and environments. No matter if you plant them as a hedge, privacy screen, or as a specimen plant in your gardens, these towering shrubs will not disappoint you with their year-round green beauty. 

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