Arborvitae are commonly used evergreen shrubs or trees useful in urban areas where low maintenance and durability is needed. Many cultivars with forms such as being globed in shape, columnar, or narrow pyramidal, tend to be near buildings, doors, and walkways. Other forms which are larger are used for screens and buffers that are planted in rows. The form of arborvitae is small, medium, or large depending on the cultivar. Some reach 50′, others only 3′. Most prefer full sun to partial sun. Planting in dense shade conditions should be avoided. A moist , well drained, loamy soil in full sunlight are ideal conditions for growing healthy arborvitae. These plants will tolerate rocky, clay, urban conditions of heat drought and pollution. The most important pest we have is bagworms which must be controlled to prevent complete defoliation.
Some cultivars have multiple leaders which also prove to be a detraction for the plant. Pruning out multiple leaders in some cultivars is a simple remedy. Our most popular Arborvitae is the Emerald Green arborvitae. Many people prefer to spell them Arbor Vitae . It is a bright light green color and narrow in shape. It makes a distinctive and impressive natural fence. It is easy to grow ,plant, and keep in shape.
The Hetz Midget arborvitae is a dwarf globe variety. This is a good choice for along walkways and gardens. This is a tough plant that is easy to install and not going to cost a lot. It will maintain its color in the winter and will withstand snow loads well. We carry these plants in 2 and 3 gal. pots. The prices on these dwarfs vary from $15 to $30 depending on size and quantity ordered.
Another small arborvitae that we grow in pots is the Rheingold arborvitae. This is a small globe shaped plant that has a golden green cast to it in the summer and a bronze winter color. We also have the American Arborvitae known as “Tiny Tim”. This arborvitae grows in zone 2 – 7. Its is a needled evergreen in the Cupressaceae Family. It will grow in height from a half a foot to 1 foot tall. Its spread will be about 1 to 1.5 feet. This is a plant that requires little work.
Selecting Quality Arborvitae
When you get to the nursery or garden center where you will buy your arborvitae, pick out the healthiest, most robust plants that have no evidence of disease or insect damage. The potting medium should be moist, but not wet, and the roots should well dispersed in the medium. Arborvitae that have roots growing from the drainage holes or circling the top of the pot are less desirable. Many people choose to buy arbs from a mail order company, which is perfectly acceptable. However, realize that most woody plants purchased from mail order catalogs will be shipped dormant and bare root, that is, without any soil attached to the root system. Such plants may be smaller in size because of the expense of shipping. It is important to plant such material immediately upon arrival.
Generally it is best to purchase one-year-old material from mail order companies since this material is more vigorous and will transplant better. The larger material that is offered is often composed of the less vigorous plants held over from previous years. Most large sized shrubs are balled and burlaped. Don’t buy any arbs bare rooted over 3′ tall. Any plant larger should be balled and burlaped.
You can see other articles written by Bill Hirst about trees, plants, and shrubs at zone5trees or seedlingsrus.