Are you looking for arborvitae growth tips? Belonging to the family of Thuja, these are shrubs and trees that make for the perfect windbreak, screen, and hedges. These shrubs are relatively easy to care for as they require little attention. Do you want to know what is the best fertilizer for arborvitae?
Arborvitae naturally makes your garden look attractive with their beautiful conical shape while standing straight in their place. These evergreens are quite resilient in nature, and at the same time, ornamental. Thus, they are widely used as decorative pieces or to fence your yard.
Growing these evergreens is relatively straightforward, given you know all about its nurturing and care requirements. Do not worry as you will get all you need to know about arborvitae in this exclusive growth guide.
Here we go!
Requirements for Healthy Arborvitae
Arborvitae can fully thrive in the sun and requires well-drained soil. To ensure healthy growth, you must plant the evergreen in medium-moist soil with a considerable amount of sun. These trees can grow excellently-fast, so you must leave around 3-4 feet of space between each of them.
Here is a detailed list of the right conditions for growing healthy arborvitae.
Arborvitae requires a high amount of sunlight—almost 6 hours per day at the least. Therefore, try to plant it under the sun in colder regions. In warmer areas, however, you can opt for a partially-shaded location. Still, make sure that you do not place them under a full shade, as doing so would decrease the foliage density.
Once you have planted the arborvitae, you must water them twice a week up to a few months. After a while, you may reduce it to once a week for the whole year. However, once the plant is well-established, you need to ensure it gets ½ inch of water in a week. It may be through irrigation or rainfall.
You must make sure that you neither overwater nor underwater the evergreen. While the former may result in needle discoloration and rotting of the root, the latter may make the foliage yellow.
These evergreens love cool, dry temperatures. If exposed to a humid atmosphere, the plants may fall prey to fungus. Thus, you must ensure proper air circulation. That said, do not keep it in too windy areas, especially in cold climates.
As mentioned earlier, arborvitae does not like too much moisture. Therefore, you must plant it in well-drained soil and make sure its pH level is neutral. You may apply compost over its roots annually to preserve the moisture.
To encourage healthy growth, you need to prune the arborvitae leaves lightly. More so, if any part or branch of the plant has decayed or died over time. You must also ensure that these plants maintain their conical shape. Thus, trim them to let them be wide from the bottom and narrow at the top.
Though arborvitae does not fall prey to many pests and insects, it may happen at times. For example, fungi may attack its needles and twigs, in which case you will have to chop-off the infected area.
Apart from that, you may find bagworms and spider mites on the arborvitae leaves and twigs. You must handpick their egg bags and destroy them immediately. If the problem persists, you may use fungicides and other pesticides in small amounts.
To get the best results, you must plant arborvitae in the spring season. In this way, the plant can establish well before winter starts. Additionally, this is a great time to thaw the ground easily with hand tools.
Apart from that, if you live in the southern regions, you may prefer to plant these evergreens in the fall. Doing this will protect your plants from the harsh summer while giving them some time to establish before the cold hits in. However, its roots will not be well established in a little time.
Step by Step Process
Now that you have all the knowledge about the requirements of growing this evergreen plant, here is how to plant arborvitae.
Step 1: Remove the plant from the burlap bag or the plastic pot with the utmost care. Make sure to remove the maximum wire or cut the plastic container if it does not come out with ease.
Step 2: Choose a location that allows maximum sunlight in the winter while partially shaded in the summers.
Step 3: Dig the ground as deep as the height of the container. Moreover, you must try to level this area as much as possible to allow maximum contact with the roots. Doing this will also ensure you do not leave air pockets behind. Also, the width of this hole must be double that of the container.
Step 4: Gently place the arborvitae in the hole, followed by covering it with soil almost halfway up. Before filling the rest of the space, pour some water into the hole. It will ensure that the soil settles down nicely. Repeat the same after filling in the rest of the dirt.
Step 5: Anchor the plant to prevent it from falling on any side. You may place the stakes at a length that is double the distance between the plant and the edge of the hole. Use a thin and flexible object to anchor your arborvitae from two sides.
Voila! Your arborvitae is well-planted. Refer to the requirements section to ensure you provide the right growing conditions.
Inducing Faster Growth and Maturity
Arborvitaes grow relatively fast, provided the appropriate growing conditions. Within the matter of 2-3 years, they will prove to be an excellent privacy curtain from your neighbors. They do not require much attention while maturing, and adding fertilizers is an optional choice.
If you want to further speed-up the maturity rate of your arborvitaes, you can opt to use high-nitrogen fertilizers. These will ensure that your plant gets fresh green leaves until they reach their optimum size.
If you have healthy arborvitaes, you may add a little amount of fertilizer once a year. It will enhance the growth rate of the plant and give it the required nutrients. Furthermore, make sure to thoroughly water the plant after this application to blend with the soil quickly.
On the other hand, in case your arborvitaes have already matured, you need not add fertilizers. They can gain the required elements from the nearby fertilized soil.
Signals Your Arborvitae Requires Attention
Do you think your arborvitae requires fertilizers? How can you be sure? Here are a few signals that show your arborvitae requires nutrients.
- In case your evergreen plants lack nutrients. Alternatively, they may have enough nutrient supply, but soil pH levels prevent them from using up these nutrients.
- The soil pH level is higher or lower than 6 to 8 units.
- Yellowing of arborvitae foliage due to iron deficiency.
- Shorter growth of twigs.
If you feed the plant despite it already having nutrients, you may be wasting the fertilizer. The best way to identify and deal with the specific needs of the arborvitae is by conducting a soil test. It will tell you the exact amount you may need to add to increase or decrease the pH level. Further, it will also prevent any wastage.
Nutrient Needs of Arborvitae
Till now, you know that arborvitae requires plenty of sunlight and mediocre water and moisture for growth. However, it also requires almost 17 nutrients. These include groups of macro and micronutrients, according to the quantity required.
The first group of essentials contains hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. These nutrients are readily present in the air and water, so you need not worry about them.
The main group consists of a total of 6 macronutrients, which are the most significant ones. These include nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and sulfur. Arborvitae needs to extract these from the soil.
The next group comprises micronutrients that the plants need in relatively fewer quantities. These are iron, chlorine, boron, molybdenum, copper, zinc, cobalt, and manganese. These nutrients are promptly available in the soil.
That said, you must know that the three prime requirements of arborvitae are—potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Any deficiency in these nutrients may hamper the growth of your evergreen.
So, how can you attend to and supply the required nutrients to arborvitae? By feeding them the correct amount and type of fertilizer. Read on to know what kind of fertilizer does arborvitae need.
Fertilizer for Arborvitae
If your trees are not growing well or are showing signs of nutrients deficiency, the first step is checking the pH. Once you are sure that the actual problem lies in the pH level, you can add fertilizer for balancing. Here, you may have several choices.
The first choice would be choosing a fertilizer with a single nutrient—nitrogen, as it holds the most importance. However, your evergreen tree may be deficient in more than one nutrient. That is why choosing a complete fertilizer is the wisest option.
You can choose the fertilizer according to its NPK ratio, i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratio. For example, a 10-6-4 fertilizer will contain 10% of nitrogen, 6% of phosphorus, and 4% of potassium. The rest of it includes other vital nutrients and minerals.
The best fertilizer for arborvitae is always with a high content of nitrogen. It may be a 12-6-4 one or a 10-8-6 one. Furthermore, slow-release granular fertilizer is preferred for evergreens so that the roots can obtain nutrients over a long period. Let us read about it in depth.
It is a fertilizer that will release the nutrient through a gradual process over a considerably long period. That happens because this fertilizer has a coating of plastic resin or sulfur-based polymers. Such products do not break down quickly. Instead, their break down and blending process is relatively slow, occurring with the help of sunlight, water, warmth, and soil.
Are you wondering why slow-release fertilizer is the best fertilizer for arborvitae? If you opt for quick-release products, they may be overapplied, resulting in the burning of the plant roots. On the contrary, slow-release ones do not burn the plant and also stay in the soil for long. As a result, you only need to fertilize the arborvitae once a year.
Apart from that, you must know that though these fertilizers are comparatively expensive, the quantity used is quite less. Therefore, irrespective of the type you choose, the overall cost is more or less the same.
Following the correct way of fertilizing arborvitae is as essential as choosing the right one for the application. Still, it is quite a simple process.
The amount of fertilizer needed for the application depends upon the height of your arborvitae. Therefore, first, measure the height of your evergreen plant. You must use almost 1/3rd pound of fertilizer for a one-foot-high plant. If your plant is young, almost 5 feet in height, you will need to apply 1 2/3 pounds of fertilizer.
Application of Arborvitae Fertilizer
Step 1: Sprinkle the right amount of fertilizer around the root area of the plant.
Step 2: With the help of a trowel, push the fertilizer up to 2-4 inches into the soil. Make sure it stays away from the trunk as well as the roots.
Step 3: Water the arborvitae after fertilizing to let the product settle in.
There is another process of applying fertilizer if you want it to reach the roots quickly.
Step 1: Make two circles almost 1.5 feet away from the trunk. These circles can be 8-12 inches in depth and 1 inch wide.
Step 2: Fill the holes evenly with the required quantity of fertilizer.
When to feed arborvitae is one of the most common questions that you may have. The best way of determining whether your evergreen requires fertilizer or not is by checking the soil pH. Apart from that, one thing that you must remember is you must never fertilize newly-planted trees. Doing so may ruin your shrubs.
That said, the most optimum time to feed arborvitae is in spring. It is the time when your evergreen plant will have fresh or new growth. If you fertilize the tree at the wrong time, it may direct its energy into growing instead of energizing the roots.
Apart from that, you must ensure to fertilize your arborvitae only once a year. As mentioned earlier, over-fertilization may result in burning the roots of this plant.
Tips for Fertilizing Arborvitae
Here is a summary of a few significant considerations while fertilizing arborvitae.
- Do not apply fertilizer to newly-planted arborvitae.
- Slow-release granular fertilizer is the best option for your evergreens.
- Do not overfertilize the plants. Only fertilize them once a year
- Make sure to pour enough water after application to let the fertilizer settle well.
- Do not forget to wear a mask and gloves while using chemical fertilizers as they may cause rashes, irritation, etc.
5 Best Fertilizers for Arborvitae
1. Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Plant Food Spikes
Do you want to boost the growth of your mature arborvitae? Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub fertilizer is one of the best options for you. With an NPK ratio of 15-5-10, it is specially formulated for evergreens, shrubs, and other trees, encouraging healthy growth.
These are easy to use spikes that directly release nutrients into the root zone. Thus, they promote fresh green foliage and strength in evergreens and trees. First, you must prepare the spike by covering it with the plastic cap and ascertain the drip line of your arborvitae tree.
It is the outermost circumference of the tree branches and gives you the exact distance for inserting fertilizer spikes. However, if this measurement is less than 2 feet from the center, increase the drip line. You can drive the spikes 2 feet away from the center. Also, make sure to place them at a distance of at least 3 feet apart.
Another point to remember is that you need to moisturize the soil before driving it. That is, in case the ground is dry. Drive this spike into the land along the drip line with the help of a hammer. Remove the plastic cap for future use, and continue inserting the spike up to 2 inches deep. Voila! You have successfully fertilized your arborvitae.
- Easy to use
- Rich in nitrogen
- Excellent for multiple trees, shrubs, evergreen, and more
- Comprises of natural ingredients
- It does not come with an inner seal (store in a Ziplock bag)
2. BioAdvanced 701700B 12-Month Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed Insect Killer and Fertilizer
Fertilizer application should be made once a year, and BioAdvanced 12-month fertilizer is just for that. Once you use this fertilizer on your arborvitae or other trees and shrubs, it will work for up to 12 months. Thus, it is the best fertilizer for arborvitae.
It is a slow-releasing fertilizer that will not burn the roots of your trees while still providing the essential nutrients. With an NPK ratio of 2-1-1, this fertilizer is quite useful for protecting against Japanese Beetles, whitefly, caterpillars, and much more.
The BioAdvanced 701700B fertilizer will kill any existing insects and pests and prevent new infestations for a year. Moreover, you can use this for all your shrubs, plants, and trees, be it potted or outdoor.
The package comes with detailed instructions of use according to the height and type of tree and plant. Moreover, it is effortless to handle, store, and comes with a built-in measuring cup.
- It is a slow-release fertilizer
- It helps replenish the vitality of trees and shrubs
- Protects against multiple pests and insects
- One application works for up to a year
- Easy to handle and store
- Comes with measuring cup and usage instructions
- EPA-registered (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Prices at the higher end
3. Jobe’s 01661 Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes
Jobe’s 01661 Evergreen Fertilizer spikes are designed to provide the nutrients required for the efficient growth of shrubs and trees. These spikes are especially helpful for arborvitae trees along with juniper, cypress, and magnolia, making it the best fertilizer for arborvitae.
You must use one Jobe spike for every 3 feet of your tree. So, if your arborvitae is 6 feet tall, you may use 2 spikes. With an NPK ratio of 13-3-4, this fertilizer ensures your tree gets a continuous supply of nutrients.
It comes with a plastic cap so that you can hammer the spike into the ground with ease. Alternatively, you can drill a 2-3 inches hole and insert this spike. Still, you must make sure to place it away from the tree trunk and roots.
Apart from that, you also need to wet the ground before using these spikes. Doing this will allow the spikes to settle in the soil quickly.
The Jobe’s 01661 Evergreen Fertilizer spikes use the slow-release formula to work for up to one season. It consists of an effective combination of healthy bacteria, Archaea, and mycorrhizal fungi to keep pests and insects away.
- Easy to use
- Effective for arborvitae
- Uses slow-release formula
- Pre-measured spikes
- The plastic cap may break during insertion
4. Miracle-gro 3002410 Shake ‘N Feed Flowering Trees and Shrubs Continuous Release Plant Food
The Miracle-Gro 3002410 Shake ‘N Feed is specifically designed for flowering trees, shrubs, and acid-loving plants. With an NPK ratio of 16-8-12, it nourishes the flora and helps maintain the lush green foliage and flourishing leaves.
What makes it the best fertilizer for arborvitae is that it consists of natural ingredients. The plant food is made of kelp, feather meal, earthworm castings, and bone meal. It feeds the microbes of the soil that further help breakdown organic matter converting it into nutrients.
As a result, the nutrients support the roots and boost the development of your trees and shrubs, increasing water efficiency. Additionally, once you treat your trees with this fertilizer, it will protect them for up to 3 months or one season.
Another fantastic feature of the Miracle-Gro 3002410 Shake ‘N Feed fertilizer is its refund policy. If you are not satisfied with your purchase, you can easily return the pack and get your money back.
- Comprises of natural ingredients
- Easy to use
- Works for ground and containers
- Continuous release for up to 3 months
- 6-month satisfaction guarantee
- You may have to use it more than once a year
5. Scotts Evergreen Flowering Tree & Shrub Continuous Release Plant Food
Are you looking for fertilizer to see immediate results? The Scotts Evergreen Flowering Tree & Shrub fertilizer is specially designed for evergreens, shrubs, and other trees. It can significantly boost the growth of your trees within a short period.
What makes it the best fertilizer for arborvitae is its ease of use. You can directly use the plant food on your shrubs, and it will not harm them at all. Instead, the fertilizer will encourage vigorous growth of the root system and produce lush green foliage.
Once you use this plant food, you need not use any other fertilizer for the next 2 months. With an NPK ratio of 11-7-7, it will help your plant regenerate and grow faster.
The Scotts Evergreen plant food comes with easy and clear instructions for use. Make sure you mulch or rake the fertilizer up to 1-3 inches inside the soil for best results. Additionally, do not forget to add water after applying this product.
- Ease of use
- Safe for direct application
- Comes with instructions for usage
- Specially formulated for evergreens and shrubs
- Works only for up to 2 months
1. How Often Should I Water Arborvitae?
Arborvitae does not require a lot of water, but you must also not keep it dry. Therefore, the perfect solution would be a mediocre moisturization.
When you plant this evergreen, you will need to water it twice a week to let the plant establish well. After a few months of establishment, you can reduce the watering to once a week. Make sure that your established arborvitae gets almost 1/2-1 inch of water per week.
2. Should I Use Coffee Grounds for Arborvitae?
The answer is yes, and no. Coffee grounds are acidic in nature, which is why they can prove to be beneficial to increase the acid content in the soil. That is, if the pH level of your arborvitae is too high, you can add some coffee grounds to neutralize the soil.
That said, you must know that a high quantity of coffee grounds is not suitable for the health of your arborvitae.
3. How to Thicken the Arborvitae Tree?
The best way of thickening arborvitae is by regular pruning. Due to nutrient deficiency or pest infestation, your evergreen may get thinner. It also may be due to an insufficient supply of sunlight and water.
Make sure the plant gets the required nutrients. If the soil pH is too low, you may add fertilizers for replenishing its nutrition content. Additionally, regularly pruning the infected branches and twigs will stimulate thicker growth.
4. Will Arborvitae Branches Grow Back?
Long story short—yes, your arborvitae branches will grow to fill in. You may get spaces in your arborvitae due to closely standing trees or pruning due to damage. These branches will rejuvenate, given the right growth conditions. However, it may take several seasons for complete growth.
5. How Will My Arborvitae Regenerate?
You need to ensure a few things to let your arborvitae regenerate quickly.
- Ensure enough sunlight: Cut-off the nearby branches that may be shading the tree.
- Regular pruning: Trim the twigs, leaves, and branches that have turned yellow, blue, or infected.
- Annual fertilization
- Cut the shrub 10-20% in a year to promote rapid growth and regeneration.
6. How to Shape My Arborvitae Tree?
You can shape your arborvitae in spring, once the frost season has passed.
- With a pair of hand shears, chop the vertical branches (leaders). You can leave a maximum of 3 leaders per branch.
- Trim the extra growth that you may see at the tip of the branches.
- Cut the branches that are not growing in the desired direction, i.e., sideways or towards the center.
7. Can I trim the Arborvitae Tops?
Yes, you can trim the tops of your arborvitae to help the shrubs regenerate and grow thicker. You can cut up to 2 feet off the top section of the arborvitae tree. Cutting near a lateral branch is the best option. Also, you may top off this evergreen in early spring for the best results.
8. What is the Life Span of Arborvitae Trees?
Arborvitae is one of the long-living trees, with a life span of 50-150 years. However, they will only live that long if you ensure enough nutrients and correct growth conditions.
9. Why Do Arborvitae Turning Brown in the Summer?
Arborvitae shed foliage during fall and spring, which is why they may turn brown. However, if it happens in summer, there may be a problem.
One cause is infestation by pests and insects like aphids, spider mites, and fungal diseases. Inspect the tree and if you find any of these, use an insecticidal spray.
Another reason for the arbs turning brown in summer is drought. If there is no insect present, your tree is likely short of water.
10. How Tall Can an Arborvitae Grow?
If given the proper growing conditions, your arborvitae can grow as tall as 50-60 feet. That is because it is a fast-growing shrub that increases by 3-4 feet every year. Moreover, it can spread to a maximum of 12-20 feet.
Arborvitae or the Thuja are hardy shrubs that can grow to be quite tall. They are conical trees, widely used as a windbreak, privacy screens, and ornamental trees. These shrubs require moderate moisture, neutral soil pH, and a lot of sunlight for growth.
You can fertilize the tree annually to boost its lush green color and stimulate growth. Furthermore, it will also help keep spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, and other pests at bay.
These are easy to grow plants in your yard, garden, or even in a pot. So, what’s the hold? Get a bag of these beautiful shrubs to make your room or yard look fresher than ever. Additionally, do not forget to get the best fertilizer for arborvitae to ensure its flawless growth!
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.