Caring for an Arborvitae Tree

A row of green arborvitae against a pink wall.

Arborvitaes are fast growing, easy-to-care for evergreen trees that make a lovely focal planting or, when used as a living hedge, noise barrier or windbreak. A well cared for arborvitae will provide many years of enjoyment.

Planting Arborvitae

The best time of year to cultivate an arborvitae is in the fall using two to three-foot nursery stock. Once planted, spread a thick layer of mulch over the area of planting to protect the roots, as this is the most vulnerable part of an arborvitae when first being grown. Water well.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor Susan Patterson suggests, "Plant arborvitaes in a sunny location with good drainage."

Watering and Care

row of arborvitae trees

For the best care water young arborvitaes regularly until established. An established arborvitae does not need additional watering except in severe drought conditions. If you live in an area where rainfall is absent for more than two weeks at a time, plan on watering your arborvitae. The best method is with a soaker hose, giving the tree about one inch of water each week.


Arborvitae trees benefit from the annual use of fertilizer spikes. The slow release fertilizer in these spikes take a while to dissolve and deliver nutrients over a long period of time. Use fertilizer spikes in early spring through early fall.

TIP: Susan recommends, "Provide plenty of organic matter or mulch around the arborvitae but do not allow the material to touch the tree trunk."


row of arborvitae trees behind white fence

Prune your arborvitae in the coldest winter months, usually late January or early February. Pruning is only necessary if the arborvitae has outgrown its planted area, otherwise, they do not need pruning. Prune by pinching the tips of each branch off to the desired distance for your planted area. If you want a more tailored appearance with your arborvitae, you can shear the plant all at once.

Winter Care

If you live in a climate where the ground freezes, it is a good idea to protect your young arborvitae with a barrier, such as wood chips, burlap, or garden fleece.


Arborvitaes are loved by small rodents, birds and deer. Depending on your interests you may wish to protect your arborvitae from one or more of these animals. Arborvitaes are also prone to attack by bagworms. Simply remove the sacks by hand.