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How To Choose the Right Arborvitae for Your Landscape

"You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to."  It can be intimidating to pronounce "arborvitae", but we've heard it all and regardless of what you call them, The Barn is the right place to purchase these evergreen trees that are typically used for windbreaks or a privacy barrier in the landscape. Fall is a great time of year to install a berm, before the deciduous trees lose their leaves and you lose your privacy for the winter.

arborvitae, thuja

No matter how you pronounce "arborvitae", The Barn carries a number of varieties and we can help describe, select, and plant the right type for your landscape. If you need to match an existing variety, bring in a clipping or even better, a picture and we can get you a match.

Now that we've gotten over pronouncing them, let's move on to choosing the right arborvitae for your needs.

How to Space Arborvitae

Depending on the cultivar, the spacing of the arborvitae will need to be adjusted. Start by measuring the length of space you want to fill. Plan for to plant smaller, skinner cultivars 3-4' from the center of each tree. For the larger varieties, leave up to 12' between them. Also consider staggering the plants for a more natural look.

Another consideration when choosing the right arborvitae is the space surrounding the tree. If you have a small yard, or space bordering a driveway, walkway, fence or home, choose an arborvitae with a more slim shape. The larger arborvitae work well if there is sufficient room for them to grow, since less of them are required to fill in the same space.

How To Choose a Healthy Arborvitae

It's normal for arborvitae to drop foliage from the center, so if there is brown needles in the center, this is not necessarily a sign the plant is unhealthy. It is simply part of a natural process called Annual Needle Drop. However, the tips of any healthy arborvitae should always be green.

The key to healthy arborvitae is to make sure the arbs are locally grown with large root balls. The size of the root ball is a key indicator for the long term success of the planting, which is why calling around price checking on arbs can be a big mistake. Locally grown arbs are slow grown, growing in a natural, healthy environment that includes snow, sleet, and freezing temps. Arborvitae grown in the south have been quickly grown in areas with different climates and soil. While often less expensive, due the the reduced growing time, these arbs have a difficult time reaching maturity in our area. Large box store garden centers that ship truckloads of arbs in from the south often are the cause of the high "mortality rate" of arbs in our neck of the woods.

How To Care for & Prune Arborvitae

Arborvitae are a relatively easy plant to care for. We recommend pruning them after the new growth has pushed, sometime in mid-spring throughout the growing season. Hold off pruning in the fall since new growth pushed from newly pruned branches is most likely to suffer frost damage when winter arrives. We recommend using Grow Good, The Barn's brand of root stimulator, with every new planting and then following up with a good Evergreen fertilizer such as Holly Tone, every spring and fall.

If you are interested in creating a privacy screen using arborvitae, visit our Garden Center at 8109 S Rt 31 in Cary. Our Landscape Design Department is also skilled at designing and installing large berms with mixed plantings including arborvitae, shade & evergreen trees and shrubs. If you are interested in discussing the installation of a landscape berm, click "Contact Us and fill out the form.

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For a downloadable chart on the different sizes, specifications and more on the most popular arborvitae for privacy screening, click below.


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Visit our garden center at 8109 S Rt 31 in Cary, Il. For more information on our landscape design services, click here.




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