Thread: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    SE WI

    Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    I live in zone 5 (SE WI) and am on my second round of trying to get a privacy screen started with some mail order Thuja's Green Giants (~20 in high). The first set was planted in early fall last year (late Sep.) and by spring, several were totally dead, and the remaining ones had mostly brown/dried out branches/foilage by early spring. With putting in a new lawn concurrent to planting the first batch, I am suspecting that some of the lawn treatments may have got over sprayed into these young trees.

    The supplying nursery sent out replacements which I planted in early May and they already seem to be struggling... the nice bright green foliage has turned very dull and there is a minimal amount of browining on the tips. Knowing my soil is not the greatest in that part of my yard (very compacted and some sand, plus on slight slope) I proactivey tilled out the entire planting area and added in some good compost to enrichen the soil. I subsequently added a soaker hose the length of the planting area and topped off with mulch. We had an unseasonably dry May, so I made sure the soaker hose ran at least a couple times a week. I choose these plants due to their fairly fast growth rate along with being supposedly very adaptable. Since this a new yard, I have planted many other decidous trees, all of which did fine over the winter and are going nuts with new growth this spring. If I can't get these Thuja's figured out soon, I will be ripping them out and getting something else started as I really need to get something going to block out my neighbors back yard. In chatting with a local nursery about some other evergreens, they did tell me this area does have lower acid levels which is need for some species of evergreens... so not sure if that is part of the cause, but doubt it would impact things so quickly.

    Any suggestions or ideas on how to make these things grow/survive or other options for a fairly fast growing privacy screen would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Re: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Quote Originally Posted by doogie65
    I am suspecting that some of the lawn treatments may have got over sprayed into these young trees.
    Depending on what these treatments are, it could have killed the trees. Especially if it was something to kill weeds.

    If you want to try it again be sure to protect the trees from overspray from lawn chemical companies.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    SE WI

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Well the lawn treament issue was only suspect for the first batch I planted last fall. The new ones have not been exposed to anything, yet they look to be struggling.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Are they bare root or potted?
    You mentioned that you use a soaker hose twice a week. Are you sure that is doing an adequate job of keeping the soil moist but not soggy? Have you stuck your finger in the soil to make sure it is indeed moist?

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    SE WI

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    They were potted.

    I don't think the moisture level is the issue as the ground seems to have a fair amount of moisture when I check the ground prior to running the soaker hose. But given the slope of the tree line, I know the lower plants are getting more than the upper ones simply due to gravity.
    Considering they all seem to look the same, I would assume that if it was a moisture issue, the lower ones would more than likely look more healthy.
    I guess I could try a more regular watering routine, but we are finally getting regular rain ( 2 nice down pours in the last 5 days), so I don't want to over do it (could over watering be causing the same result??). Do these trees require a lot more water than other trees of similar size? I just don't want to waste a full growing season if these things are not going to do well on my property. If it will help, I could post a couple pictures tonight.
    Other than water, is there anything else I am missing here??

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    SE WI

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Update: after getting a ton of rain over this past weekend here in WI (>8 inches in 5 days), I noticed a significant positive change with these Thuja's. The ones on the lowest point of the slope have restore their color to a nice deep green alng with even having a ton of new buds/growth, with the remainder showing solid improvements. So it would appear the root cause was indeed insufficient moisture.
    In an effort to help them get better established, I reworked all the soil by hand with a shovel the entire length of the planting area (first time around, the ground was so hard the tiller only went in a couple inches). I also am reversing the soaker hose (pushing water uphill instead having the lower plants get most of water), digging out some of the soil (this is needed to make room for the mulch and to eliminate wash outs as the planting row is on a double slope), and adding several inches of good mulch.

    I will keep my fingers crossed, but things look to be heading in the right direction. And if this above average rainfall continues, that can only help them get better established.

    Given the shock these trees experienced, should I just move forward with a regimented watering routine, or is some type of fertilizing warranted?? Most things I have read do not recommend fertilizing the first year of transplanting - any help welcome!

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    White Mountains, New Hampshire

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Very interesting. I am also in Zone 5 and considering these to block a hole in my forest that points straight at my neighbor's house.

    The fast-growing aspect (up to 3 feet a year!?) sounded ideal but I have also read that you want to get good root stock, since if the plants are recent cuttings from a parent plant, they won't even grow at all the first year because all their energy is going to root making. I haven't seen them for sale through the Arbor Day shop, but I was considering White Flower Farm... any thoughts on where to get them?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    SE WI

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    Well, regular water seems to be the key to the sustainability of these trees. Since installing the soaker hose along the bed (under a couple inches of mulch) and using a hose mounted timer that waters these every other day, they now seem to be getting established. Most of the trees have new growth and have maintained a good green look. I assume our otherwise dry spell since the record rain in June has required this regular watering regime to allow them to survive, but hoping by next season they require less maintenance.
    Only time will tell, but am optimistic these trees will continue to flourish and give me the much needed privacy in the next couple years as they are supposed to be very robust growers.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Waco, Tx

    RE: Struggles with Thuja Green Giants

    I bought one from Forest Farm two years ago. The first summer it did not grow at all. 2nd summer grew about a foot. Growth is probably around 18" this year. Z8 Texas is probably a bit hotter and dryer than these trees like
    All of my trees from Forest Farm seem to go into shock the first year, and then pick up and start growing the next. However, I've had much better luck with their stuff than any other mail-order nursery I've tried.

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