Eastern Arborvitae – Thuja Occidentalis Growth Rate

Thuja occidentalis can grow to be 50 feet tall. What is its typical growth rate?

The Eastern arborvitae is an exceedingly popular evergreen tree or shrub used often as a specimen, in hedges, or for privacy. It is also known as the American arborvitae and was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans. 

Although the tree seldom reaches this height under cultivation, in the wild, the tree has been known to reach up to 50 feet tall. Several cultivars with different sizes, shapes, and other traits have been developed.  

This article will look at the growth rate of the original Thuja occidentalis and suggest ways to increase this rate.

How Fast Do They Grow

The eastern arborvitae is frequently planted because of its moderate growth rate. Though slower in its first 1 to 2 years after planting, it can grow 24 inches yearly.

Mature Size

Mature trees may grow from 40 to 60 feet tall in the wild. However, trees grown under human cultivation often only reach 20 to 30 feet.

a tall array of thuja trees

Where Do They Grow Best?

The eastern arborvitae is hardy in zones 3-8. 

Well-drained, alkaline soils are ideal for growing these trees. It does not tolerate dry places, and you should avoid placing it in exposed, windy areas. 

How Much Sun Do They Need?

To get optimal results, place the plant in full sun, but in regions with hot summers, it does well with moderate afternoon shade. Steer clear of places with complete shading since this will significantly reduce the density of the foliage.

Tips to Optimize Growth Speed

Eastern arborvitae has a moderate growth rate, and there are things you can do to speed up the plant’s pace of growth.

Here are five suggestions to help your eastern arborvitae grow more quickly.

1. Plant Appropriately

You may plant arborvitae at any time of the year; however, autumn is often the ideal season since the colder temperatures assist in reducing heat stress on the plant. The moisture from fall rains helps to create a robust and healthy root system.

You should choose a location for your arborvitae that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Although certain types may survive in conditions of partial shade, overall development will be stunted if insufficient light exists.

thick thuja trees as fences

2. Water Appropriately

After planting, give the roots a good drink of water by using a soaker hose or letting a hose drip slowly at the plant’s base. If you don’t get any rain, you should continue to give the plant these deep soakings at least twice a week until its roots are established.

Both underwatering and overwatering may be detrimental to the health of eastern arborvitae. Soils with poor drainage can hold water and essentially drown the tree. If your plant does not get sufficient water, the leaves may turn yellow or brown, and the needles may fall off.

3. Space the Plants Correctly

Always allow at least three to four feet of space between plants when planting a hedge or screen. Instead of crowding arborvitae into a single row, you should stagger them in a zigzag pattern to allow them more room and to create the appearance of more natural growth.

To give the roots space to spread out and grow, dig a planting hole that is one inch shallower than the root ball of the plant but two to three times as broad as the root ball.

thuja trees equally spaced in the garden

4. Fertilize When Needed

Arborvitae will rarely need fertilizer if it is properly cared for, planted in healthy soil, and given enough water and sunshine. You may need to provide more nourishment to your plant if the new growth becomes insufficient, and after doing a soil test, you find that the soil lacks nutrients.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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