Creating Natural Privacy Screens with Arborvitae: A Comprehensive Guide

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Privacy is a precious commodity in today’s world, where residential lots are getting smaller and commercial spaces crave distinct boundaries without the harsh look of fencing. Arborvitae, with its lush evergreen foliage and dense growth habits, provides an excellent solution for those looking to shield their property from prying eyes or simply to create a tranquil green oasis. Beyond the allure of their year-round verdant appearance, these living barriers are easy to maintain, grow rapidly to fill in gaps, and offer sustainable benefits that support local wildlife and improve air quality.

Whether you’re a homeowner looking to establish a serene backyard retreat or a business seeking to delineate your space naturally, Arborvitae is an unparalleled choice. Join us as we delve into why Arborvitae is the premier choice for privacy screens, how to select the right variety for your needs, and tips for designing and maintaining your natural barrier.

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Why Choose Arborvitae for Your Privacy Screen?

When it comes to selecting the right plant for a natural privacy screen, Arborvitae stands out for its remarkable qualities and benefits. Here’s why Arborvitae, particularly the Green Giant variety, should be at the top of your list for creating lush, effective, and sustainable privacy barriers.

Rapid Growth

One of the most compelling reasons to choose Arborvitae for your privacy needs is its rapid growth rate. Green Giant Arborvitae, for instance, can grow three feet per year under optimal conditions. This fast growth means that it doesn’t take long for the plants to knit together into a dense, effective screen, providing privacy much sooner than other species. This makes them ideal for new homeowners eager to establish privacy quickly or for anyone looking to replace a fallen or outdated fence expediently.

Year-Round Privacy

Unlike deciduous trees that lose their leaves and expose your property during the colder months, Arborvitae remains thick and full all year round. Its evergreen nature ensures that your privacy is maintained through every season. This consistent coverage is invaluable not only for privacy but also for wind protection and noise reduction, making your outdoor spaces more comfortable and quiet throughout the year.

Low Maintenance

Arborvitae is notably low maintenance, which is crucial for both residential and commercial property owners who prefer a “plant it and forget it” approach. Once established, these trees require minimal care—just basic watering during dry spells and occasional trimming to shape the hedge or screen to your preference. This ease of care saves time and effort while ensuring that your landscape remains pristine.

Eco-Friendly Solution

Choosing Arborvitae as a privacy screen is also a step towards a more environmentally friendly property management practice. These trees act as natural air purifiers, converting CO2 into oxygen more efficiently than younger, smaller plants. Additionally, they provide essential habitat and food sources for local wildlife, including birds and beneficial insects, enhancing biodiversity in your garden or property.

By integrating Arborvitae into your landscaping plans, you are not just opting for privacy; you are choosing a sustainable, beautiful, and practical solution that benefits both your property and the environment.

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Different Types of Arborvitae for Privacy Screens

Arborvitae offers several varieties that can be used to create dense and attractive privacy screens, each with its unique characteristics and suitability for different landscape needs. Here’s a closer look at some popular choices:

Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata)

The Green Giant Arborvitae is a hybrid that combines the best qualities of its parent species — the Japanese thuja and the Western red cedar. It is renowned for its impressive growth rate, often reaching heights of 3 feet per year, making it an excellent choice for quick privacy. Mature Green Giants can reach up to 50-60 feet in height with a spread of 12-20 feet. This variety is highly resistant to common diseases and pests, making it a durable and low-maintenance option for large-scale privacy needs.

Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald')

Emerald Green is a more compact variety of Arborvitae, which grows to about 12-14 feet in height and 3-4 feet in width at maturity. It has a bright, lush green color and a neat, conical shape that doesn’t require much pruning. This variety is perfect for smaller residential gardens where space is limited but privacy is needed. It’s also well-suited for creating a more formal or sculpted hedge.

Other Varieties

North Pole Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Art Boe'): Remarkable for its narrow, columnar shape, North Pole is a great choice for tight spaces. It reaches up to 10-15 feet tall but only spreads about 3-5 feet wide. This variety is extremely cold-hardy and maintains its deep green color even in winter months.

Techny Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Techny'): This is a robust and dense variety known for its ability to withstand heavy snow and ice without breaking. Techny Arborvitae grows up to 15 feet high and spreads 6-8 feet wide, making it ideal for windbreaks as well as privacy screens.

Each variety of Arborvitae has its particular benefits and ideal uses. When choosing the type to plant, consider the specific needs of your landscape — such as space availability, desired height and width of the privacy screen, and the general climate of your area. 

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Designing Your Privacy Screen with Arborvitae

Creating an effective privacy screen requires more than just selecting the right type of Arborvitae. The design of the screen—encompassing layout, spacing, and the integration of other plant species—plays a crucial role in both the functionality and the aesthetics of the final result. Here are some essential tips to consider when designing your Arborvitae privacy screen:

Spacing and Planting

Proper Spacing: For Green Giant Arborvitae, which can grow quite large, spacing the plants 5-6 feet apart will allow them to grow together into a solid wall without overcrowding. For more compact varieties like Emerald Green, 3-4 feet apart is suitable.

Planting Tips: Plant Arborvitae in a trench rather than individual holes to ensure straight lines for your hedge. Make sure the root balls are level with the ground and not planted too deeply to prevent waterlogging and promote healthy growth.

Combining with Other Plants

Layering: Consider layering your Arborvitae with different shrubs and perennial plants in front to create depth and interest. For example, planting a row of flowering shrubs like hydrangeas in front of the Arborvitae can add a splash of color and texture.

Diversity: Adding different species can increase the ecological value of your privacy screen, attracting beneficial insects and providing a more robust habitat for local wildlife.

Layout Designs

Straight vs. Curved Lines: While a straight line is classic and formal, adding gentle curves to your Arborvitae hedge can soften the landscape and create a more natural look.

Height Variation: If zoning laws or aesthetics permit, varying the heights of Arborvitae in your screen can create a visually interesting and less monotonous appearance.

Functional Considerations

Wind and Sound Break: If your primary goal is to reduce noise or wind, consider doubling the rows of Arborvitae and staggering them to create a denser barrier.

Sunlight and Shadow: Be mindful of the shadows cast by tall Arborvitae, especially in residential settings, where too much shade might impact other garden plants or your home's natural lighting.

By thoughtfully designing your Arborvitae privacy screen, you can ensure that it meets your functional needs while also enhancing the beauty and biodiversity of your landscape.

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Care and Maintenance of Arborvitae Privacy Screens

Once your Arborvitae privacy screen is in place, ensuring its health and vigor over the years requires some basic but important maintenance practices. Here’s how to keep your Arborvitae looking lush and serving its purpose effectively:

Watering and Feeding

Watering Needs: Arborvitae need consistent moisture, especially during their first few years and in times of drought. Water deeply and regularly to establish strong root systems. After establishment, they are relatively drought-tolerant but still appreciate occasional deep watering during extended dry periods.

Fertilization: Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring to help promote vigorous growth. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive growth that the roots cannot support, making the trees more susceptible to damage from wind or heavy snow.

Pruning and Shaping

Pruning Time: The best time to prune Arborvitae is in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This helps prevent the spread of disease and gives the plant time to heal before the growing season.

Shaping Tips: For a neat and tidy appearance, lightly trim the sides of the Arborvitae to encourage denser growth. Avoid cutting into the old wood, where new growth does not readily sprout. If height control is necessary, you can trim the tops once they reach the desired height.

Pest and Disease Management

Monitoring: Regularly check your Arborvitae for signs of pests or disease. Common issues include spider mites, scale insects, and fungal diseases such as needle blight.

Control Methods: Use horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps to manage pest infestations. For fungal diseases, ensure proper spacing for air circulation and consider fungicidal treatments if necessary.

Seasonal Care

Winter Protection: In areas with heavy snowfall, tie the branches of your Arborvitae together with soft twine to prevent damage from snow accumulation.

Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the trees to help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Ensure the mulch is not piled against the trunk to avoid moisture buildup that can lead to fungal diseases.

By following these care guidelines, your Arborvitae privacy screen will thrive, providing your property with beauty, privacy, and a host of environmental benefits for many years to come. 


Shop Green Giant Arborvitae at Rolling Fields Tree Farm

At Rolling Fields Tree Farm, we pride ourselves on providing premium-quality Arborvitae that are suited to a wide range of climates and soil types. Our expertise in Arborvitae cultivation ensures that you receive plants that are healthy, vibrant, and ready to thrive in their new environment. 

Explore our selection of Green Giant Arborvitae and discover how these magnificent trees can transform your landscape and privacy solutions. Field-grown and container-grown options available. Sixes from 1'-20'. Easy shipping.

Embrace the beauty and practicality of Arborvitae. Let Rolling Fields Tree Farm help you create a living landscape that brings privacy, peace, and natural splendor to your space.