Landscaping & Yard CareOrnamental Plants

Emerald Green Arborvitae are a Premier Landscape Plant

All pyramidal Arborvitae are not created equal! Some look similar but they grow and perform very differently over time. There are two upright, pyramidal Arborvitae that I really like because they look great, and over time they perform exactly as you expect them to. They are very different and should be used in different situations. One is Techny arborvitae, also known as Mission Arborvitae, but I’m going to discuss Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), also known as ‘Smaragd’

Emerald Green Arborvitae is an excellent plant and is a great choice when you are looking for a narrow, upright evergreen that doesn’t get too tall. This evergreen has an interesting color. Instead of the dark green color that many arborvitaes have, this plant is a lighter green with what appears to be a bit of a gold tinge to the foliage.

Many upright arborvitae grow so fast and so tall that before long they are hooping over and growing away from the house. During the winter months when the snow clings it will pull them almost to the ground. If they are grown with multiple leaders as many are, they open up, spread apart and look absolutely terrible.

I’ve never seen Emerald Green do that. It just doesn’t get tall enough for that to happen. Even plants that are over 15 years old are normally only about 10′ tall. That’s what makes Emerald Green unique to so many other upright arborvitaes.

Emerald Green Arborvitae are narrow and the closer to the top the narrower they get.  If they are planted in a single row you need to plant them about 24″ on center to get a nice, full hedge. Even then because they are quite narrow at the top, it still is not likely to be a complete screen that can’t be seen through. For a hedge you can plant them in a double row and staggered, about 30″ to 36″ apart, then plant the back row with the same spacing but stagger it to fill in the gaps. This makes for a very tight screen that you cannot see through.

For about 20 years I spent a great deal of time re-landscaping over 500 homes. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we removed tall arborvitae that were completely concealing the front of the house, leaning over and just plain looking bad. In almost every case inside of the plants we found fence posts and wire holding the plants together and the stakes attempting to hold the plants upright. That’s why I am very picky about which arborvitae that I will use in or recommend for a landscape.

Emerald Green Arborvitae is also easy to propagate and easy to grow. You can root cuttings and sell them as soon as they are rooted. This is a great plant to grow at home and sell at a small size.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at and read his blog at

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