RE: Pruning Green Giant Arborvitae

greenguy111December 15, 2013

Hello... This is my first time on here so hopefully I am in the right pace... Question on pruning green giants... I just planted a row of 40 gg's. they are 8-10ft tall. Almost half of them have double leaders from which I've gathered is because they weren't pruned when they were smaller. Some don't start til further up but some start at the bottom and so it is almost like two trees growing out of the root ball. I believe I need to determine the dominant leader and trim the other back...? I saw somewhere to not trim more than one third.. If I cut one third on these trees I would be cutting off a 1 inch thick branch. Is this ok or should I do less than that. Or should I just let them go.. I planted them 5 ft apart for a privacy screen.. Or can I cut it down low and put pruning sealer on it? Also it is the middle of December so should I wait till spring to prune? Any thoughts anybody? Please help...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

more pics

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 8:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

and another

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 8:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

where are you ...???

is snow load an issue???

quick answer.. relax.. no severe pruning until established in a year or two ... so plenty of time to talk about it ...

ball and burlap..or potted... any intense root surgery ... native soil.. hole amended?? ... no fert ... how do you water... does your soil drain ... did you mulch ... etc ...

you dont really give us much to go on.. besides the inclination.. to cut off half their heads.. speaking of which.. do let them eat cake.. lol ...

think of leaves/needles as food making machines... just after transplant.. we dont want to be removing half of them .. until we are sure the roots are all set ... THEN ... we think about such ..


ps: thats big stock.. did you do it yourself????

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 7:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the quick response and sorry for my late reply. That is a relief that I don't need to worry about it now. I am wondering though if it is ok to just leave them be. Because if I cut them off I would loose a LOT of my privacy I Instantly just got from them! I mean they don't look too bad now but how will they look like in 5 years if I don't remove the double leaders? Is it not healthy to leave them? At this stage wil they grow back thick if I remove the double leader? I guess that would be my main concern. And to answer your questions... Yes I mixed a small amount of compost in with the native soil, about 1/4 compost, 3/4 native soil. It rains a lot here on the Oregon coast so I haven't had to water them this time of year. I did use Fertilome's Root Stimulator Starter Solution at planting and not other fert besides the compost. There is not issue with snow load here. And they were ball and burlaped and I removed as much of the burlap as possible. The picture I am attaching now shows the task I am aiming to accomplish. My house sits down below the road. The photo is taken from my bedroom on the second story. My main goal for the passing cars not to see down to the ground level and to not see the second story either. I would also like to block as much of MY view of my neighbors house as possible but I'm not sure how thick the trees will be at 20ft tall as there is NOTHING I could find on the internet of this matter! I am also trying to dampen the sound of passing cars. And I read somewhere that if I top these trees off at say 25 ft they will concentrate their growth to grow in thicker instead of taller... Is that true? So for what I am trying to do, should I prune them in a few years of let them go?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 3:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Leave them alone.
The only problem with multiple leaders is with a heavy snow load.
SInce you don't have that problem, you don't have to worry about trimming them at all.
Nice trees, leave them alone and let them grow in nice and big, which is what you need anyway.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 3:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

can you have someone take pix.. when you figure out how to top them at 20 feet ...

they will get thicker with height.. when they darn well will ...

you can not cut off their heads.. and force them to widen ... nor thicken ... when they are 40 feet tall.. they will be nice and thick at 20 feet ....

what that will do ... is force them to put out multiple leaders .. at 20 feet ....

just water them properly.. for the next 2 years.. deep drinks with near drying in between ... if they are planted on a slope.. figure how to pool the water.. long enough to soak in.. as deep as the root mass you planted ... mulch well ...

and frankly.. IMHO ... no more fert .... ever ... 2 years after planting.. once fully established... they will resume their annual growth rate for your area ... [i still dont think you told us where you are .... they do not grow in frozen ground all year long]

are those power lines directly above the trees??.. or on the other side of the road???? ... maybe the power co. will top them for you ...

good luck


    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

these in the pix.. were about 4 inches tall at planting .. in 2000 ..

they are about 10 to 12 feet tall in this pic ... in 2009 ... and that is with 4 months of frozen ground, most years ....

as you can see.. they thicken as they grow taller ...

and again... i dont think you will change their habit... thru creative pruning ...

thx for the personal note.. i had already typed the above by the time i found yours in my mailbox ...

just give them a few years to get going .... you are way to anxious about them at this point ... all i would hope for.. is for them to live for the next two years ....

do explain the power line issue ....


    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 11:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Ken, the power lines are across the road thank goodness! Ok, I will not worry. The only thing I could find on the internet about pruning green giants ( before discovering this awesom site ) were videos that emphasized trimming the double leaders so they would grow properly. They were smaller trees though. Not as serious of surgery as what I may or may not need to do in a few years... And it is not very much to rent a snorkel lift!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 11:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Guy, short of removing the entire secondary (Unwanted) leaders, you could "subordinate" them by shortening them back to an outward-facing side branchlet. This way, less overall disturbance to the thickness and present-day aesthetic qualities of the affected plants, while slowing down those shortened leaders such that, going forward, they will begin to behave as branches.

Easy to do, and quite reliable a technique.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 12:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Right on, +om!
I do it all the time in my overplanted, maturing garden.
Other than a severe topping, Greenguy, there's nothing you can do to stop those Green Giants from blocking the view of the road and your neighbor's buildings. You live on the Oregon coast fer cryin' out loud! They are on their way!
On another note, I just removed a Green Giant planted 10 ft. from two others in a row. Turned out it was the runt of the row and wasn't required any more. Ten foot spacing was too close, .....but not initially. The two on either side are almost doing the job at 30 ft. tall. Won't be long until they fill in. The runt was in the way and would have eventually lost the battle with it's mates. I should have caught it sooner. Famous last words. :-)

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 7:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

........As far as that goes, I was going to tell OP that given his location, he/she could have simply worked with T. plicata, with much the same or perhaps even better results! But I'm pretty sure the GGs will work out for him as well.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the replies you guys, and my name is Dusty. Mike, I was under the impression [ by way of my internet resarch, ( which was mostly the sites of companies that sell the GG's)] that the GG's could be "shrubbed" like Emerald greens and to not plant them any closer than 4ft. said one place but most said 5ft. I mean I am trying to create a wall of green here, for sound and sight... BUT if the tree's won't be healthy planted this close then should I be thinking of removing other one in a few years or maybe more if necessary? I just don't see them being 10 to 15ft wide OR thick AT the 25ft mark...I do like the subordinate idea +OM, it makes sense. However... I still don't know what my long term plan for these beasts SHOULD be, Any comments will be a big help!! Thank you all!!!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 12:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd not be overly concerned with the spacing, one way or the other. Because the plants are starting from roughly the same size, at the same time, they will grow to accommodate one another. Even in nature, one occasionally sees one tree jammed up pretty close to another, and they still both function. If it's a wall of green you're after, that is what you'll get. Nor do I recommend any pruning, beyond any subordination heading back cuts you might make on co-dominant leaders. That's one of the beauties of arbs-they grow densely without any intervention on our part.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 2:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beng(z6 western MD)

Interesting that some GGs have 'issues' w/double leaders, while my nine don't. I assume they're all the same or very similar clones. Maybe soil or climate -- don't know.

And yes, just trimming back a leader should be sufficient to subordinate it, as opposed to risky cutting at the main stem.

And some of my other species seem to develop double leaders, but later one leader gets bent outward by the wind, snow or birds (or something), and naturally gets subordinated. No intervention was needed. Bald & pond cypresses & dawn redwood are examples.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 11:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Beng, I wonder if somewhere along the supply chain, someone had to "improve" know..."get them to fill out", haha. Sure is a lot of malarkey still alive and well in the nursery business.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 1:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I've seen Emeralds in one gallon cans that were sheared off on the top. I asked why, and they said, "to bush em' out'.
I then headed for the exit.
Yeah +oM, you're right.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 1:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

and to not plant them any closer than 4ft. said one place but most said 5ft. I mean I am trying to create a wall of green here, for sound and sight... BUT if the tree's won't be healthy planted this close then should I be thinking of removing other one in a few years or maybe more if necessary?


your confusion .. lies.. lays??? ... in the purpose you are growing them for ...

if growing for a specimen .. one or a grouping of individual trees ... then i would say ... you plant them 15 to 20 feet apart ... and as you note remove them as they mature ... because you are striving for individual perfection ....

but your intent.. is a site screen ... so forget about all the alleged rules about that ...

as noted previously .. since they are all the same size.. you plant for the screen idea .. and move on .. they will grow.. intertwine.. and solve your dilemma ... and leave them be ... to accomplish such ... you want a wall... not perfect shaped plants ....

get back with us.. on this topic in 5 to 10 years.. lol.. part of your problem.. with this project ... is your wish for some level of instant gratification ... and there really isnt much of that.. in the tree world ... for most of us ...

so ... keep them properly watered for two summers... and you ought to be all set..

and go find a new project we can help you with ...


    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 10:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So I was planning on hooking up a soaker hose to water my giants this summer and was wondering if I should also mulch? Aesthetics are not really a concern. Are there other benefits I should consider besides keeping the soil moist?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 8:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Are there other benefits I should consider besides keeping the soil moist?

===>>>> there is no other concern... its the only concern ... for the first couple years ... after which.. they wont need it ....

also.. that used recycled tire soaker hose at bigboxstore is famously unreliable at length on sloped surfaces ...

invest in some engineered product .. or you will be wasting your money


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 7:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kidhorn(7a MD)

I would mulch. I have about 20 green giants on a slope like yours. Not as steep but bigger. Anything to help the ground stay moist is a plus. I planted mine in 2 rows in a zig zag pattern. Each about 8 feet apart but 6 feet laterally when looking head on.

My biggest problem is deer rubbing their antlers on them and stripping the bark. They've killed the central leader on two of them and injured the central leader on about 5 others. Now one of mine that should be 8 feet tall is about 4 feet tall and has 10 new leaders.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was also wondering how often to water them? I saw somewhere someone said long slow drinks and to let them almost dry out then long slow drinks. Is this a good plan or do I just need to figure out as I go how often I need to water by checking how moist they are?

Also, the canary grass is back. It was kind of laid down and dormant when I planted in December. My concern is will it hinder my giant's health? It is 3-4ft tall already and will get about 5-6ft in another month or two. I am assuming that the tree's in time will dominate the hill side but am concerned for the first few years or so. Should I cut the grass around the tree's or will the giant's be ok? I have posted photo's... Thanks

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is also more canary grass on the other side of the trees...

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sheila Edmond

I live in Suffolk, Va, planted a zig zag row 5-7ft apart, about 2 years ago, going on third year now. They get part shade from trees that line the highway. We pull all growth (mostly vines, poison ivy and huge dandelions) away in the spring and fall. We did mulch with leaves the first year. Also, only watered when it didn't rain for a week and the temps were really high. These trees are really resilient, however we did have to replace two, at different points and both came from Lowes. The ones that came from the nursery are sturdy and growing amazingly fast. We fertilize with spikes twice a year and will continue to until it's just too dense to do so, with the reason being that they have a lot of competition on the other side of the fence. All the different vines are killing those trees and I can't wait until they're gone. They're mostly gumball trees and offer little in terms of protections from the highway. I hated those darn spikey balls/pods until recently. I now appreciated them because they keep the neighbor's cat out of my raised bed. lol

One last thing I'd like to add, these trees give me the closest thing to instant gratification that any tree can give. They were about 3-4 ft three years ago and are now about 14 ft tall. I adore them and would never ever cut that top off. I am about to reduce the leaders on the two newer ones this week. I only got double leaders with the Lowes trees.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 10:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Ken,

I have the EXACT same problem as GreenGuy111 with double leaders. Except there are three or four leaders in my case starting at the bottom of the plant. They are Thuja Excelsa, which I was told were the same as green giant. :( Do you have any words of wisdom as to how to get out the multiple leaders? I live in New England where heavy snow is a definite concern. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 8:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

excelsa is not the same as G G
put up a separate post with pics

    Bookmark   September 7, 2014 at 9:05PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Group of large conifers - Zone 4
Hi all. I want to plant a group of conifers in a field...
Question concerning growing Ponderosa pines from seed
I am currently growing one ponderosa pine from seed...
Larix decidua 'Pendula' & Picea abies 'Spring Fire'
I am looking for Larix decidua 'Pendula'. I understand...
Is this an Abies Disease?
I just noticed that my Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff'...
Is this Abies borisii-regis?
I have some doubts. I would greatly appreciate some...
Sponsored Products
Gervin U-Sofa Sectional - Key Largo Grass Green
Joybird Furniture
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Ikat Blue / Green 5 ft. x 8 ft.
Home Depot
Sage & Co 28-inch Mountain Pine Door Swag (Pack of 4)
Home Decorators Runner: Saddlestitch Green and Black 2' 3" x 11' 9"
$79.00 | Home Depot
Boca Raton Green Oval: 5 Ft. x 8 Ft. Oval Indoor/Outdoor Rug
$195.00 | Bellacor
Avanti Pine Creek Off-White Embellished 4-piece Towel Set
Kartell | Joe Colombo Armchair
Billiard Bronze Three-Light Island Pendant with Swirl Ends and 16-Inch Kiwi Gree
$510.40 | Bellacor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™