Arbor Vitae bushes dying

Asked July 8, 2017, 1:25 PM EDT

If we have 20 Arbor Vita across the back of our yard, hiding a fence (neighbors have an inground pool) and they are not surviving, even with trickle watering and fertilizer, and they face West (East side is against fence), and some replaced ones are even dying, what is the problem?

Oakland County Michigan

1 Response


Arborvitae that are repeatedly dying in the same location can be due to a root zone problem or sun/wind exposure is drying the branches on that side.

Nursery plants can come in soil that is very different than the soil you have- for example clay vs. sandy soil. When that happens the roots act like they are still in a pot and don't spread into the native soil.

The plants you have may not have been exposed in the nursery to as much sun/wind as they are in your hedge. Sudden full sun conditions can quickly dry out and kill those branches. Ask at the nursery where the plants were grown- a southern grown plant will not be as hardy here in Michigan. Try to find a nursery that has arbs grown in a northern climate.

If the root ball soil is greatly different from yours you need to dig a hole large enough to mix the two types of soil (50-50) and create a 'transition zone'. This will help water penetrate the area properly.

Check how much water the plants are getting- dig a narrow pilot hole down at least 6 inches deep to check soil moisture after you watered. Is water getting down that far? Is water draining properly? You may need more or less soaker hose time.

You can erect a temporary screen on the west side to help acclimate the foliage on that side. This screen may only be necessary over the winter, if winter/spring is when you see damage begin.

Here are some details on how to do this-

If you have any other questions please write again. Thank you.