I Love Thuga ‘Green Giant’ aka Green Giant Arborvitae

Feb 23, 2018 | Love This!

Imagine: “What tall growing plant can we use that won’t require frequent pruning or get bare on the bottom of the trunk?” she asked.

Name: Thuga ‘Green Giant’ aka Green Giant arborvitae

Type of Plant: A large, fast growing evergreen, good for screening in places where an 8 to 12 foot wide plant will fit. This evergreen is hardy in Zones 5-8

Why I love this plant: As many know, I’ve come to hate Leyland Cypress. But my appreciation for the equally fast-growing ‘Green Giant’ remains. This is a large evergreen that isn’t usually bothered by deer. (And yes, I do have Bambi and Company strolling through my property regularly.) It’s an evergreen that tolerates part shade, doesn’t have multiple trunks that can split with heavy snow. And it’s an evergreen that stays full from tip to ground as long as it’s getting at least a half-day sun. It’s the perfect screening plant when you need that screening to go high.

A Word to the Wise: Along with height and fast growth comes width, so before planting Green Giant be sure you can give up 8 to 12 feet to this plant. Don’t put it two feet from your fence, or even from the property line. And use Green Giants sparingly. Unless you live on a very busy road, you might consider planting a group of 3 in the place where you need screening quickly, but place other plants on either side that have different foliage and won’t grow quite so tall. Moderation in all things, yes?

And be prepared for 40 to 60 feet tall. So if you plant this on the southern side of your yard, for example, know that in about 10 years much of that yard will be shaded most of the year. Know that this is a big plant…I don’t want to hear you complain down the road that, “It’s gotten out of control!” Agreed?

You can see that I have this Green Giant planted between and among oaks. It gets some full sun and some dappled shade over the course of a day. Note that Green Giants have a bit of a yellow cast in the winter.

My Green Giants are on the Northwest side of our property. They screen our place from the road and our neighbors without blocking the sun on our flower and vegetable gardens.

These two plants demonstrate that even when planted a mere ten feet apart, plants can grow quite differently. The Green Giant on the left is taller and thinner – the one on the right shorter and fatter, although both were the same size when planted and put in the ground at the same time. You have to just love how nature is quirky and irregular.

 

57 Comments

  1. bonnie Hesller

    What’s the problem with Leyland cypress? – bonnie

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Great question, Bonnie! Here’s the problem with these plants: They grow fast and NEVER STOP GROWING…but more importantly, they grow very long, skinny branches. These plants are full and thick in the garden centers because they’ve been sheared annually, but most homeowners don’t or can’t do this. So they grow thin over time, not providing the privacy needed. Then they grow too big! They get 15 to 25 feet wide and 60 feet tall, very quickly. Most people plant them too near the driveway, street, fence, neighbor’s property etc and then they have to have professionals come in once a year to shear them so that they stay thicker and don’t extend into the street, house, or neighbor’s yard. Because they grow so large they shade your property and your neighbor’s and people soon find they have no sun to grow the plants they want to see. And they eat backyards and side yards up with their growth. They also get winter damage and diseases.

      People are seduced by the full look of the plant in the nursery, and by the promise of “fast screening.” Most regret planting them because once they become too large and costly to shear every year it’s hard to rip them out and “go back” to no screening…so you’re stuck with the maintenance and the fact the trees are taking up too much room.

      Reply
  2. Pam Hill

    I was thinking about planting these in my Cape yard to provide a wind barrier as my garden is only .4 mile from the beach. They would have a southeastern exposure. Is this too much sun or too close to the beach? Thanks Pam

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Pam,
      It depends on a few things. 1. Is there anything else between you and the beach that breaks the wind? Buildings that are two stories high, for example? Larger trees? If so, they should be fine but if there are only 1 story buildings and smaller trees, they might be a bit too exposed once they get tall. 2. Do you need a really tall plant for screening? These grow VERY tall – would they block a neighbor’s view of the ocean? Would they shade what is now a sun-filled garden on your or your neighbor’s property? They will grow 30 feet high or higher. 3. If you need a wind screen, my guess is that you don’t need such a tall plant. I’d plant a mixed screen if I were you, including some upright Hinoki False Cypress, upright Yews, and Eastern red cedars. All of these are very wind-tolerant. Do them in groups of three, slightly staggered into a triangle if there is room, with a blooming shrub such as a LimeLight Hydrangea, Rose of Sharon and Physocarpus ‘Center Glow’ in between the groups. That way you get assorted colors and textures of foliage, flowers and the wind screen as well.

      Reply
  3. Marta Biskup

    My neighbor recently had groupings of green giant planted 2-4 feet from our shared property line. He has a very large lot. His home is about 20 yards from the property line. My lot is long and very narrow. My home is about 8 feet from the property line. There was a swale between our properties. The shrubs were placed higher then the ground level and plenty of much wasadded right up to the fence pushing the swale entirely on my property.. I am very concerned because his plantings will completely dominate my yard and control what I can and can not do with that side of my property. What are my options?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Marta,
      Yes, these grow to be very tall evergreens so if they are to the south or west of your land they will shade your yard significantly. If they are planted to the North of your land they will not shade your yard as much. If they are planted on your neighbor’s side, however, there isn’t much you can do except talk to your neighbors about your concerns. This is also true of the pushing of the low, moist area onto your yard in the process. If your neighbors had a landscaping firm do the work it’s possible that they are not aware of the changes that were made to your property. I’d suggest that you ask the neighbor to come over to look at the impact on your yard with you…they may or may not agree to move the trees further toward their house, but if you don’t approach them in a friendly manner to begin with you’ll never know what might have been possible. Worth a try.

      Reply
  4. Miriam T

    Have you had any disease problem with your green giants?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      No – I have never had any disease problems nor have I noticed any in our area. But every region is different and I don’t know about the place where you live and what diseases are common there.

      Reply
  5. Miriam T.

    Thankful for your response. I live in Georgia and unfortunately an arborist told me that my 8 large leyland’s – over 50 ft each-have seiridium canker. I am going to try to save them, but there is no cure and the treatment cannot be guaranteed. I will use green giants if they have to be replaced. I wanted to know if green giants are prone to disease as well.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Miriam,
      You’ve hit on one of the reasons I hate Leyland cypress. Green Giants are far superior in the world of fast-growing evergreens!

      Reply
  6. Sam

    I can see why you think these are great until your neighbor plants them on your property line. These should not be allowed to be planted unless you have the proper growing space.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Nothing should be planted on a neighbor’s property. But know that you have the legal right to cut any and all foliage that extends over your property line, so if you’d like to trim your neighbor’s plants where they hang over your yard, by all means do so!

      Reply
    • Arun Kumar Balasubramani

      I live in North Georgia..I have a 160 feet wide backyard shared by two neighbors. I am planning to do three of these around the deck..What other option you would recommend to grow on the side?

      Reply
      • CL Fornari

        These get far too large to grow near a deck.

        Reply
  7. Melinda

    Hi! Great site! I’m planning to purchase 6 to 7 foot Green Giants. I’ve read that they need at least 6hours sun/partial shade a day. Since they are already at my desired height will they die if I have less sun time.

    Thank you,
    Melinda

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Melinda – if they are already your desired height you’ll be upset when they very quickly add 14 more feet to their current size….

      Reply
  8. Carrie

    I am planting 7 GGA between my very nosy neighbor and me. He’s always texting or coming across my lawn find out what I’m doing or telling what he and his wife think I am doing. We have lots of space And trees between us, I want to get close enough to the property line for him to understand my boundary but not so close that they grow over on his. There is no fence because they like the open space. Which is fine except for the lack of boundary issue that we have. Is 10 feet enough space from the property line? Would 8 feet be better? For the screening part I want them close enough together to make a screen do they don’t see my every move but not actually touching , how far apart should they be. Looking up the mature width it seems to vary a lot. I also have other trees that I’m taking into consideration because I want to keep them. There will be two then three then two. In groups because of where the other trees are. Thank you for your time and wisdom!

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      If you want to be sure your neighbor can’t prune these plants, place them so the trunk (center of plant) is at least six to eight feet from the line. These plants grow quickly to about 8 feet in diameter so if you plant them that far from the line you’ll be safe. How close together depends on how fast you want them to build a “wall” – If you want that to happen quickly, plant them six to eight feet apart, center to center. If you want a looser look that will fill into a wall, stagger them somewhat – one five feet from center to line but the next eight feet from line, spacing them six to seven feet, trunk to trunk, apart. Then the next one back toward the line again. You’ll see the most growth in the third year after they go in, and that will continue afterwards every year.

      Reply
  9. Patrick

    How will the green giants do on a slope? I have an approximately 100 ft stretch of hillside in my backyard that is an eyesore and I do not want to continuously have to cover with pine straw. Will these grow well on the slope and in direct sunlight? I live in Georgia, I believe zone 8.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Patrick
      It sounds like you need a weed-smothering ground cover, not a tall plant such as Green Giant. Green Giant will be very, very tall and wide – kind of massive, but won’t cover that slope to avoid you having to mulch. Plus I have no idea how steep the slope is. Slopes in full sun are usually dry, so you need something that is drought tolerant as well. Look into Green Mound Junipers (NOT any of the blue ones) and Liriope, aka Lily Turf.

      Reply
  10. Josh

    Thanks for the great post. If they are about 4 feet from a privacy fence and they thin out on that side, will they come back if you remove the fence so they get full sun?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Most arborvitae don’t make new foliage from bare areas – so it the places facing the fence are now bare, they will not green up again.

      Reply
      • Vinnie

        I just planted (yesterday) seven GG 6 feet apart (from the trunk) and 6 feet from the neighbors stockade fence. It’ll be expensive to do but should since they are seven feet tall and heavy, but should I have these moved further from the fence?

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          Whether you move them or not is up to you but if they are six feet from the fence to the outside of the foliage right now, they should be okay although they will press against the fence in about six to eight years. If they are six feet from the center of the plant to the fence, they will be pressing against the fence in three or four years. Will they cause the fence to rot faster? Yes, if it’s wood. Will they be bare on the fence side and ugly if the fence comes down? Yes. Then the neighbors will need to decide if they want to replace the fence so that they don’t have to look at the bare, dead part of the trees. I planted Green Giants ten years ago. They were five feet tall and about three feet wide when I planted them. Now they are ten feet wide and about 25 feet tall. You have to take the “Giant” part of their name seriously.

          Reply
  11. Stacy Miller

    I planted new 24” GGA in October of 2019. I live in Zone 5a. I covered them in burlap for the winter because I was concerned about winter burn and them being young. They grew nice this first full year—sprigs shooting up to 36”. Should I cover them again for the winter or will they be fine without any protection?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      There is no way I can say “they will be fine” not knowing what the future will bring. What if it’s the coldest winter on record? What if someone sprays something on them from the street? What I can say is if these were my plants I wouldn’t cover them. After all, they are either the right plants for that location or not, and if not, wouldn’t I want to know right away? After all, I couldn’t cover them once they got to be over 6 feet tall, so why not find out immediately if they have what it takes for my location?

      Sometimes it’s best to do our best without trying to totally control it all…and let Nature take over from there.

      Reply
  12. A. Nowotney

    QUESTION! I have a beautiful row of 16 Green Giants across the back of our half acre property. They are 14 years old. As we live in the high desert of CA they haven’t grown like they might elsewhere, but they have gotten very large. After talking to a local nursery we decided to apply Tree and Shrub Insect Control as recommended. We have never prune or trimmed them but as I tried to measure the trunk prior to application I realized that one of them had five additional smaller trunks growing next to the main trunk. I cut out three of them leaving an unsightly opening in the row. I have noticed that there are many others that also have multi-trunks. Did I just kill one of my trees? Or should I remove other sucker trunks? I thought they were a single trunk tree. Do you have any advise or suggestions for me? Thank you.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Do not remove any other trunks! They are NOT “sucker trunks” but are how the plant naturally grows. Any that you take out will create bare areas that are not likely to fill in. Why the insect control? Did you see and identify insect damage? In general, avoid all insecticides unless absolutely necessary, and only after you have an accurate diagnosis of the problem, usually from an extension service.

      Reply
  13. A. Nowotney

    Thank you. We live in the High Desert of CA and although they have grown and are full they looked like they were struggling. They would get bronze/copper areas and near dead areas. They always seem to recover, but never looked like the pictures all green and lush. I’ve thought it’s due to how dry we are here and wanted to give them deeper, longer water only a few times a month, but my husband set the water timer to less water more frequently.

    I’ve already applied the Tree and Shrub to the first three trees. After what you advised I think I’ll take a wait and see approach before giving it to the rest. They have been very easy trees and we’ve never touched them before. Boy do I wish I hadn’t touched them yesterday! I wish I had found your site first! :<(

    Now that they're mature it sounds like you don't think it will fill in. Is that right? I wish I could send you a before and after picture.

    Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      At this point you’ll have to wait and see what happens, but since Thuga don’t put out new growth from old wood, it’s unlikely that they will fill in. No need for photos. May The Force be with you!

      Reply
  14. Mary Filippelli

    Can the top of these be trimmed? As in letting the lush width grow, but trimming the top at 6-8 feet. Or will this kill the tree?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      It won’t kill the tree if you trim off 6 to 10″ but if they are really tall, and you cut down to 6-8 feet, you will expose wood with that cut that can indeed lead to rot and death of the tree. Not to mention make it look odd. Once these are tall there is no making them short again. And even if you start trimming a few inches every year when they are six feet tall, you won’t stop them in their tracks. It’s nearly impossible to fight a plant’s genetics unless it’s planted in a shallow, bonsai dish.

      Reply
  15. Cherish Born

    I am considering planting Green Giants on our new property line as a privacy screen to block the road beyond. We are building a new home on the high point of 28 acres. The property line I’m wanting to plant the screen on is the East line that is shared with a pasture full of cattle on the other side. I’m not worried about my “neighbor” at all, The house will be roughly 230’ from that property line. My concern is the electric power lines run right above the property line fence. My thought was to plant the center of the tree about 8’ from the fence thinking in my area it will get maybe 12’ in diameter. I thought these only grow to about 40’ but now I’m unsure reading the comments above. We live in NW Kansas. Lots of wind & not a lot of rain. We have very sandy soil on our property. Per our conservation office, they say to deduct 25% off the trees maximum height for our area.
    Will I be ok planting at that 8’ distance from the property line or do I need to allow more space?
    Also, on the north side of house we’re going to do a 3-row windbreak. Is the Green Giant a good medium evergreen/arborvitae to use there as well with CO Blue Spruce? TIA

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      If you plant the center of the Green Giant 8 feet from the line you should be okay, but if you go 10 feet that would be better. These plants get large. You don’t say how close to the side of the house the windbreak will be – but if it’s closer than say 20 feet to the house it will feel pretty claustrophobic after ten years…not sure you need such a tall windbreak. I have no idea how blue spruce do in your region – look at them as you drive around to get a sense of how big they grow and if they stay full to the ground or not. (In my area they do not.)

      Reply
  16. Satya Bhagavatula

    Very good info thanks a lot . I have few question , 1) Can you prune the Green giant at the bottom of the tree on all sides for about 4 feet from the ground after it reaches about 10 to 12 feet , ? ,any restrictions on trimming in general ? 2) I read in the above posts that it will take up to 8 feet in diameter at mature time is that true? . 3) How many years it will take for green giant to mature ? I am planning to plant them in MD with about 6 feet apart and four feet from property line.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Yes, you can do this if you don’t want the privacy from ground up. Note that if you do it you can never go back – it won’t regenerate growth below. The general rule of thumb when you are doing this is to never remove more than 1/4 of the plant’s total height. So if the plant is 1 feet tall, don’t remove more than 3′. These are fast growing trees. Within 5 years they will be over the property line since they very quickly get to be ten feet wide.

      Reply
  17. Kim

    I live in the city, where our lots are only 40′ wide and the non-patio part of the backyard only runs about 25′ deep, and my neighbor has an above ground pool with a small deck that’s ON the property line at the right edge of my yard. I have a 6′ wooden fence, but since the deck sits 4′ above ground level, anyone on it is staring down into my yard, making it feel like a fishbowl. My patio area is decently private thanks to being on the opposite side of my small raised back porch from them, but as a person who loves to garden, the pool situation is unfortunate, but I bought the house with it there and it’s not going away. The neighbor and I are pretty friendly and I could possibly ask them to create a privacy wall on their deck, but suggesting they erect a wall may not be the most elegant solution or the best idea for my garden, and the usual fast growing evergreens suggested as screens seem too wide unless I can let them grow along the fence while shearing them away from the center of the yard eventually. To avoid fall leaf drop into their pool as well as a spreading canopy that they’d likely want to cut back to maximize sun, a relatively upright evergreen nearish the fence line seems ideal, but will anything be 10 feet tall within five years or so without eventually shading out my entire yard? I’m on year three in this house and would like to actually be somewhat comfortable in my yard sooner than later. I could also plant smaller varieties of deciduous trees farther into my yard since I really only NEED screening from May to September and bare trunks and branches would provide enough filtering of the eyesore to satisfy me the rest of the year when it’s not actually in use. The deck is only about 8′ wide, so I wouldn’t need to create an entire border necessarily. Any suggestions? I’m in zone 6b, the spot in question is SW of my house with full sun and there’s nothing bigger than a shrub within 50′, clay loam soil, I can definitely irrigate the spot in question, and I’m open to spending more on more established trees especially if I can get away with only buying one or two. (Thanks for listening to my tree therapy needs!)

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      You need a local person to look at your situation. This is FAR too detailed for a comment in a blog post. But know that Green Giants are much to large for most urban settings.

      Reply
  18. Dave

    Great info. I have a home that one of the sides is wood fenced by the county but is on a relatively busy street but where they will justify putting a concrete wall.

    Any thoughts of staggering versus row to row for some noise abatement and how far from the fence? It’s about 200 feet. Thanks!

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Your decision about how far from the fence totally depends on how much space ou have. I’d plant these with the center of the plant at least 8 feet from the fence, knowing how wide they grow. If you’ve got the room, stagger them.

      Reply
  19. Joe

    Would it be possible to plant them 3-4 ft from a wood fence and trim them into basically a privacy hedge in a couple of years. Also would they damage the fence while growing

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Joe – these are far too big to plant 4′ from a fence. You would need to plant them 6′ from a fence and even then they’d press against the fence in ab out 7 or 8 years. Take the name “Green Giant” seriously. If you need to plant 4′ from a fence, plant Emerald Green Arborvitaes, even though they are slower growing.

      Reply
      • CHRISTINE SANTOS

        I have 1 acre in back yard bordering he turnpike .removed 22 old pines last yr need to replant would like GGA .looking to screen area of 140 ft across fence to fence . trees need to be able to stand sun and wind that blows to the south ..hearty trees to block out the roadway how many fo you suggest ?

        Reply
        • CL Fornari

          You can plant these between 6 and 10 feet apart center to center.

          Reply
  20. Erika

    We are planting these to create a privacy screen at the back edge of our 0.75 acre yard. We are on a hill in Pittsburgh and can see directly into neighbors houses behind us so the height these provide will be welcomed. There is no concern about encroaching on fence or property line; however, the back edge of our yard slopes down. My question is how far away from the start of the slope do we need to plant these to ensure good growth but also maximize our yard space? Thanks!

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      It’s really impossible for me to comment on this since I can’t see your yard or know how steep the slope is. To guess wouldn’t be doing you any favors!

      Reply
  21. Nancy Harrison

    Hello!
    I live in Lake Tahoe and was so excited to find green giants at a local nursery as I’m looking for screening evergreens (literally crazy neighbor across the street and we have restraining order against her.) The trees are 10’ tall now and nursery sales guy said they won’t get much taller here??? We are planting in our front yard with full sun at hottest time of day, elevation 6,250. What growth should we expect?

    Reply
  22. Kaushik

    If we plant green giants 5 feet apart, how wide will they get (diameter)? I am asusming they will stop growing once they start touching each other. By planting them 5 feet apart, I am assuming I can plant them 3 feet from the property line. Does that sound reasonable?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Each Green Giant will grow to about 10 feet in diameter in the first 10 years. So they will very quickly hang over the property line. Okay with your neighbors? If you palnt them 5 feet apart they will quickly be a green wall. I assume that’s what you want. But know that once they do grow together there is no turning back should you decide that you don’t want a solid green wall…once they’ve grown together if you take one out the remaining plants on each side will be bare where they touched, and they won’t fill in green again in those areas because these plants don’t produce new growth from bare, old wood. Take the “Giant” part of their name seriously.

      Reply
  23. Stacie Burgua

    We are thinking about growing GG Thuja as a hedge. What is the minimum thickness you would recommend? How far apart should they be planted for a hedge?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      This would be a HUGE hedge. Not really a hedge plant, in my opinion. Who wants a hedge that is 12 feet wide and 25+ feet high? Plus you can’t prune heavily since if a Thuga is cut back to much, they don’t grow back from bare woods. Not a good choice for a hedge.

      Reply
  24. Kristi

    We are getting 10 of these to be used as a wind break on the west side of our property. We built on 4 acres and will be planting these next to farmland. My question is do we plant them in a row or do two staggered rows? We were thinking of placing them 12 feet apart?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I’d do it staggered – that way if one dies in three or four years, it won’t be so obvious if you need to stick another one in that space. When you plant something in a row, any damage is always very noticeable.

      Reply
  25. Zachary H

    Hello, love all the information on here so far. My question is…I’m planting a two row staggered windbreak/visual barrier. Very long, a total of 1300 ft. I ordered 200 tree seedlings. My plan was to plant them at either 12 or 13′ on center with one in between at a 4′ distance perpendicular. Should create roughly 7-8 ft between trees at the diagonal. Will this still be tight enough at that distance to create the “wall” that we are hoping for eventually?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Yes but it will take about 10 years to make that wall. If you want it faster, move them to 10′ on center.

      Reply
  26. Alicia Murray

    Hi I have 9 Green Giants about 15 feet tall and the one on the end about 5 feet snapped off of top. What do I do? Will it grow or will it die??

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      You will wait and see what happens. It’s not likely to die but it might just get fatter and not grow as tall. In any case, it’s in Nature’s hands now.

      Reply

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