I recently bought a property where I'll need around 340 feet of privacy trees. I'm planting around 35-40 Thuja Green Giants on the property line.

However, I'd like to get these trees in the ground soon - or during the fall.

We will not have a structure/water turned on to the house for some months.

What the chances that these trees will establish if I plant them during the fall? I'd like to get them established and growing upwards by the time we occupy the property.

About half the properties I see that try to grow privacy lines end up with mostly-dead trees. What is the main cause of this?

Further, is it possible to avoid this die-off without irrigation available, or is the best option (most likely) to wait until I have irrigation hooked up to insure establishment?

I'd appreciate any thoughts.

Edit The location is East Tennessee. The die-off is not uniform to the area. Those with established (well-draining) soil and homes seem to show the most success. Death seems to occur when Evergreens sit underwater, or have no access to regular water.


5 Answers 5


If you can't ensure regularly watering don't plant them. I live in the Pacific North West where we get lots of rain, but even here, trees planted in the summer require large quantities of water on a regular basis in order to establish themselves. Personally, I make it a habit to regularly and heavily water any new plant for at least its first year.

As a side note, when an evergreen in a hedge consisting of only one species dies, either completely or partially, it stands out like a sore thumb. Given your neighbours' experience, it sounds like you can expect some die-off, so you might consider planting a hedge that has a couple of alternating varieties.

  • Good point. I do think that there is some chance for it to live. The neighbors that had die-off planted on undeveloped (but cleared) land without access to water. Folks just a few hundred yards away with established homes (and presumably irrigation set up) have had successful mono-culture arborvitaes for some years.
    – John
    Jul 30, 2018 at 20:17

The reason for die back with evergreens is almost certainly related to timing of planting. The issue is that evergreens are constantly transpiring, losing moisture to the air. The drier the air, the more the plant will make an effort to conserve moisture but cannot shut down loss completely. When root hairs are not able to recover lost water there is a decline in water resources and the plant dries out. Once the dryness reaches a certain point the plant is not able to recover and all growth shuts down permanently.

When transplanting therefore we need to take into account the season and the state of the root ball. Will these plants be container grown and have they filled the pots so much that they are stressed? Or will you be digging from the wild with close to bare-root conditions? Container grown is best but more expensive; the root ball is intact and undisturbed and is able to continue to absorb the replacement moisture provided it is available. Bare root must make an effort to establish a root presence in the new location. So bare root must be planted while the ground is still warm, otherwise the effort is lost.

Not only must the plants have or be able to grow roots, there must be water available in the soil. The trees must go into moist warm soil, particularly if you have a dry season coming up. A dry season could be simply no rain for months on end after planting or a freeze up. If the ground freezes you have no way of adding water to the ground for the trees and they will dry out.

You would be well advised to budget for a visit from a water truck if you have no irrigation system.

  • Thank you. I think I'll wait until we get the water meter connected before I do any planting.
    – John
    Jul 30, 2018 at 20:16

The Groasis waterboxx is a device that harvests water from the environment to help trees survive even in the Sahara. You could look at using these to plant your trees that you're not able to look after.

Groasis waterboxx
(source: dewharvest.com)


I would recommend to you, first and foremost, observing what grows well in your area, and what just doesn't grow well in your area. If you did not see any successful giant arborvitae hedge in your area, think twice.

Secondly, keep in mind - the larger the plant, the more water it needs. In case of giant arborvitae, I would go for specimen 1ft high max. You need patience.

Third, heavy mulching around new plants. This will keep moisture around roots significantly longer than without mulch - and with less water.

  • Thanks! Some folks have successful stands of evergreen privacy hedges (not sure the type) that are in excess of 20 feet. Others seem to have little success.
    – John
    Jul 30, 2018 at 20:08

If you don't have the water and labor to care for these newly planted hedges then forget planting them. Ugh. What is worse than no hedge? Dying hedges. You have to commit to watering them everyday in the summer once per week in the winter...depending on your winters. What an absolute waste of plant material and money.

Planting hedges in one straight line is a homeowner mistake that is glaring. Offset, or rather two lines of plants in a hedge...one plant dies it is not apparent is far better. That does not mean watering, fertilizer and supervision aren't just as necessary.

What are your needs, your environment that you are trying to grow hedges? If you expect to plant plants and not water them for at least a year, seriously, forget purchasing hedge plants or any plant to plant and allow to survive on its own. Waste of money I kid you not.

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