Arborvitae have a tough time getting respect despite their name which means “tree of life”. Divisively called “cemetery trees” and dogged by the unfortunate tendency of some arborvitae varieties to suffer winter burn or splay in heavy wet snows, arborvitae are rejected by too many people seeking privacy and/ or a good windbreak.
Fortunately, the bad reputation of arborvitae is changing due to 3 great new varieties and one reliable old standard. To make the grade in the top ranks of good evergreen trees, these four arborvitae varieties need to have four important characteristics. First is excellent resistance to winter burn. Secondly, the tree must be resistant to splaying in heavy wet snows. Third, is a good growth rates so it doesn’t take forever to achieve a size that will be tall enough to give good screening. The fourth important characteristic is very good resistance to diseases and pests.
These four arborvitae varieties have all the good traits:
Wintergreen Arborvitae – aka Hetz Wintergreen which have lovely deep dark green color, fast growth rates of 1 ½’ to 2 ½” per year, do not turn brown after a tough winter, stand strong in winter storms and are not bothered by the fungus diseases that cause some spruce trees to thin and shed needles. Wintergreen is lovely the first couple of years after planting, but soon thereafter forms a wonderful year around screen. Matures to 10’ wide and 30’+ tall. Wintergreen Arborvitae is a good choice for an evergreen hedge that will stay healthy and beautiful for years and years.
North Pole Arborvitae – a nice hybrid of Wintergreen Arborvitae created by Art Boe of Faribault, MN. North Pole gets dense at an earlier age and is rated to be a bit narrower and shorter than its parent Wintergreen. Size thought to be about 4’ wide and 15’ tall. North Pole Arborvitae has all the good characteristics while having more modest size. Prune a few times during the first 6 years to favor a central leader – very easy to do. Growth rate is 12”-18” per year.
American Pillar Arborvitae – is yet another off spring of Wintergreen Arborvitae. The main differences are a slightly lighter green color, and a little narrower width of about 5’-6’. Growth rates still are about 2’ per year with awesome disease and pest resistance. Tough and resilient for our harsh Minnesota winters. A bit thin in the first few years due to rapid growth but gets good density by the 4th or 5th year at which time height should be about 10’-12’ tall.
Techny Arborvitae – If you want a gorgeous dark green privacy screen or windbreak and have enough room for an evergreen that can grow to 15’ wide by 25’-30’ tall, nothing can beat a group of Techny Arborvitae. Very dense even at a young age. Growth of 12”-15” per year. Techny Arborvitae is the gold standard of all arborvitae varieties – beautiful, chubby and tough as nails.
Arborvitae can grow well on a whole variety of soil types and need plenty of sun. Avoid heavily shaded locations and chronically soggy soil. Any of these four arborvitae varieties can be a real winner for you!