Trimming Arborvitaes

Arborvitaes hedge trimmedArborvitaes are fast growing, adaptable plants that are easy to grow in the crisp, cold environments of the north. They are popular with home owners who want to create hedges and windbreaks, and can take the place of built structures that may or may not be as aesthetically attractive, and that are probably more expensive.

Planting arborvitaes in your garden does mean you have to wait for a short time before they reach a height to where they are useful for the purpose, but they are totally natural, beautiful to look at and develop rich foliage of a gorgeous green color.

Your garden will be enhanced by their lushness and constantly changing appearance. Trimming arborvitaes is one of the necessary evils of growing and keeping them but it can also be a pleasure to go outdoors and lovingly tend to your hedges, shaping them to be exactly how you would like them.

Many Choices

Available in many different shapes, some arborvitae, are wide and conical whereas others are thinner such as the pyramidal varieties and the globe arborvitae is circular. When planning your garden, you can group together globe forms or upright forms.

Mixing the two results in greatly varying heights so it’s up to you to decide if that’s a look you want in your garden, or if you really want to go for the formal attraction of ‘manicured’ hedges.

If you wish, you can leave your arborvitaes untrimmed and enjoy the natural beauty of the Christmas-tree shaped pyramid or the fullness and roundness of the globe. Still, pruning can benefit the plants if you wish to limit the height to which they will grow.


Pruning a mature tree is often a good idea because once you remove the outer branches, you may notice that the inside ones are not as healthy as they could be due to a lack of nutrients or exposure to sunlight. Allowing sunlight to penetrate the dense foliage is as simple as removing some of the more closely packed branches and you will notice the tree coming back to its former vigor.

The foliage of arborvitaes looks rather like flat fans created by tiny scales that overlap. Technically, they’re needles but happily, they don’t feel like them nor look like them.

Crushing the foliage between your fingers allows the lovely fragrance, similar to citrus, to be released. When trimming your arborvitaes, you will be surrounded by this fragrance, another reason why the task is enjoyable.

Keep a Schedule

Arborvitaes benefit from a regular shearing, which makes them perfect for the formality of hedges and garden edging. Ideally, you should start pruning them early in the summer, after you notice that the new growth has expanded fully. Then, in the middle of August, you can prune them again.

By starting early and maintaining a regular cycle, trimming your arborvitaes will make them continue to look wonderful for many years. Knowing the height you would like your hedges to be is a good start to an effective pruning schedule.

Once they have grown beyond the desired height, it may already be too late to scale back and ensure evenly growing foliage. You can encourage healthy growth and the development of strong branches throughout the plant if you begin trimming your arborvitaes before they reach the height you desire.

As with all evergreens, arborvitaes will experience a natural cycle of shedding old foliage and regenerating with new. After around 3 to 4 years, foliage will begin to turn yellow and brown and then fall to the ground.

Whether you like the casual, natural appearance of untrimmed arborvitaes or the neat, composed and manicured look of heavily pruned arborvitaes, spending some time in the garden tidying them up will not only be beneficial to them, but will also give you the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and delicious fragrance.

photo by Adam Piontek / CreativeCommons