The Q&A Archives: Over Watered Arborvitae

Question: Recently planted (4-6 weeks ago) 4-6 feet dark American arborvitaes. First we were told to water once or twice a week with soaker hose. Then we were told by friend to keep water ongoing. Now our trees are turning yellow and brown. I am concerned that we over watered them. I have not watered them in a couple of days. But now I don't know if they are going to die and how much watering I should do. Is there something to give them to make them come back? They are not to serious yet but some are looking worse each day.


Arborvitae will tolerate a moister soil than many evergreens, but they will "drown" if kept overly wet. Generally, the idea for  newly planted shrubs is to water more often at the very beginning and then decrease it gradually so that watering about every five days to once a week is usually enough. As the weather cools you may not need to water at all.  The only way to know for sure is to check by digging into the soil to see.  The aim is to keep it moist but never soggy sopping wet.  An occasional  deep watering is more effective than a daily light sprinkling, and the rule of thumb during the growing season is "an inch a week from the sky or the hose" -- this is most important during the summer months and should be followed for the full year after planting.  A layer of several inches of mulch will also help maintain an more even soil moisture and temperature.  

To make it more complicated, yellowing can be a sign of over watering or under watering or occasionally of some other problem.  You might want to check with your supplier or with your County Extension to see if they have any additional guidelines to offer.

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