The Q&A Archives: Fifteen Dead Arborvitae

Question: I'm not sure if Arborvitae are trees or shrubs. A landscape gardener suggest and planted 15 Arborvitae in my back yard and they all died within 8 weeks. I watered them as he directed. The area is a full shade area. The reason for planting them was to block the view of the yard behind my house. What could have been the reason for their dying so fast or at all.

Answer: Unfortunately, based on your description I can't make a determination as to what happened to your planting. These plants are generally considered to be fairly reliable and are often used for screening in both wetter and drier locations. According to Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants", they do better in full sun or light shade; in my own experience too in shady locations they will eventually become rather sparse so I would not normally suggest them for such a full shade location. This would not however have killed them in eight weeks. A total failure as you described can be caused by many reasons or a combination of reasons including such factors as poor quality plants to begin with, improper planting procedure, improper care including watering too much or too little, or possibly by some environmental factor such as a soil problem. You might want to discuss and investigate the problem with the landscaper and possibly with your County Extension to find out if there is an underlying problem with the site itself rather than with the plants. I'm sorry about your plants!

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