The Q&A Archives: Wilting Arborvitae

Question: I inherited a 15 year old arborvitae hedge with a house I purchased about 3 years ago. While I'm not a big fan of this plant, it provides a great screen (from both street and houses). Over the last few months, several large branches have just slumped over - almost like the weight of the foliage is now too much to bear, or the wood has softened. I have done no maintenance on these plants since I've owned the house (other than routine watering and fertilizing). Is this a common occurance with these plants? Is there anything I can do to prevent it and improve their appearance? Thanks.

Answer: I've had a similar experience with arborvitae and I traced the problem back to winter snowfall. The snow was late in the season and fairly wet, which weighed down some of the inner branches. By the time the snow melted, the damage was done and the branches never quite recovered. I pruned them out, the shrub recovered, and now you'd never know it suffered damage. If your arborvitae looks otherwise healthy and is putting out new growth, you can safely prune out the affected branches now. Over the summer the plant will grow new stems and branches, eventually filling in the bare area.

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