The Q&A Archives: Emerald Arborvitae in Shade

Question: I would like to plant 3 arborvitae (looking at the 5-foot Emerald Arborvitae) on the east side of my house as foundation planting. It will get some sun, but not too much. I am guessing 2-4 hours in the morning. I was told that they may not grow too well without full sun. Am I going to run into trouble planting them there? Also, how far apart should I plant them. I don't want them to grow together since I would like to see the stone wall behind them some. But don't want them to look too spread out either. Any other tips that will make this planting successful appreciated--unless you think this is a bad idea all together. Thanks!

Answer: The Emerald arborvitae grows to 15 feet tall and about 4 feet wide so it is not really an ideal size for a foundation plant -- unless you have a very tall blank wall. This plant does best in full sun all day or in a half day of direct sun, about six hours including the hour of noon. In too much shade it will lean out from the building and will also grow thin and sparse. BAsed on your description I do not think you have enough sun there for it to do well in the long run.

Instead you might look at yews, boxwood, rhododendrons and Ilex crenata. These are available in cultivars that reach a reasonable size for foundation use and will also tolerate a partly shaded location (gentle morning sun) such as this. ALso, your local professional nursery staff may have additional or different suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you want to plant as well as your overall design goals.

Good luck with your project!

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