Over Watered Arborvitae - Knowledgebase Question

Hampton Bays, NY
Question by Jay5alm
September 28, 1999
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.

Name: Cristy Giddens
Albemarle, NC (Zone 7a)
A comment from beachroses1
June 16, 2018
We have heavy clay soil and it is very easy to over water. We usually dig a hole larger than recommended, break up the walls of the hole then plant. After too many losses we decided to invest in a moisture meter. Small investment great rewards.


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Answer from NGA
September 28, 1999

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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.


A comment from Dianecook1
June 16, 2018
My experience is the yellowing is due either to overwatering, under or over nourishing. Hard to pinpoint without testing the soil. My first step is to feel the moisture in the soil by gently feeling around the root level. If sopping, add some dry soil and gently work it around. See how that goes over a few days. Depending on what you have done for fertilizer already, if things look better or the same, I might add a weak mixture of organic fertilizer. The watering recommendations of the previous writer seem right on. Good luck. I successfully brought back my seven year old hibiscus that was yellowing by taking care in watering and nourishing.

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