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Thursday - November 04, 2010

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Thuja arborvitae not thriving in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I planted 5 giant thuja arborvitae two years ago. They have grown six inches and aren't doing that well. I live in Austin Texas and it was a hot summer. I water them 2x a week, now 1x a week. They are looking brown(dead) on a few limbs or leaves. What is the best fertilizer for them and when and how ofter to apply?


This USDA Plant Profile map for Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae) shows it growing no nearer to Austin than Tennessee. An article on Thuja occidentalis, also known as White Cedar, by Earl J. S. Rook, described its range as: "Manitoba to the Gaspé, south to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, upstate New York, and northern New England. Isolated populations farther to the south, especially in the Appalachians."

From our own database page on this tree: "Native Habitat: Swampy areas; lake margins; open, rocky hillsides." Doesn't sound much like Austin, does it?

We realize you probably bought your trees locally, thinking that if they were sold here, they would thrive here; unfortunately, that is not always the case. We urge gardeners to check on any plant's viability in the area where they wish to plant it, before they buy the plant. If the plant is native to North America (which this one is, just not our part of North America) you can find it on our Native Plant Database. You can search for it either on a common name or scientific name. Sometimes plants are sold under trade names which are intended to sell the plant, not give you information about it. However, you can search on the Internet on the trade name and probably find the information you need.

As far as fertilizer is concerned, fertilizing stressed plants, which yours obviously are, can cause more harm than good. The fertilizer will push the plant to put on more foliage when that plant is already exhausted just trying to stay alive in a hostile environment. You will have to decide if you want to continue to expend resources-water, time, fertilizer, etc.-on what may well be a lost cause. Sorry.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

This picture was taken in Cudahy, Wisconsin.

Thuja occidentalis



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