How Far Apart To Plant Arborvitae

dark green arborvitae trees lined up along gray rock wall in backyard

When planning your backyard you may be considering some screening plants, like arborvitae. If you have chosen where to plant them, you probably started thinking about how much space they will take up when full grown. When you are planning to plant it’s important to determine how far apart to plant arborvitae. In this article we will discuss spacing of arborvitae and the orientation you should consider to maximize your screening effect.

How Big Do Arborvitae Become?

When you buy your arborvitae they usually look anywhere from a baby Christmas tree size and up from there.  Don’t let the size of the plant fool you though, they can become quite large.  Arborvitae are usually sold by their Latin names as follows:

‘Thuja occidentalis’,  common name is ‘eastern white cedar’.  These are large trees throughout northern New England and into Canada usually growing between 50 and 125 feet in height.

‘Thuja plicata’, common name is ‘western red cedar.  These are also very large trees which grow naturally in the northwest United States and into Canada. These trees when mature are 150 – 230 feet in height.  

Thuja green giant is a commonly found hybrid of the Japanese arborvitae and the western red cedar.  These are a favorite of landscapers and landscape architects. This is due to the fast growing and full nature of the green giant’s growth pattern.

As you can see, arborvitaes may start out looking like bushy shrubs or small trees.  However, they have the capability of growing to be enormous, towering trees if given the space and ideal conditions to grow.

How Far Apart To Plant Arborvitae

When spacing arborvitaes for screening, it’s best to space them with the assumption you want them to become 12-15’ in diameter. This means a spacing of 6’ to 7.5’ is the best method. Arborvitae will fill in and grow together to create a solid hedge like look after a number of years.  If you want them to grow quickly, make sure you are planting them where they will get plenty of sun, and make sure you irrigate them appropriately for the soil type and weather.  

backyard landscape showing how far apart to plant arborvitae trees as being roughly 6 to 7 1/2 feet wide

How To Maximize Arborvitae Screening Effect

To maximize the screening effect of an arborvitae, plant them at a diagonal to one another. This will create a triangle. Therefore, it will achieve a minimum of two rows of trees. Between any two trees in a row, there’s a tree behind or in front blocking the gap.  This will maximize the screening whether for visual or auditory screening purposes.  

Make sure and speak to your local nursery to get input on the best times of year to plant arborvitae. You don’t want them dying on you because you shocked the plant too late in the season.  

Pro Tips On How Far Apart To Plant Arborvitae

When considering how far apart to plant arborvitae, you should remember it’s always a good idea to give them a little breathing room.  If you have immediate screening concerns and you’re not worried about the plants lasting for the long term, you can plant them as close as 3’ on center each way in your alternating rows

It will allow the arborvitae to sooner grow into a solid hedge, but the trees will be stunted in growth and will not reach as high as they would if you kept them spaced further.  Again, if this isn’t a concern, closer may be better in your circumstance.

How Far Apart To Plant Arborvitae Summary

Now you understand to plant arborvitae in a triangle formation. You should space them roughly 6 to 7.5 feet apart. This depends on what type of arborvitae you are planting. The three types are eastern white cedar, western red cedar, and green giants.