emerald green arborvitae turning yellow

Emerald Green Arborvitae Turning Yellow: 4 Signs, Solutions & Best Care Tips

Emerald green arborvitaes are a popular evergreen shrub that are prized for their rich green foliage, dense growth habit, and easy maintenance. However, gardeners may sometimes notice that their emerald green arborvitae turning yellow, which can be a cause for concern.

While yellowing foliage can be a natural part of the plant’s growth cycle, it can also be an indication of a more serious problem.

Understanding the reasons behind yellowing arborvitae foliage is crucial for maintaining healthy plants. Some of the most common causes of yellowing include water stress, nutrient deficiencies, environmental factors, and disease or pest infestations.

By recognizing the symptoms of yellowing and addressing the underlying issues, gardeners can help their arborvitae return to a healthy state.

Key Takeaways on Emerald Green Arborvitae Turning Yellow

  • Yellowing foliage in emerald green arborvitaes can be a natural part of the plant’s growth cycle or a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Common causes of yellowing include water stress, nutrient deficiencies, environmental factors, and disease or pest infestations.
  • By recognizing the symptoms of yellowing and addressing the underlying issues, gardeners can help their arborvitae return to a healthy state.

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Understanding the Emerald Green Arborvitae

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The Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is an evergreen tree that is popularly used as a hedge due to its dense foliage and upright growth habit.

It is a slow-growing tree that can reach a mature height of up to 15 feet and a spread of up to 4 feet. The tree is hardy in USDA zone 6 and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, as long as the soil is well-drained.

The Emerald Green Arborvitae is a popular choice for homeowners due to its versatility and low maintenance requirements. It can be used as a screen or hedge to provide privacy, as a specimen plant to add visual interest to a landscape, or as a windbreak to protect other plants from harsh winds.

One of the key features of the Emerald Green Arborvitae is its dense foliage, which consists of flat, scale-like leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs along the stems. The foliage is a vibrant emerald green color, which makes it a popular choice for adding color to a landscape.

The tree is also known for its resistance to pests and diseases, which makes it a low-maintenance option for homeowners. However, like all plants, the Emerald Green Arborvitae can experience issues such as yellowing leaves, which can be a cause for concern.

Emerald Green Arborvitae Turning Yellow

Emerald green arborvitae is a popular evergreen tree that is known for its vibrant green foliage. However, when the leaves start to turn yellow, it can be a sign of a problem. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

1. Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves are the most obvious symptom of a problem with emerald green arborvitae. The leaves may turn a pale yellow color or a more vibrant yellow. In some cases, the yellowing may start at the tips of the leaves and move towards the base.

2. Browning Leaves

In addition to yellowing, the leaves may also start to turn brown. This is a more advanced stage of the problem and may indicate that the tree is in distress. Brown leaves may also indicate that the tree is not getting enough water or nutrients.

3. Droop and Wilt

As the problem progresses, the branches may start to droop or wilt. This is a sign that the tree is not getting enough water or nutrients. In severe cases, the branches may start to die off.

4. Shedding Needles

Arborvitae trees naturally shed their needles in the fall, but if the tree is shedding needles at other times of the year, it may be a sign of a problem. The needles may turn yellow or brown before they fall off.

Water and Soil Requirements

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Emerald green arborvitae requires moderate watering and well-draining soils to thrive. During the warm summer months, it is important to have a regular watering schedule in place.

Before watering, it is recommended to test the soil’s moisture level by poking a finger into the soil. If the soil is wet, it is better to wait for several days before watering again.

It is important to strike a balance between too much and too little water. Overwatering can lead to waterlogged soil, which can cause root rot and other diseases. On the other hand, lack of water can cause water stress, which can lead to yellowing of the foliage and eventual death of the tree.

Proper irrigation is crucial to ensure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. If the soil is constantly wet or there is standing water around the tree, it can lead to problems like yellowing of the foliage.

In addition to water, soil is also an important factor to consider. Arborvitae prefers well-draining soils that are rich in organic matter. The soil should have good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot and other diseases.

To maintain the right soil moisture, it is important to ensure that the soil is not too compacted. Compacted soil can prevent water from penetrating the soil, leading to water stress. Adding organic matter to the soil can help improve soil structure and drainage.

Role of Nutrients in Arborvitae Health

Nutrients play a crucial role in the health and growth of emerald green arborvitae. Without proper nutrients, the trees may experience nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to yellowing leaves and stunted growth.

One of the most important nutrients for arborvitae is nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for the production of chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. When arborvitae trees lack nitrogen, their leaves may turn yellow and the tree may appear stunted.

In addition to nitrogen, arborvitae trees also require other nutrients such as iron, potassium, and zinc. These nutrients are necessary for healthy growth and development.

Iron, for example, is important for the production of chlorophyll, while potassium helps regulate water balance in the tree. Zinc is necessary for the production of enzymes that aid in plant growth.

To ensure that emerald green arborvitae trees are getting the nutrients they need, it’s important to provide them with the proper fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers can be particularly effective, as they provide a steady supply of nutrients over an extended period of time.

In addition to fertilizers, compost can also be used to improve the nutrient content of the soil. Compost is rich in organic matter and can help improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability.

Impact of Environmental Factors

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Environmental factors can play a significant role in the health of emerald green arborvitae trees, and stress caused by these factors can lead to yellowing foliage. Here are some common environmental factors that can impact the health of these trees:

  1. Direct Sunlight: Emerald green arborvitae trees prefer partial shade or full sun, but too much direct sunlight can cause the foliage to turn yellow or brown. This is commonly known as sunburn, and it can occur during the growing season or in the winter when the sun reflects off of snow and ice.
  2. Late Summer or Fall: Just like deciduous trees, arborvitae trees can also shed their leaves in the fall. Yellowing leaves at the end of the growing season are a natural occurrence and should not be a cause for concern.
  3. Environmental Stress: Environmental stress caused by factors such as drought, flooding, or extreme temperatures can cause yellowing foliage. It is important to ensure that the tree is receiving adequate water and nutrients to minimize this stress.
  4. Leaf Scorch: Leaf scorch can occur when the tree is exposed to hot and dry conditions. The edges of the leaves will turn brown and eventually die, leading to yellowing foliage.
  5. Snow and Ice: Heavy snow and ice can cause branches to bend and break, leading to stress on the tree. This stress can cause yellowing foliage, and it is important to remove any snow or ice buildup to prevent damage to the tree.

Identifying and Treating Diseases

Arborvitae trees are susceptible to various diseases that can cause yellowing foliage. Identifying the disease is essential to determine the appropriate treatment.

Common Diseases

One of the most common diseases affecting arborvitae trees is root rot. This disease is caused by fungi that thrive in poorly drained soil. Symptoms of root rot include yellowing foliage, stunted growth, and dieback of branches. In severe cases, the tree may even topple over due to the weakened root system.

Another common disease that causes yellowing foliage is chlorosis. Chlorosis is a condition where the tree lacks sufficient iron, magnesium, or other nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Symptoms of chlorosis include yellowing leaves with green veins.


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Treating arborvitae diseases involves identifying the specific disease and taking appropriate steps to remedy it. In cases of root rot, the first step is to improve drainage by adding organic matter to the soil. Fungicides can also be applied to the soil to kill the fungi causing the disease.

In cases of chlorosis, the tree can be treated with iron or magnesium supplements. These supplements can be applied directly to the soil or sprayed onto the foliage.

If diseased branches are present, they should be pruned immediately to prevent the spread of the disease to other parts of the tree. It is important to use sterilized pruning tools to prevent the spread of disease to healthy branches.


Phytophthora is a fungus-like organism that can cause root rot in arborvitae trees. It thrives in poorly drained soil and can be difficult to control. Symptoms of Phytophthora include yellowing foliage, stunted growth, and dieback of branches.

Treatment for Phytophthora involves improving drainage and applying fungicides to the soil. In severe cases, the tree may need to be removed to prevent the spread of the disease to other trees in the area.

Addressing Pests and Damage

Yellowing leaves on emerald green arborvitae can also be a sign of pest infestation or damage. Arborvitae is susceptible to a number of pests, including cypress tip miners, minute cypress scale, and spider mites. These pests can cause damage to the foliage, leading to yellowing leaves.

Cypress tip miners are small larvae that feed on the inside foliage of arborvitae, causing it to turn yellow in early winter and then brown by late winter before it dies. The larvae create small cocoons on the foliage, which can be easily spotted.

To address this issue, prune the affected branches and dispose of them properly to prevent further infestation.

Minute cypress scale is another common pest that can cause yellowing of arborvitae leaves. These tiny insects attach themselves to the foliage and suck out the sap, causing the leaves to turn yellow and eventually die. To control scale damage, apply horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to the affected areas.

Spider mites are another pest that can cause yellowing of arborvitae leaves. These tiny pests feed on the sap of the foliage, causing it to turn yellow and brown. To control spider mites, apply a miticide to the affected areas.

In addition to pests, damage from wind, drought, and extreme temperatures can also cause arborvitae leaves to turn yellow. To prevent damage from occurring, ensure that the tree is properly watered, fertilized, and pruned. In cases of severe damage, it may be necessary to remove the affected branches or even the entire tree.

Proper Care and Maintenance

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Proper care and maintenance are crucial to maintaining the health and appearance of emerald green arborvitae. Below are some tips on how to care for these trees:

1. Mulching

Mulching around the base of the tree can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic matter such as wood chips or shredded leaves around the base of the tree, making sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot.

2. Pruning

Pruning is essential for maintaining the shape and size of the tree. It is best to prune in early spring before new growth appears. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and thin out the interior of the tree to promote air circulation and sunlight penetration.

3. Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential for keeping emerald green arborvitae healthy. Water the tree deeply once a week during dry spells, and fertilize in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer. Check for pests and diseases regularly and treat promptly if necessary.

4. Transplanting

Transplanting emerald green arborvitae can be done, but it is best to do it in the spring or fall when temperatures are mild. Make sure to dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and add organic matter to the soil. Water deeply after transplanting and monitor the tree for signs of stress.

5. Container Planting

Emerald green arborvitae can be grown in containers, but they require regular watering and fertilizing. Use a potting soil that is well-draining and contains organic matter. Make sure the container has drainage holes and is large enough to accommodate the root ball.

6. Horticultural Oil

Horticultural oil can be used to control pests such as spider mites and scale insects. Apply the oil in early spring before new growth appears, making sure to cover all parts of the tree.

Preventing Future Yellowing

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To prevent future yellowing of emerald green arborvitae, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips to keep your arborvitae healthy and green:

  1. Watering: Ensure that your arborvitae is receiving adequate water. Overwatering or underwatering can cause yellowing of leaves. Water the plant deeply once a week during the growing season, and reduce watering during the winter months. Avoid watering the foliage, as this can lead to fungal diseases.
  2. Fertilizing: Arborvitae requires regular fertilization to maintain its green color. Use a slow-release fertilizer in early spring and late fall to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can cause excessive growth and weaken the plant.
  3. Pruning: Regular pruning can help to maintain the shape and size of the arborvitae and promote new growth. Prune dead or damaged branches and remove any weeds or grass around the base of the plant.
  4. Pest Control: Arborvitae is susceptible to various pests, including spider mites and bagworms. Regular inspection and treatment with insecticides can help to prevent infestations.
  5. Alcohol: Avoid using alcohol-based products around arborvitae, as they can cause damage to the foliage and lead to yellowing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common causes of yellowing on arborvitae?

Yellowing on arborvitae can be caused by a variety of factors, including overwatering, underwatering, nutrient deficiencies, pests, and diseases. It is important to identify the underlying cause of the yellowing in order to treat the problem effectively.

How can I tell if my arborvitae is overwatered?

Overwatering can cause yellowing on arborvitae leaves. Signs of overwatering include wilting, yellowing leaves, and root rot. To check if your arborvitae is overwatered, dig into the soil around the base of the tree. If the soil is wet and the roots are mushy or discolored, then the tree is likely overwatered.

What is the ideal watering schedule for Emerald arborvitae?

Emerald arborvitae needs to be watered deeply but infrequently. Watering once a week is usually sufficient, but the frequency may need to be adjusted depending on the weather and soil conditions.

It is important to water the tree at the base rather than from above, as this can lead to moisture on the leaves and promote fungal growth.

What are some tips for reviving a yellow arborvitae?

To revive a yellow arborvitae, it is important to identify and address the underlying cause of the yellowing. This may involve adjusting the watering schedule, fertilizing the tree, treating for pests or diseases, or improving soil drainage. In some cases, pruning may also be necessary to remove dead or damaged branches.

Why do newly planted arborvitae sometimes turn yellow?

Newly planted arborvitae may turn yellow due to transplant shock. This occurs when the tree is moved from one location to another and experiences stress as a result. To minimize transplant shock, it is important to plant the tree in well-draining soil and to water it regularly in the weeks following planting.

What are the best practices for preventing arborvitae from turning yellow?

To prevent arborvitae from turning yellow, it is important to provide the tree with adequate water and nutrients. This may involve adjusting the watering schedule, fertilizing the tree, and using mulch to retain moisture in the soil.

It is also important to monitor the tree for signs of pests or diseases and to address any issues promptly to prevent them from spreading.

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