The two most common arborvitae found in garden centers are emerald green arborvitae and dark American arborvitae. This article will compare the two types of arborvitae, so as to decide which one best meets your expectations and preferences for your specific situation.
Height and width: Emerald green arborvitae is a dwarf, upright arborvitae. It matures to fifteen feet tall and three feet wide, and can be kept slightly narrower through pruning. Dark American arborvitae grows taller, maturing to 20-30 feet in height and can get over five feet high. Dark American arborvitae is slow-growing, but it grows faster than emerald green arborvitae. Trees grown as single specimens often will get larger than trees grown in hedges, due to less competition.
Appearance: Emerald green arborvitae forms a dense screen and is bright green in color. Dark American arborvitae forms a dense screen but has a more open texture. Its foliage is a more darker green, almost on the blue side of green. Emerald green arborvitae foliage is tight and compact, while dark American arborvitae foliage is more loose and open.
As a hedge: Emerald green arborvitae needs to be spaced three feet apart for a hedge due to its smaller size. A hedge of emerald green costs more as more trees are needed. Emerald green is slow growing, and a hedge planted will grow about four inches a year. The mature hedge will be about 10 feet high, with individual trees growing above that height but not growing into each other at that point. Dark American arborvitae can be spaced four to five feet apart in a hedge, but the trees will form a wider, taller hedge. A dark American arborvitae hedge will grow about eight inches a year and mature to about fifteen feet in height, with individual trees growing higher. A dark American arborvitae hedge is wider than an emerald green hedge, so it will take up more space with its width. Emerald green makes the best hedge in narrow areas when a short hedge is ideal. Dark American arborvitae makes a better hedge for privacy and to block off an undesirable view.
As a specimen: Emerald green arborvitae grows 15-20 feet in height and about four feet wide. Because the tree is slow growing, it will take years to reach that height. It can be used in foundation plantings around corners and areas where there are no windows or wires. It can also be planted in the yard, both as a specimen and as a backdrop. Dark American arborvitae as a specimen grows slowly, but is known to reach mature size of 10 feet wide and 40 feet high. Therefore, it should not be planted near the house.
This is how emerald green arborvitae and dark American arborvitae compare with each other in different aspects of the landscape. By knowing what to expect from each tree, you can buy the type that will perform best in your situation.