The backbone and backdrop of landscapes.

Evergreens such as pine, spruce, arborvitae and Western red cedar can provide the bones and backdrop to a landscape. They provide privacy, shade and shelter for birds and other animals.

Even though these types of plants look tough, they do require some care when planting and the first few weeks until they become established. One of the main factors in caring for these plants is to make sure they receive an adequate amount of water.


Proper planting and care of nursery stock seems to be a mystery for many home-owners, especially with all the conflicting advice around. The real truth is that proper planting techniques and good, ordinary, well-drained topsoil will grow any plant successfully. Be sure to follow our tip sheet on properly planting trees and shrubs or visit our website’s knowledge base for more details on planting.


Western red cedars, weeping Alaskan cedars, and all types of arborvitae need to be planted in a well-drained soil and do not tolerate wet feet.  Low lying areas and swales between properties must be avoided or Greatly mounded to keep the root system elevated.  Arborvitae can tolerate a bit of shade, but will not do well in DRY shade such as under a canopy of a large maple, oak, pine or spruce.


Water your plants at initial installation and then again once or more weekly depending on plant size and whether they were grown in a nursery pot or burlap. For more detailed information, search our YouTube channel for our watering video or review our watering and fertilizing tip sheet.



All evergreens, including pine, spruce, hemlock, arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) and Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) need to be watered on a regular basis after planting for proper establishment.  These plants are known to not show water stress until it’s too late. Not providing enough supplemental water for these plants for the first year after planting will result in unhealthy plants and ultimately, death.  The heavy, dense canopies of young spruce will not allow adequate moisture to reach deep into the root system.  These plants will need to be hand watered for the first year as rain should not be relied on.


Water plants grown in burlap 1-2 times weekly.  Keep this schedule for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, water only when necessary depending on weekly rainfall amounts.  Times of drought will require more frequent waterings.  We suggest using a watering wand.

Use 10 gallons of water for each inch of tree trunk diameter or use 1 gallon of water for each foot of plant height or width. Evergreens over 3 feet will need 2 gallons of water for every foot of height. Conifers and evergreens such as Arborvitae have a heavy canopy and should be given supplemental water, not relying on rainfall for the first year.

For example, this 2′ tall tree below will require 2 gallons of water per watering.


Water plants that were grown in nursery containers every 3 days for the first 3 weeks after planting. We suggest using a watering wand.  After 3 weeks, water only when necessary depending on weekly rainfall amounts.  Times of drought will require more frequent waterings. 

For a 1 gallon planted pot, ½ gallon of water per watering is sufficient, for a 3 gallon pot, you will need 1½ gallons of water, a 5 gallon pot would require 2½ gallons of water per watering and so on….



For evergreen trees and shrubs, we recommend Holly-tone as a fertilizer.   Holly-tone is used mainly for acid-loving plants such as Holly, Rhododendron, Azalea, and especially evergreens.

We recommend the following easy to remember dates for annual fertilizer applications:
April 1st – April Fools Day   May 31st – Memorial Day   July 4th – Independence Day   October 31st – Halloween

Be sure to keep granular fertilizers off foliage and away from stems and trunks.  Scatter the fertilizer around under the drip line of the plant or over the surface of the root ball.  Never concentrate fertilizer in one spot or against the trunk.  Fertilize newly planted trees and at half of the recommended rate on the package.


Prune evergreens (not including conifers) between June 1st and July 4th after new growth develops and hardens off.  This would include holly, azalea, boxwood, mountain laurel and Pieris.  Prune conifers such as pine, hemlock, cypress, arborvitae, spruce or fir between July 4th and August 15th after new growth has hardened off.  Cut back no more than half of the current year’s growth.  Do not cut back into old wood, only trim the current year’s growth.



Evergreens are usually easy to care for with little or no insect or disease problems but the larvae of the bagworm seems to prefer the arborvitae family and spruce here in Ohio. Pine, cypress and juniper are also susceptible to bagworm but its not as common.

Bagworm can cause defoliation and browning of your plants.  They are easily spotted by their “sacks” that look similar to pine cones at the top of the trees.  These sacks contain the damaging caterpillars.


If spotted, we recommend any of these acceptable Bonide products for control: Systemic Insect Control, Eight, Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew or Rose Shield.  All are foliar sprays and should be applied according to package directions.

If the bags of the bagworm become established, spray with Bonide Systemic Insect Spray and then repeat in 10 days to stop the insects from feeding.

Or, for a more natural approach, you may pick them off individually and destroy them if the bags are within reachable height. Although if the infestation is heavy, picking them off may not be practical.