The Ultimate Guide to Propagating Thuja Trees for Beginners

The Ultimate Guide to Propagating Thuja Trees for Beginners

Thuja trees, also known as arborvitaes, are renowned for their beauty, resilience, and versatility in landscaping. Whether you're looking to enhance your garden's aesthetics or add privacy to your property, propagating Thuja trees is a rewarding endeavor. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the essential steps and techniques for beginners to propagate Thuja trees successfully.

Understanding Thuja Trees

Before diving into propagation techniques, it's crucial to grasp the characteristics of Thuja trees. These evergreen conifers belong to the cypress family and are native to North America and East Asia. Thuja trees come in various species and cultivars, including the popular Thujaoccidentalis (American arborvitae) and Thujaplicata (Western red cedar).

Benefits of Propagating Thuja Trees

Propagating Thuja trees offers numerous benefits for gardeners and homeowners alike. Firstly, it allows you to expand your landscape without breaking the bank by purchasing mature trees. Additionally, propagating Thuja trees enables you to cultivate specific cultivars, such as dwarf varieties or unique hybrids like the American pillar arborvitae. Furthermore, propagating your Thuja trees gives you control over the growth conditions, ensuring healthier and more resilient plants.

Choosing the Right Propagation Method

There are several methods of propagating Thuja trees, each suitable for different preferences and skill levels. For beginners, we recommend starting with the following two methods:

Softwood Cuttings:

Softwood cuttings involve taking young, tender shoots from the current season's growth. This method is typically performed later in the spring or when the summer begins when the branches are actively growing. To propagate Thuja trees using softwood cuttings, follow these steps:

House with a green roof
  1. Choose roots that appear healthy and are non-flowering, with a length of 4 to 6 inches.
  2. Using sharp and sterilized pruning shears, make a clean cut just below a leaf node.
  3. Pick out the lower leaves and leave only a few at the top.
  4. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone to promote root development.
  5. Plant the cuttings in a well-draining potting mixand keep them moist.
  6. Place the pot in a warm, bright location with indirect sunlight.
  7. Monitor the cuttings for signs of rooting, usually within 4 to 6 weeks.
  8. Once rooted, transplant the cuttings into individual containers or directly into the ground.


Layering is another effective propagation method that involves encouraging roots to form on a branch while it is still attached to the parent plant. This method is suitable for larger Thuja trees or branches that are close to the ground. Here's how to propagate Thuja trees using layering:

  1. Identify a low-hanging branch that is flexible and can be bent towards the ground.
  2. Gently wound a small section of the branch where it will make contact with the soil.
  3. Drench the wounded area with rooting hormone.
  4. Dig a shallow trench beneath the wounded portion of the branch and bury it in the soil.
  5. Secure the buried portion of the branch with a stake or rock to keep it in place.
  6. Keep the soil moist and monitor the branch for signs of root development.
  7. Once roots have formed, carefully sever the rooted branch from the primary plant and transplant it into its desired location.

Propagating Thuja Trees from Seeds

While softwood cuttings and layering are the preferred methods for beginners, propagating Thuja trees from seeds is also an option, albeit more time-consuming. If you choose to propagate Thuja trees from seeds, keep in mind the following steps:

Plants in the shadow
  1. Collect mature Thuja cones in late summer or early fall.
  2. Place the cones in a paper bag and allow them to dry for several weeks.
  3. Once the cones have dried, shake them to release the seeds.
  4. Sow the seeds in containers filled with a moistened seed-starting mix.
  5. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and mist them with water.
  6. Place the containers in a warm location with indirect sunlight.
  7. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  8. Germination may take several weeks to several months, so be patient.
  9. Once the seedlings have developed true leaves, transplant them into individual containers or directly into the ground.

Enhancing Growth and Care Tips for Propagated Thuja Trees

Optimizing Growth Conditions Once your propagated Thuja trees have established roots, it's essential to provide them with optimal growing conditions to thrive. Here are some tips to enhance their growth:

Soil Requirements: Thuja trees prefer soil that drains well and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Alterheavy clay soils with organic matter like compost to develop better drainage and fertility.

Watering Routine: Establish a regular watering routine to keep the soil evenly moist, especially during the first growing season. Avoid overwatering, as Thuja trees are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged conditions.

Thuja trees and sea

Pruning and Maintenance

Proper pruning and maintenance are essential for shaping and maintaining the health of your propagated Thuja trees. Here's what you need to know:

Pruning Technique: Use sharp and sterilized pruning shears to remove dead, damaged, or overcrowded branches. Additionally, lightly prune the tips of branches to encourage denser growth and maintain the desired shape.

Timing: Prune your Thuja trees during the dormant season in late winter or early spring to minimize stress and promote vigorous growth. Avoid pruning during the active growing season, as this can disrupt the tree's natural growth cycle.

Transform Your Landscape with Thuja Gardens

Ready to elevate your outdoor space with the timeless beauty of Thuja trees? Shop now at Thuja Gardens and explore our wide selection of premium Thuja varieties, including dwarf evergreens, Japanese maples, and the majestic American pillar arborvitae.

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