I don't know, but here's three.

By Steve Bender
Dying arborvitaes
Credit: Steve Bender

Grumpy doesn't want to be mean and pick on somebody who doesn't know any better. But from time to time, it's necessary to point out common planting errors so that you don't commit the same ones. With that benevolent thought in mind, let's examine the photo above. How many things went wrong here? I see three.

Forgetting to water.

The photo shows five recently planted arborvitaes. Three are dead. The most likely reason is transplanting shock due to inconsistent watering. August is very hot in the South and September isn't much better. Newly planted trees and shrubs, whether they came from pots or burlapped balls, have compact root systems that dry out quickly when the plants are growing actively. If they dry completely, even for one day, they die. Therefore, make sure the roots stay evenly moist until the plants go dormant in fall. Mulching will help. Don't depend on lawn sprinklers to do the job. Use a hose to soak the roots.

Planting tall things in front of a window.

Even shorter arborvitaes, such as ‘Emerald,' grow 15 feet tall. Taller selections grow 35 to 40 feet. Why plant something like this in front of a window? Are you nudists? If you don't want to look out or anybody looking in, board it up.

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Planting too close together and too close to the house.

Most arborvitaes grow six feet wide, so that's how far apart you plant them. You don't want them choking each other, because they'll start thinning out and losing foliage at the bottom. And you should always plant things far enough from the side of the house that you maintain a foliage-free zone of at least 12 inches. This allows free air circulation and reduces the chance of mildew, rot, and termites.

Thus concludes our lesson for the day. Go forth and enlighten the world.