Leprechaun Arborvitae from Naturehills.com – the best low-maintenance shrub for hedges and borders?


leprechaun arborvitae

And now for something different! I was delighted to write this article in co-operation with NatureHills.com! Nature Hills is America’s largest online plant nursery. I told them I’d like to write about Leprechaun™ Arborvitae, because I immediately recognized it as something I had never seen before – a compact version of ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae. Really interesting for a tree geek like me. It got me thinking about all kinds of uses for this shrub.

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Like ‘Green Giant’, Leprechaun Arborvitae is a hybrid of Thuja plicata (the US-native Western redcedar) and Thuja standishii, the Japanese thuja. Bringing together qualities of two distinct trees from different sides of the globe, it certainly looks likely to grow in popularity – not least because it’ll grow well almost anywhere in the states.

Fact: after a little research, I learned that the first trees of this hybrid, Thuja plicata x standishii, were grown in Denmark in the 1930s and then in the USA in the 1960s (in the National Arboretum no less). It was cultivated into the popular ‘Green Giant’, a tree that’s now favored by gardeners worldwide. The compact version, Leprechaun Arborvitae, was first successfully grown in the late 20th century.

This post contains affiliate links to the Nature Hills website. Click on any of the Nature Hills banners for more info on America’s largest online nursery. I’m more than happy to endorse Nature Hills because of its established record and good customer service – known to all arborists!

Why is Leprechaun Arborvitae a good choice?

Does this shrub bring the luck of the Irish? Leprechaun Arborvitae has all the excellent qualities of ‘Green Giant’ and more – it’s particularly good at keeping its striking green all year round, unlike many evergreens that will turn brownish. It’s cold-hardy, wind-resistant and will grow almost anywhere.

But while ‘Green Giant’ is a biiig tree that will easily grow to 50 feet in height and 10 feet wide (hence the name!), the Leprechaun Arborvitae works in a space where ‘Green Giant’ would get too large. Leprechaun grows to a neat 7-10 feet in height and about 6 feet wide.

It’s actually so difficult to find good hedges that remain compact and don’t overgrow. It’s good as an ornamental too; growing in a symmetrical ‘Christmas tree’ shape. The sort you’ll put lights on in December.

But it isn’t just compact – it’s dense, so a winner for privacy and creating shelter from the wind. It’s a solid choice in borders and has a noninvasive root system. It’s a perfect choice where space is a little limited, as you won’t get the sprawling overgrowth that you get with so many other evergreens. I like it a lot.

A 7-10 foot evergreen that requires little to no maintenance or pruning is hard to improve on as a privacy, border or windbreak hedge.

What’s the foliage like?

Foliage-wise, like ‘Green Giant’, it’s soft to the touch, arranged in fan-like sprays of striking bright green all year round.

leprechaun arbovitae foliage

Even in colder climates, it resists winter injury well and doesn’t turn brown on the wind-exposed elements.

USDA zones 5-8 are ideal for Leprechaun Arborvitae (image from NatureHills.com)

Are Leprechaun Arborvitae really maintenance-free?

They’re about as maintenance-free as they come. They don’t need any pruning – in fact with this tree it’s probably better that you don’t prune it – the natural shape’s beautiful as it is.

If you like, you could cut it back in early spring to keep it at a desired height or width, or to nip off any stray leaves. Once a year should do it.

What are the best growing conditions?

Leprechaun Arborvitae are not picky when it comes to soil, making them a particularly consistent and reliable grower. The only thing it asks is that the soil isn’t boggy or waterlogged – like most evergreens, it doesn’t like ‘wet feet’! This usually only happens if your soil is heavy clay or if you’re planting right at the end of a slope.

Have a check now – if the planting ground doesn’t squelch underfoot, you’ll be fine.

Where the soil does drain well, young Leprechaun Arborvitae like to be watered, particularly when young. I’d suggest two large buckets of water each week to each tree during the warmer months, and the same each month during winter. Winter watering helps prevent wind burn from excessive leaf desiccation. This isn’t a big issue in this type of arborvitae though.

Once the tree’s well established, it’ll need very little watering, or indeed any type of maintenance at all!

Applying a 3-4 inch layer of mulch around the base of each tree after planting is really important. If you read my other posts, you’ll discover just how important mulch is!

mulch arborvitae

Organic types such as bark chippings (above) act as a sort of slow-release fertilizer, while trapping moisture, keeping the roots insulated and aerated, and suppressing the growth of grass and weeds.

Just keep the mulch from piling up against the trunk, where it can lead to root rot – no ‘volcano mulching’!

Leprechaun Arborvitae do best in full sun, but they’ll grow well in partial sunlight too.

Do I need to fertilize Leprechaun Arborvitae?

Truth be told, these trees will grow well without fertilizer – that’s part of the beauty of them. But if you’d like to give them a boost, it takes very little effort to do. A ‘complete’ fertilizer containing the three main plant nutrients – nitrogen, phosphate and potassium – is a safe choice. I always go for slow-release fertilizers which means I never overdo it and give my plants ‘fertilizer burn’.

For this job I particularly like Jobe’s Evergreen Tree Spikes – you’ll see me recommend them for some of the other evergreens I’ve written about in detail on this site. They’re available on NatureHills.com (affiliate link).

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Leprechaun Arborvitae – the verdict

I’ll be honest, I really like this little tree – it brings something new to the table. It’s easy to grow and maintain over a wide range of climates and soils, needs almost no maintenance to keep it at a manageable size, and has great color and shape. Order now on NatureHills.com.

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