Emerald cedar turning yellow after planting


I planted 7 cedars 4 days ago and I have the feeling they are turning yellow. I was wondering if this is normal result of planting and associated stresses of it or I should be concerned that my trees are actually dying. I feel all 7 cedars are in same situation (turning yellow).
They have full sun. About soil condition, I hit hard clay after about 59 cm digging. I tried to add fertilizer and mix the soil and loosen it before planting. I would appreciate your kind advise looking at attached photo.


Emerald cedars (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) are popular because of their dense growth habit and lush looking branches. They are commonly used to create hedges.  They provide a sturdy privacy screen, are easy to prune and keep to a desired height. It is difficult to determine, from your photo, just how much your cedars are turning yellow. It looks to be along the tips. All being well they will survive.

This yellowing is probably a combination of environmental stresses related to soil quality, watering and sunlight. You seem to have taken care to prepare your site before planting, although you might have overdone the fertilizer.  A mix of compost and your own garden soil would have been sufficient.  Cedars prefer moist, organic, but well drained soil. They dislike dry, sandy soils, as well as excessively moist clay soils. Your young cedars probably came in a container or the root ball was wrapped in burlap. Transplanting is a shock to any plant. For woody plants the stress is more severe than herbaceous plants. This is due to the size of the plant and its extensive root system, which should remain undisturbed, as much as possible. It was an appropriate time to transplant your cedars 4 days ago, when the soil had warmed up and the chance of frost was minimal so that should not be an issue. Most likely your problem is caused by under-watering.

Cedars are relatively shallow rooted so they are susceptible to drought stress. Your plants seem to be a good size. The root balls could have dried out in their containers or burlap before you purchased them. Watering thoroughly is key for helping cedars take root. Continue to give them a thorough watering once or twice a week.  At the same time you want to avoid the roots sitting in water, so good drainage is vital. You mentioned that you mixed the soil to loosen it. Hopefully you amended your soil enough to make it porous and crumbly. It is recommended that you plant cedars at the same level at which they were growing previously or even higher. This will allow water to drain away.  It’s a good idea to apply mulch around the base of your new plants but keep away from the trunk by about 2 inches.

Its worth noting that cedars grow very well in British Columbia with its cooler summer temperatures and abundant rainfall; Ontario’s summer heat and occasional drought make it difficult for them to do well. Ontario winters are also a challenge due to frigid temperatures and drying winds causing desiccation and browning, as well as moisture loss. Don’t give up hope. There is a 50/50 chance the cedars will survive, especially if you continue to water well. Having said that – hang on to your receipts. Reputable garden centres give a year’s guarantee.

Toronto Master Gardeners field numerous questions each year regarding the health of cedars. For further information check out answers to previous questions at:




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