how to remove an arborvitae

Removing an arborvitae (Thuja) tree or shrub can be a bit of work, especially if it’s large and well-established. Here are the steps to remove an arborvitae:

Tools and materials you may need:

  1. Shovel or spade
  2. Pruning shears or loppers
  3. Ax or saw (for larger arborvitae)
  4. Garden gloves
  5. Safety glasses
  6. Rope (if needed for stabilization)
  7. Wheelbarrow or tarp (for hauling debris)
  8. Stump grinder (optional, for stump removal)
  9. Chemical stump remover (optional, for stump removal)


  1. Safety First: Before you begin, wear safety glasses and garden gloves to protect your eyes and hands.
  2. Evaluate the Arborvitae: Assess the size and condition of the arborvitae. Smaller shrubs can often be removed by hand, while larger trees may require additional equipment.
  3. Cut Away Branches and Foliage (if applicable): If the arborvitae is small enough, you can start by trimming away the branches and foliage using pruning shears or loppers. This makes the removal process easier and safer.
  4. Dig Around the Base: Use a shovel or spade to dig a trench around the base of the arborvitae. Start about 12-18 inches away from the trunk and dig down to expose the root system.
  5. Prune Roots (if necessary): If the arborvitae has an extensive root system and you want to preserve nearby plants or structures, carefully prune the roots with a saw or pruning shears. Prune roots on one side of the tree first.
  6. Rock and Loosen the Tree: Begin rocking the arborvitae back and forth to loosen it from the soil. This may take some effort, especially for larger trees. If it’s still firmly rooted, you can try tying a rope around the upper part of the tree and using a vehicle to pull it.
  7. Remove the Arborvitae: Once the arborvitae is loose, carefully pull it out of the hole. If it’s a large tree, you may need assistance to safely remove it.
  8. Dispose of the Debris: Trim the branches and foliage into manageable pieces for disposal. You can compost or chip the smaller branches and dispose of the larger pieces as green waste. Be sure to follow local disposal regulations.
  9. Deal with the Stump (if necessary): If you want to remove the stump, you have a few options:
    • Rent a stump grinder to grind down the stump to below ground level.
    • Use a chemical stump remover to speed up decomposition. Follow the product’s instructions.
    • Leave the stump to naturally decompose over time, which can take several years.
  10. Fill the Hole: Fill the hole left by the arborvitae with soil and tamp it down to ensure it’s level with the surrounding ground.
  11. Plant Replacement (if desired): If you plan to replace the arborvitae with another plant, prepare the soil and plant the new shrub or tree according to its specific requirements.

Removing an arborvitae can be labor-intensive, especially for larger specimens. If you’re dealing with a large tree or have concerns about the removal process, consider hiring a professional tree removal service to safely and efficiently remove the arborvitae for you.

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