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Arborvitae Trees

arborvitae, tree, bush

Cupressaceae, Thuja Orientalis

Homeowners love arborvitae trees.  We love arborvitaes as individual plants in a garden. We love them as foundation plants. And, we love them for use as hedgerows or fencerows, for both privacy, and as a wind block. Because arborvitaes are fast growing, they quickly provide the privacy many homeowners seek. And, best of all, they are easy to care for.

Many homeowners refer to arborvitae as a bush or shrub. Actually, they are trees. They are members of the evergreen family, and are native to eastern Asia and North America.  Arborvitae have small, scalelike leaves on flattened branches. There are many varieties, with the largest growing over 40 feet. Among the most common is the Oriental Arborvitae from China, American Arborvitae, Northern White Cedar and Western Red cedar which originated in North America. Arborvitae are classified as members of the Cypress family.

Once planted, Arborvitaes require little care and maintenance. An annual pruning keeps them in shape. Most importantly, Arborvitae benefit from providing some winter protection against damage from ice and snow. If deer are in your area, you may need to protect them in winter months with pest netting

The most common varieties include:

  • Oriental Arborvitae

  • American Arborvitae, also called Giant Arborvitae

  • Emerald Arborvitae

  • Globe Arborvitae

How to Grow Arborvitae:

Arborvitae are easy to grow and maintain, and thrive for years with a little pruning and care.  Arborvitae grows best in slightly acidic soil. They tolerate a variety of soils, from clay to sandy loam. Moist, well draining soil is best. When planting, select a slightly elevated location. Arborvitae grow well in full sun to partial shade.

To plant them, dig a hole deep and wide. Mix generous amounts of compost with soil from the hole. Place the plant in the hole and fill with soil and compost. Tamp the soil lightly. Water generously when planting.

Pruning Arborvitae:

One annual pruning is ideal for your tree. The best time  to do so is in the fall or early winter. If pruned in the summer, the tips of the pruned branches can turn an unsightly brown. If you can't prune them in the fall or winter, do so early in the season while new growth is still appearing.


 New Arborvitae plants are propagated by seed or cuttings.

When growing from seed, collect seeds in the fall. Start in peat pots indoors in early spring, or sow directly into a seedbed outdoors. Transplant seedlings into a garden several weeks later.  

To grow from cuttings, cut a 4-5 inch branch of new growth. Strip away the lower leaves. Plant in coarse, well draining sand. Keep the soil most.

Winter Protection for Arborvitae

Snow and ice buildup can damage or break individual branches, or the whole tree.  Shrub protection against foraging deer, rabbits and rodents is also important.

Many people use burlap to cover the plants. It's effective, but unsightly. It can also cause mold and mildew on the plant. Another alternative is heavy duty, multi-strand pest netting. The pest netting is made of UV protected material, and will last for years. Selecting a green netting results in a barely visible protection against animals, as well as protection from breakage of individual branches. when snow and ice buildup is a problem. 

Pests of Arborvitae:

A number of animals will feed on Arborvitae, especially in the winter months when other food sources are scarce. They include deer, rabbits, mice, and other rodents.

Occasional insect problems can occur from mites and bagworms. Use insecticides only if necessary.

Diseases Affecting Arborvitae:

The most common plant problems are molds and mildew, often caused in cool, damp weather. Drowning of roots can also occur in wet weather.

Cankers and sun scorch are also an occasional problem.

A favorite Fall pastime is planting fall bulbs. These bulbs turn into the first blooms of spring, brightening up and chasing away the dull, grey winter scenery. More on Bulbs

Tree Branch



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