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American ArborvitaeThuja occidentalis

  • American Arborvitae evergreen
  • American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis
  • American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis
  • American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis
  • American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis
This native evergreen is a hard-working, versatile specimen. The narrow, pyramid shape makes it a natural choice for windbreaks. It requires almost no care when used as a hedge or screen. Pairs of these hardy trees make great accents for doors and garden gates. And single trees soften house corners.

Tall and elegant, the American arborvitae may be the right solution to your landscaping challenges.

Hardiness Zones

The american arborvitae can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–7. View Map

Tree Type

This is an evergreen tree, keeping its foliage year-round.

Mature Size

The American arborvitae grows to a height of 40–60' and a spread of 10–15' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow to Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The American arborvitae grows well in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained, wet and clay soils.


This tree:
  • Features tiny, scale-like leaves that are packed closely together in overlapping rows on branchlets, displaying in a flattened, fan-like spray. The leaves change from bright green in the summer to a multitude of rich yellow-brown-green hues in the winter.
  • Grows in a pyramidal shape.
  • Adapts well to shearing and shaping.
  • Releases a pleasing aroma when leaves are squeezed.
  • Yields light brown or reddish-brown oblong cones that are ⅜–½" long and persist through winter. Cone scales are blunt-tipped and separate from each other at the base.
  • Can be planted 3' apart for a low-maintenance hedge.

Wildlife Value

Providing shelter in the winter and nesting sites for grackles, robins and house finches in the summer, this evergreen is also browsed by deer, cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares and an occasional moose. The seeds are eaten by red squirrels and birds such as pine siskins.


The name arborvitae, is a Latin form of the French, "l'arbre de vie," which means, "tree of life." Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who assigned the Latin name to this species, picked up on other traits. The genus name, Thuja, is from a Greek word for perfume. Squeezing the evergreen leaves releases an aroma that is nothing less than nature's perfume.

America arborvitae was useful in early canoes and medicines and became the first North American tree to be introduced to Europe. The specific name, occidentalis, means "west," the direction from Sweden where this tree was discovered.