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Literally "tree of life", the arborvitae

Common Name : Arborvitae


Science-y Name : Thuja occidentalis (American arborvitae), Thuja plicata (Giant arborvitae)


A Few Other Varieties : Emerald Green, Techny, Nigra, Woodward, Golden Globes


Native or Non : Thuja occidentalis is native to Canada and the eastern United States. Plicata is native to the Pacific Northwest of the Americas. Both trees are in the cypress family, though they are commonly known as northern white- or western red-cedars. Why? Because science can be funny.


Characteristics : Tall and sun loving, arborvitae are a common evergreen used in landscaping because they add instant, grand visual appeal to a yard. Young arborvitae have tiny, needle-like leaves that grow close to the twig in a spray-like manner. After a year’s growth the leaves become scale-like and continue to spray from the main twig in a way that gives the arborvitae very full foliage that obscures the main trunk.

Because they are so full and can grow up to 60 feet tall, depending on the variety planted, arborvitae are often planted in rows to create a natural fence for visual privacy and noise reduction. Great varieties for this use are the Giant, Emerald Green, Techny, and Nigra.

They also make a stunning entryway accent when placed near architecture that is equal in height. Some Woodward or Golden Globes could be a nice choice there.

Getting up close and personal, and giving the leaves a gentle pinch, will release a wonderful perfume. There’s a reason the scent can be found in essential oil selections everywhere.

Deer will eat (known as browsing) most arborvitae! RAG Thyme gardeners can wrap arborvitae in deer netting for the winter to help control how much of the shrub gets eaten. If a hedge for privacy is in your plans and deer are common visitors to your property we can also help you choose the best plant alternative.



Fun Fact : Arborvitae is literally Latin for tree of life. While many world mythologies have some tree of life symbolism, the Thuja occidentalis was given the name by the French after it was used as a cure for scurvy for sailors in the mid 1500s. Members of the Iroqouis nation, who called the tree Annedda, shared the cure with Jacques Cartier and his crew during their second expedition to Canada from France. Scurvy was common among the Iroqouis people during winter when foods that naturally provided vitamin C were scarce.

Thuja occidentalis is one of the first trees to be brought from Canada to France for cultivation, and the sharing of its medicinal properties helped to bring botany back into the field of medicine in France.

(Thank you National Center for Biotechnical Information NCBI)



Care Considerations : Arborvitae do best in well drained soil and a sunny location. They do not require much pruning or trimming, and can be shaped or allowed to grow in their natural pyramid form. They have a shallow root system so fully exposed areas with high wind are not the best location. R-A-G Thyme gardeners will watch for signs of rot at the trunk and roots and trim out any dead wood that could keep your arborvitae from thriving.


Contact us to get an estimate on R-A-G Thyme services for your yard and garden! We’ll help existing plants stay brilliant, or suggest alternatives with as much beauty and personality.


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