Types of Arborvitae: Hedges, Trees, and Shrubs (With Pictures and Identification)

Arborvitaes are slow-growing evergreen conifers with delicate, lush feathery leaves that develop slowly. Arborvitae produce tiny conical trees, globe-shaped shrubs of various forms and sizes, and upright columnar trees. Arborvitae trees and shrubs prefer natural privacy screens, broad hedges, living fences, and specimen trees.

Types of Arborvitae Trees

Thuja is the Latin name for five different types of arborvitae trees:

  • American arborvitae or Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Giant arborvitae (Thuja plicata)
  • Korean arborvitae (Thuja koraiensis)
  • Japanese arborvitae (Thuja standishii)
  • Sichuan Arborvitae (Thuja sutchuenensis)

Two species native to North America are arborvitae, which are popular garden landscaping plants. American arborvitae and Giant arborvitae are the two species. Arborvitaes are versatile plants that tolerate a wide range of environments due to their thick green leaves and quick development. Thuja occidentalis (left), Thuja plicata (middle), and Thuja orientalis (right) are the three types of arborvitae. Several cultivars of each kind exist. In North America, there are two common types of arborvitae:

  • American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). The common garden landscape plant, eastern arborvitae, is from the United States. Eastern arborvitaes prefer well-drained soil and full sun in residential gardens. Green, greenish-yellow, or bronze foliage characterize American arborvitae, which are cold-hardy plants. While modest cultivars have evolved to fit smaller areas, American arborvitae may reach a height of 49 ft. (15 m) tall.
  • Giant arborvitae (Thuja plicata). A gigantic conifer tree is the massive arborvitae, or western red cedar. Perfect for front or backyards are some dwarf western arborvitae species. With beautiful, evergreen leaves, the huge arborvitae has a conical form.

Oriental arborvitae is a term used to describe trees from the genera Platycladus orientalis and Thuja orientalis. The Oriental arborvitae, which grows to 49–66 feet (15–20 meters) and has light green leaves, is a slow-growing tree. This evergreen conifer is suitable for both formal and casual hedges and never fades throughout the year.

Several little cultivars, such as ‘Aura Nana,’ have been created. The most common varieties of arborvitaes are covered in this article. Choosing the finest arborvitaes for your garden landscape will be easier with descriptions of Thuja trees and photographs.

Types of Arborvitae (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

The species Thuja occidentalis (American arborvitae) is the most widely grown variety of arborvitae. Full sun and moist, well-draining soil are common growing conditions for most American arborvitaes. The thick evergreen foliage forms cone shapes, upright columns, or rounded bushes, depending on the arborvitae species.

Foundation plantings, borders, hedges, and privacy screens all benefit from small arborvitaes. Although they are not genuine cedars, some arborvitae trees (Thuja) are called cedar trees. The most frequent arborvitae species are described and illustrated below.

American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

One of the greatest garden landscape plants is Thuja occidentalis. American arborvitaes are medium-sized trees that grow to be around 50 feet (15 meters) tall in their natural habitat. In residential gardens and parks, smaller cultivars of American arborvitae are particularly popular as ornamental trees.

Northern white cedar, swamp cedar, eastern arborvitae, and eastern white cedar are some of the other names for American arborvitae. Scaly leaves on fan-like branches grow on Thuja occidentalis. When grown in full sun, the flat scale-like leaves produce thick foliage.

The red-brown bark of the American arborvitae species peels with wrinkles and plates. Pyramidal, columnar, rounded, and straight slim forms may be seen in American arborvitae cultivars. Growing American arborvitae information can be found here:

  • USDA zones 2 – 7
  • Grows up to 50 ft. (15 m)
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade.

Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’)

Thuja ‘emerald green’ (also known as Smaragd) is a popular evergreen tree with beautiful foliage. The arborvitae dubbed “Emerald Green” is one of the Thuja species’ most appealing columnar trees. This upright columnar arborvitae, sometimes known as Smaragd, has tight growth and may grow up to 14 feet (4 meters) tall.

Arborvitaes with evergreen foliage retain their hue all year and do not brown in the winter. Arborvitaes, shrub borders, windbreaks, and living fences can all be created by planting trees together in full sun.

Growing Emerald Green Arborvitaes:

  • USDA zones 2 – 7
  • Grows to between 12 and 14 ft. (3.5 – 4 m)
  • Columnar arborvitae have a low upkeep.

‘Little Giant’ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’)

The arborvitae cultivar is a dwarf globe-shaped conifer that is ideal for landscaping gardens. The needle-like leaves of this little arborvitae stay dark green all year long, and it grows in rich green. The arborvitae develops into a perfect spherical ball as it grows more slowly.

To maintain its form, ‘Little Giant’ dwarf arborvitaes require little pruning or trimming. As a foundation plant, low-growing formal hedge, or specimen plant, the slow-growing conifer is ideal. Other tall, thin arborvitaes, such as pyramidal arborvitaes, have a more rounded growth.

Growing arborvitaes known as the Little Giants:

  • USDA zones 3 – 8
  • Height: 5 ft. (1.5 m)
  • For garden landscapes, one of the best round arborvitaes is

Thuja occidentalis ‘Hetz Midget’

The arborvitae cultivar ‘Hetz Midget’ is ideal for tiny areas and can fit into tight spots. The dark green foliage of the arborvitae ‘Hetz Midget’ turns to bronze hues during the winter, making it a popular choice. The scale-like flat leaves cluster in fan-shaped clusters.

In full sun or partial shade, grow Hetz Midgets. The Hetz Midget is ideal for foundation plantings, mixed borders, little hedges, or rock gardens because of its shortness as an arborvitae shrub. On terraces, patios, or porches, this dwarf Thuja is excellent as a container plant.

Growing arborvitaes known as Hetz Midget:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 3 or 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m)
  • Blue-green leaves on little compact rounded arborvitae

Thuja occidentalis ‘Fire Chief’

The arborvitae ‘Fire Chief’ has greenish-red foliage that changes color with the seasons. Thuja is one of the most recognizable arborvitaes, with its thick feathery leaves that alternate with the seasons. It is commonly known as the “Fire Chief.” In the spring, the leaves are bright gold, then dark green in the summer before becoming red-tipped in winter.

As a foundation plant, low-growing hedge, or shrub border, ‘Fire Chief’ arborvitae is ideal. The ‘Fire Chief, like most dwarf arborvitaes, thrives in pots on your outdoor or balcony.

Growing arborvitae called the ‘Fire Chief,’ please read:

  • USDA zones 5 – 7
  • Height: 3 or 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m)
  • With red autumn and winter foliage, this globose, shrubby conifer is striking.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Aurea Nana’

The Berkman’s Gold, also known as the ‘Aurea Nana,’ is a lovely globe-like, spherical tiny conifer with golden green leaves. Arborvitae leaves are brilliant golden-green and made up of soft needle-like leaves. The evergreen foliage becomes an orangey-yellow hue in the autumn and winter.

A drought-tolerant plant, this dwarf globe arborvitae The arborvitae shrub known as the Aurea Nana may grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters). However, reaching such a height takes many years. As a foundation planting, specimen shrub, or formal low-growing hedge, grow ‘Aurea Nana.’

The following information about growing ‘Aurea Nana’ arborvitaes may be found:

  • USDA zones 6 – 8
  • Height: up to 6 ft. (1.8 m)
  • Garden landscapes with bright green leaves throughout the year

American Arborvitae ‘Yellow Ribbon’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon’)

The semi-dwarf coniferarborvitae has a narrow pyramidal form and makes a nice screening hedge. The upright growth and small pyramidal shape of this columnar arborvitae. In the spring, its leaves are yellowish-green before shifting to a medium green and finally reddish-brown.

During the year, the color of yellow arborvitae enlivens gardens. The upright arborvitae, sometimes known as the ‘Yellow Ribbon,’ is perfect for forming a privacy screen or a towering hedge. The plants that make up the hedge are 3 feet (1 meter) long.

Growing yellow ribbon arborvitaes: information here:

  • USDA zones 2 – 7
  • Height: 8 to 10 ft. (2.4 – 3 m)
  • Bright yellow-green foliage on narrow, pyramid-shaped arborvitae

Weeping Eastern Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Pendula’)

Thuja occidentalis has drooping, pendulous leaves, making it one of the nicest specimen arborvitae trees in the garden. One of the most distinctive evergreen trees is the weeping American arborvitae. If the central stem is staked, the slow-growing Thuja will grow upright.

Otherwise, the shrubby conifer has a spreading growth habit. The weeping eastern arborvitae thrives as a specimen tree because of its arching branches. In your front or backyard, this weeping arborvitae will resemble a magnificent decorative tree.

Weeping eastern arborvitaes can be found at this website:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 5 to 10 ft. (1.5 – 3 m) after ten years
  • weeping growth and light green leaves distinguish the arborvitae.

‘Danica’ Globe Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Danica’)

One of the smallest globe arborvitae cultivars is the ‘Danica.’ It’s ideal for mixed borders. Just 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall and the same width, this miniature American arborvitae cultivar is limited. Green foliage turns blue-green in the winter, and arborvitae ‘Danica’ has it.

Its spherical or globe-shaped scale-like leaves grow densely. Border shrubs, foundation plantings, and evergreen edging plants are ideal for small globe arborvitaes like the ‘Danica’ cultivar. The bronze tinge on the emerald green arborvitae leaves lasts all year, and it gets darker in the winter.

Growing arborvitaes of the genus Danica:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m)
  • The perfect sphere of a tiny arborvitae tree

‘Woodward’ Globe Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Woodwardii’)

The Thuja arborvitae bush has gray-green leaves that turn a delicate green hue in the winter. The growth of Woodward arborvitaes is globular. The arborvitae ‘Woodwardii’ grows to a height of 8 feet (2.4 meters) in ten years and measures 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) wide.

Arborvitae, a low-maintenance species, does not require pruning. As a broad evergreen hedge, grow Woodward arborvitae bushes. You can grow the arborvitae as a foundation plant, boundary plant, or specimen conifer because it grows slowly. Growing arborvitaes of the Woodwardii variety:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 4 to 10 ft. (1.2 – 3 m)
  • Arborvitae with a simple care rounded

Rheingold Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’)

In autumn, Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ has golden foliage with a dome shape. The arborvitae grows to be 3 to 5 feet (1.5 to 1.5 meters) tall, depending on the variety. Other ‘Rheingold’ arborvitaes are cone-shaped, whereas others are rounded. To maintain the yellow foliage bright and thick, grow in moist soil in full sun. Growing arborvitaes of the ‘Rheingold’ type:

  • USDA zones 4 – 8
  • Height: up to 5 ft. (1.5 m)
  • A bushy arborvitae with brilliant golden-yellow leaves

‘North Pole’ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘North Pole’)

Upright columnar conifers with dark evergreen foliage are known as “Art Boe” cultivars, and they grow to between 4 and 6 feet (1.2 and 1.8 meters) tall. The spectacular arborvitae boasts a confined growth that works well in any garden environment for vertical emphasis.

This cold-hardy shrub is ideal for growing towering hedgerows, privacy screens, or borders, and is also known as the “Art Boe” arborvitae. In small gardens, the thin arborvitae makes a great specimen tree.

The following information on growing Arborvitae ‘Rheingold’:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m)
  • With dark green soft foliage, medium-sized arborvitae

Arborvitae ‘Filips Magic Moment’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Filips Magic Moment’)

In the heat and cold, the hardy arborvitae named ‘Filips Magic Moment’ develops upright pyramidal growth with golden leaves. The upright growth of this hardy arborvitae is modest. Its columnar pyramid shape is formed by golden-yellow scaly soft foliage.

The arborvitae ‘Filips Magic Moment’ is a wonderful choice for garden landscapes that need brightening. Filips Magic Moment arborvitae thrives in full sun and moist soil conditions. Make a bright yellow hedge, natural privacy screen, or living fence by planting the arborvitaes in a row. As a corner planting or entry container plant, you can include Filips Magic Moment cultivars.

The following information on growing arborvitaes named after Filips Magic Moment:

  • USDA zones 3 – 7
  • Height: 6 to 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m)
  • Arboreal arbors with a bright yellow columnar foliage

Oriental Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis or Thuja orientalis)

Oriental arborvitae is a 49–66-foot (15–20 m) evergreen conifer that may be found in Asia. Dwarf Oriental arborvitae cultivars have bright green leaves that fade to bronze in the winter. Their growth is rounded. The cypress family includes cultivars from the genus Platycladus orientalis.

Some of the greatest foundation plantings for adding color and beauty to your home are dwarf Oriental arborvitae cultivars. As a low hedge, border plant, or specimen shrub, oriental arborvitaes may also be grown.

In the winter, ‘Rosedalis’ (left) and ‘Semperaurea’ (right) are dwarf cultivars of Oriental thuja.

  • USDA zones 6 – 9
  • Height: 2 to 5 ft. for dwarf cultivars (0.6 – 1.5 m)
  • Perfect for residential garden landscapes, this arborvitae cultivar is rounded.

Western Red Cedar ‘Green Giant’ (Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’)

There are smaller cultivars available for residential gardens, such as Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’. In residential landscapes, these large arborvitae are seldom employed. Western arborvitaes reach heights of 210 to 230 feet (64 to 70 meters).

Green foliage in the shape of flat needle-like foliage covers these magnificent arborvitaes. In residential gardens, small Western red arborvitae cultivars make excellent hedge choices. ‘Atrovirens,’ ‘Stoneham Gold,’ ‘Aurea,’ and ‘Whipcord are some of the most desirable front or rear yard western arborvitae cultivars.

The whipcord-like foliage of Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ makes it grow to be about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.

Western Arborvitae ‘Zebrina’ (Thuja Plicata ‘Zebrina’)

A variegated evergreen conifer with unusual foliage, the ‘Zebrina’ arborvitae is a popular ornamental. The arborvitae cultivar ‘Zebrina” features green leaves with cream-yellow zebra-like stripes or patterns, as its cultivar name suggests. At maturity, these trees have a height of up to 40 feet (14 meters) and an annual growth rate of 1 foot (30 cm).

Tall, informal hedges are best for medium-sized arborvitaes. You may also create medium-sized privacy screens for your yard by regularly pruning.

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