Thuja occidentalis, Arborvitae, Northern Whitecedar

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic 

This native tree of northeastern and north central North America* can be very long-lived; along the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment in Canada, specimens could be over 1,000 years old. The common name, which means “tree of life,” refers to the medicinal properties of the bark and foliage, which cured scurvy.

Print Version: Thuja occidentalis, Arborvitae, Northern Whitecedar

Thuja occidentalis, Arborvitae, Northern Whitecedar Tree Height: 20–60 feet Characteristics Tolerates clay soil, air pollution, and Black Walnut Spread: 10–15 feet  Bloom Color: Red-brown   Single- or multi-trunked evergreen tree with columnar or conical shape  Branches with flat sprays of dark green foliage  Reddish-brown cone from August to December  Foliage turns yellow/brown-green in winter  Red-brown exfoliating bark on mature tree  Attributes    No serious pests or diseases; deer frequently severely damage, especially in winter browsing twigs and branchlets (may need protection)  Slow growing but can be very long-lived  Ethnobotanic uses, but may be harmful if eaten  Provides food and cover for birds Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Well-drained, alkaline Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade Water Requirements: Moist, Wet Keep roots in cool, moist soil; likes light pm shade Protect from strong wind, snow, and ice damage; buy specimens with single rather than multiple trunks that may split apart from heavy snow/ice Use as specimen, hedge, or in rain gardens (>150 sq ft) Excellent Replacement for Cupresses x leylandii - Leyland Cypress Juniperus chinensis - Chinese Juniper Rhamnus cathartica - European Buckthorn Rhamnus frangula - Glossy (or Shining) Buckthorn Taxus cuspidata - Japanese Yew In the Mid-Atlantic Region, it is not native to DC and DE. It occurs sporadically in PA. In MD, it is found in Montgomery and some of the northwestern counties. In VA, it is infrequent in the mountains and it is native to only one site in the Piedmont.  Hardiness: USDA Zones 2–7

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets.