Landscape Spotlight: American arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis

Posted August 29, 2019 in Plant and Tree

Noted as the ‘Tree of Life’ by early French Settlers to North America because of its medicinal treatment for scurvy, American arborvitae is a beneficial tree in more ways than one. This tree grows in most regions of the United States except southern parts of Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada. Its soil tolerance to all types makes it resilient even in an urban venue. On average, this evergreen grows upwards of 20-40 feet and 10-15 feet wide depending on the environment and available sunlight. The Arborvitae thrives in full sun to part shade and is categorized as a low maintenance plant, which makes it a winner in everyone’s backyard palette. Its reddish-brown bark has an exfoliating tendency on more mature plants, which makes it equally attractive.

Having no serious pests or diseases to concern the gardener, yet for safekeeping, always give your garden and landscaping a visual inspection every so often. Watch for leaf blight, canker, leaf miner, bagworms, mealybug, scales, and spider mites. If we have a harsh winter with ice and heavy snowfall, pay extra attention to see if any limbs are damaged due to the weight of the precipitation. To avoid this, shake or knock-off heavy accumulations, so the limbs don’t break under pressure.

Arborvitae trees are excellent adaptors and can even thrive nicely in areas of clay, wet soil, and air pollution; they can also thrive under Black Walnut trees! However, for best results, grow in medium, moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Don’t forget to water these evergreens until they are established within the landscape, as they won’t let you get away with drought conditions early on. Keep them moist, but well-drained and they will serve your garden oasis well.

How to Use the American Arborvitae in the Garden

Because it is an evergreen and grows to heights more than most, you can consider using it as a privacy screen on your property. Don’t like the view next door?  A living screen of arborvitae is always a possibility. Even fences can seem obtrusive and stark at times without adequate plantings to soften the scape, this evergreen can help to provide a privacy hedge while creating an effective boundary that’s lush and provides a beautiful backdrop to more plantings in the garden.

In formal gardens, they are used to create a privacy hedge and lead the visitor along a pathway with lushness on both sides. Using this as residential inspiration, you can grow this landscape spotlight as a wall and create seating areas next to it with container gardens flanking each side of the bench. Other applications can include a poolside hedge or a screen for a private garden boundary is an excellent alternative to a brick wall. Their grandness and foliage also work well as a noise barrier in urban areas, offering up respite.  Alternatively, planting the American Arborvitae on the north or west side of the property where the winter winds usually prevail can provide superior protection and can create a microclimate for other plant material nearby as it shields cold blasts of air…and as we all know in NEPA, winter protection doesn’t go unnoticed and unappreciated!

How We Can Help

Whether you prefer the look of the classic arborvitae or love the idea of variety with strategic planning, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to create an outdoor plan custom fit to your family, home and lifestyle!

Just as the American Arborvitae can fill so many needs on your property, MasterPLAN Landscape Design can do the same as your dependable, knowledgeable and caring outdoor living design/build firm. Serving the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we would love to create a unique master plan to accomplish your outdoor aspirations.  When you are ready to open the conversation about your own outdoor living space, reach out to MasterPLAN; we would love to welcome you into the family!


American Arborvitae

Thuja occidentalis

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