Types of Arborvitae Trees

Updated February 16, 2017

The most common arbor vitae tree is the American arbor vitae or white cedar (Thuja occidentalis). It comes in many varieties, from tall, columnar forms grown as trees, to rounded, dwarf shrubs. Several cultivars can grow 50 feet or more. Consider the mature height and shape of the tree when selecting an arbor vitae.


Arborvitaes may have a columnar, pyramidal, rounded or globe shape, depending on the variety. For tall, columnar arborvitaes, try Nigra, Peabody or Smaragd. For a rounded form, try Wintergreen or Rheingold.


Western arbor vitae or western red cedar (Thuja plicata) can grow 200 feet high while American arbor vitae (T. occidentalis) may reach 60 feet high at maturity. Medium-sized varieties that grow up to 15 feet include Fastigiata, Columnaris and Techni. For dwarf varieties, try Woodwardii, Rheingold or Hertz Midget, which remains under 2 feet high at maturity.


While most arborvitaes have scalelike foliage, the colours vary, from blue to yellow to different shades of green. Nigra and Techny have dark green foliage year-round while Woodwardii turns brownish-green in the winter. Rheingold has bright orange foliage, and Oriental arbor vitae has yellowish-green foliage that matures to dark green.

Use and Care

Large arbor vitae trees work well planted in a row as a privacy hedge or windbreak. Use smaller arbor vitae plants sparingly in the yard or as a single focal point at entryways. Plant your arbor vitae in a location with full sun and slightly moist, well-drained soil. Arbor vitae trees do not tolerate soggy soil. In cold climates, they may dry out in the winter and develop brown foliage.

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About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."