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Publication #ENH648

Platycladus orientalis: Arborvitae1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


Arborvitae is an easily-recognized shrub, with its large teardrop shape and flattened branchlets held vertically. Most young plants are seen as shrubs, but they can be pruned into a small tree by removing the lowest branches. This forms a distinctive vase shape and is common on older landscapes where the plant was located too close to a walk or home.

Figure 1. 

Mature Platycladus orientalis: Arborvitae


Ed Gilman

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General Information

Scientific name: Platycladus orientalis
Pronunciation: plat-ih-KLAY-dus or-ee-en-TAY-liss
Common name(s): Arborvitae
Family: Cupressaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 10A (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: specimen; screen; urban tolerant; highway median
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 


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Height: 15 to 20 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: pyramidal, oval
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: whorled (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: scale-like, deltoid
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 


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Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: oval, round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: low


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Arborvitae does not tolerate pruning well since all foliage is toward the outside of the crown, but it is well-suited for use as a barrier, background, or specimen planting in a large landscape where it is properly located so pruning is not needed. Its distinctive appearance does not fit easily into natural or informal landscapes. It is often planted in cemeteries and referred to as Cemetery Plant.

Arborvitae grows moderately fast in full sun or very light shade and tolerates drought well once established. Sandy or loam soil is best, clay soil is only suited on a slope where drainage is good.

Available cultivars include: `Aureus', 3 to 5 feet tall, compact, golden leaves in spring, globe-shaped; `Baker', height 7 to 9 feet, bright pale green foliage, hardy in hot, dry areas; `Berckmanii', height 4 to 6 feet, compact and globe-shaped with golden-tipped branchlets; `Bonita', cone-shaped, 3 feet tall, leaves with yellow tips; `Globosa', globe-shaped dwarf; `Juniperoides', 3 feet tall, juvenile foliage needle-like, purplish foliage in fall; `Meldensis', 3 feet tall, narrow, purplish foliage in fall.

Propagation is by cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

Pest problems include spider mites and bagworms. A fungus blight causes the interior twigs to turn brown. This blight can be controlled by fungicides in early fall and by pruning out and destroying affected areas. Locate the plant in a sunny area with good air circulation to keep the foliage as dry as possible.



This document is ENH648, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.