AskIFAS Powered by EDIS

Platycladus orientalis: Oriental Arborvitae1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean 2


Oriental 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. Full Form - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Figure 1.  Full Form - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Credit: UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Platycladus orientalis

Pronunciation: plat-ih-KLAY-dus or-ee-en-TAY-liss

Common name(s): 0riental arborvitae, arborvitae

Family: Cupressaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 10A (Figure 2)

Origin: native to China and North Korea

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North, Central, South)

Uses: specimen; screen; urban tolerant; highway median

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


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: vertical flat plane

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: 1/16 to 1/8 inch

Leaf color: bright yellow green when young, darker green when mature

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Leaf - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Figure 3.  Leaf - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Credit: UF/IFAS


Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: oblong or egg-shaped

Fruit length: ¾ inch

Fruit covering: fleshy, with 6-8 hard scales that each have a tiny horn-like projection

Fruit color: bluish green, turns brown with maturity

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Figure 4. Cone, Young - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Figure 4.  Cone, Young - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Credit: UF/IFAS

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Bark: red brown, fibrous, and peels in long thin strips

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: thin

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 5. Bark - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Figure 5.  Bark - Platycladus orientalis: oriental arborvitae
Credit: Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS


Light requirement: full sun to 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

Oriental 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.

Oriental 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.

Additional References

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


1. This document is ENH648, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #ENH648

Release Date:April 26, 2019

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

Related Topics

    Organism ID


    • Andrew Koeser