7 of the Most Popular Arborvitae Types

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Generally, arborvitaes are dense, easy to care for, hardy evergreen shrubs or trees. Their iconic greenery makes them a staple in American landscape designs to create hedges and privacy screens, or conceal foundations and other eyesores. They thrive in almost all climatic regions across the United States and the different varieties grow to varying sizes while displaying interesting traits.

The following arborvitae types are the most commonly planted. Information is included for each type, detailing what traits makes them unique, their mature size, and preferred growing conditions. As you will see below, they can also be referred to as different types of thujas, which is their scientific name.

Make sure to also check out our general arborvitae guide here.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Developed in Denmark, the “Emerald Green” arborvitae is named (and known) for its striking green foliage — “Smaragd” is the danish word for emerald. Considered a semi-dwarf variety, it grows in a narrow pyramidal shape to about twelve feet in height when fully mature. It is an extremely thick, dense evergreen making it an excellent hedge. This variety holds its vibrant color and form throughout the changing seasons.

“Emerald Green” tolerates dry spells and cooler temperatures so it can be grown across much of the United States. Trees are low maintenance and disease resistant. Sometimes this type is pruned to form spiral topiaries.

Emerald green arborvitae in the forefront of the focus with a nursery in the background

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’

Height: 8 to 12’ tall

Spread: Up to 3’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 3-8

Growth Rate: Slow to Moderate

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full sun to light shade, loamy well-drained soil, consistent soil moisture, neutral to alkaline pH

Deer Resistant: No

Green Giant Arborvitae

Regarded as one of the most distinguished landscape trees in America, “Green Giant” arborvitae is planted in hoards across the country, growing in the iconic narrow, pyramidal shape. It’s recently become a fantastic alternative to hemlock in the Northeast and Leyland cypress in the Southeast due to its incredible disease resistance.

The “Green Giant” arborvitae is one of the largest types, adding up to 3-feet of height a year until trees are fully mature. Dense, dark-green foliage maintains its color year-round and makes these trees great choices for privacy screens and sound barriers.

4 giant green arborvitae in a line planting in the soil with some rocks underneath them

Scientific Name: Thuja plicata x standishii

Height: 40 to 60’ tall

Spread: 12 to 18’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 5-8

Growth Rate: Fast

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full sun to light shade. Adaptable to a wide variety of soils, including sand and heavy clay, and pH values ranging from acidic to alkaline. Moderately drought tolerant but sensitive to salt.

Deer Resistant: Yes

Firechief Arborvitae

The “Firechief” arborvitae stands out because of its more compact shape and distinctive color shifts throughout the year. Instead of standing upright in the traditional pyramid form, shrubs are much smaller and globe-shaped. Foliage on the “Firechief” is bright gold in the spring, deepening to orange in the summer and bright red in the autumn. It never drops its leaves/needles as an evergreen, but they return to their brilliant gold color as winter fades.

Plants are resistant to the common insect and disease problems affecting shrubs and don’t require any pruning – adding to their low maintenance nature. They also resist both sunburn and windburn.

A small firechief arborvitae with reddish-orange tips.

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis ‘Congabe’

Height: 2 to 4’ tall

Spread: 2 to 4’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 5a – 8b

Growth Rate: Slow

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade. Acidic to alkaline soils that are well-draining but kept moist.

Deer Resistant: Yes

American Arborvitae

Native to America, the “American” arborvitae was the first North American tree to be introduced into Europe. It is known for its long life expectancy; some specimens are dated at more than 1000 years old. Growing in the standard narrow, conical arborvitae shape, trees may reach upwards of sixty feet tall to make them popular as windbreaks.

“American” arborvitae handle the coldest climates of the different types, but they are not as drought tolerant as some of the other species. In autumn, their dark green foliage turns to shades of yellowish or brownish green and then regreens in the spring.

Two towering american arborvitae

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis

Height: 40 to 60’ tall

Spread: 10 to 15’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 3-7

Growth Rate: Slow to Medium

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained but moist soils that are slightly acidic.  Tolerates soil types ranging from sand to clay.

Deer Resistant: No

Dwarf Golden Arborvitae

Like the “Firechief”, the “Dwarf Golden” arborvitae grows in a compact, rounded habit. Reaching a maximum of 6-feet tall, this variety works great as a border plant or grown in containers. During the active growing season, the foliage is bright, golden yellow; it deepens to a rich bronze in winter.

Compared to other types, the “Dwarf Golden” isn’t as cold or drought-tolerant, so it is more limited in where it can be grown.

A very small and bushy dwarf golden arborvitae

Scientific Name: Thuja orientalis ‘Aurea Nana’

Height: 4 to 6’ tall

Spread: 3 to 5’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 6-9

Growth Rate: Slow

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full to partial sun. Well-drained soil that is consistently moist.

Deer Resistant: No

Golden Globe Arborvitae

One of the most compact varieties, “Golden Glob” arborvitae naturally grows into a compressed globe shape. These small scrubs maintain bright golden yellow foliage year-round. Their small stature predisposes them for use as short hedges, foundations plants, border plants, or container-grown specimens.

Once “Golden Globe” arborvitae are established, they are heat and drought tolerant and do not sunburn. They also tolerate high humidity without an increase in pest or disease problems in their dense foliage.

A beautifully yellow golden globe thuja

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’

Height: 2 to 3’ tall

Spread: 2 to 3’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 3-8

Growth Rate: Slow to Medium

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full to partial sun. Well-drained, acidic to neutral, loamy soil that is consistently moist.

Deer Resistant: No

North Pole Arborvitae

The “North Pole” type of arborvitae are native to North America and work well in narrow areas or small yards due to their medium stature and easy to care for nature. They aren’t as tall as “Green Giant” or as compact as “Golden Globe”. Foliage stays dark green all year long since they are resistant to winter burn.

“North Pole” trees tolerate pollution and have no serious insect or disease problems, making them a good “street tree”. Overall they are reasonably hardy and low maintenance, but they are not as drought-tolerant as some of the other types.

North pole arborivtae

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis ‘Art Boe’

Height: 10 to 15’ tall

Spread: 3 to 5’ wide

Growing Zones: USDA zones 3-7

Growth Rate: Moderate

Preferred Growing Conditions: Full to partial sun. Well-drained soil that is consistently moist. Tolerates soil textures ranging from sand to clay.

Deer Resistant: No

Happy Planting!

About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years. Read More

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