If you are looking to plant a tree in your home garden, one will not require much time or money investment, but will at the same time add the greenery, shade, and the natural look you want, you must learn more about arborvitae trees. Because of their fast-growing nature, they are the perfect cover to provide some privacy by acting as a hedge or screen. If you plant several of them in a row, they will take only a year to grow densely and surround your home with foliage – the ideal living fence.
Arborvitae trees, scientifically belonging to the genus Thuja, are evergreen trees. These trees were transported to Europe from North America when French explorers brought the tree to Paris. These special trees gained fame when it was rumored that their bark could treat scurvy. This is why they were termed “arborvitae,” meaning “tree of life” in Latin.
These trees not only stay green all year round and require minimal care; they stay good well past their due date. Because Arborvitae trees have a strong and effective resistance to decay and damage by small insects, large fallen or dead Arborvitae trees can remain in good shape for more than a hundred years.
Even after that, their wood can still be salvaged for shakes for roofs and other commonly needed wood products.
Arborvitae trees can be as tall as 10 to 200 feet. They have stringy-textured red tinted bark with flat shoots, and side shoots exclusively in a single plane. The leaves look like scales about 1–10 mm long while young seedlings, which are only one year old, have needle-like leaves. The scale leaves are patterned in alternating decussate pairs in four rows along the twigs.
The male cones are small, located at the twig ends, while female ones start out small, but grow to be 1–2 cm when they reach maturity within 6–8 months. They have about half to one dozen overlapping, narrow, rubbery scales; each one home to 1–2 small seeds and a pair of thin diagonal wings.
Role in Ecology
The larvae of some insect species, including autumnal moth and the juniper pug, feed on species of arborvitae trees. Their foliage is also feasted on by deer, so much so that if the deer population density is high, the growth of young trees and the sprouting of seedlings can be badly affected.
Types of Arborvitae Trees
American Arborvitae is probably the most common of all Thuja varieties. It hails from Minnesota and is the natural option to go for when fencing around the property. On top of providing privacy for your home, this tree can help in protecting your home from wildfires since they have wind-blocking properties. The American Arborvitae is a very tall variety, reaching about 25-40 feet in height and 10-15 feet in width. If the size of the hedges seems too large for you, there are many dwarf varieties available that are quite popular in landscapes.
In terms of its leaves, the American Arborvitae has bright green foliage at the top with the colors fading too as they move towards the bottom. It is normal the foliage to change into a distinct yellow shade when weather conditions are particularly cold or harsh.
American Arborvitaes grow best in moist environments, and they are not excessively susceptible to being destroyed by droughts.
Emerald Green Arborvitae
More popularly known as white cedar, the Emerald green arborvitae derives its name from its darker shade of green that appears as it matures into adulthood. An emerald green arborvitae is best to be planted as a screen since it can grow to be as much as 30 feet in height and spread in width to at least 10 feet. If you choose to plant a white cedar screen, you will not have to prune it into shape since the plant naturally grows into its characteristic pyramid shape if left alone.
Even though all environments are suitable for these trees, the Emerald green arborvitae thrives in swampy areas where the soil is slightly basic. Similar to the American arborvitae, the Emerald green can change catch a yellow tinge during winter months.
The fascinating thing about these particular trees is that the Globe Arborvitae achieves its globular shape without outside help or pruning. Its maximum height is usually no more than 5 feet, which makes it especially useful as wind block or protection for smaller plants. Otherwise, it can serve as a convenient decoration in your landscape.
Although they require minimum maintenance and can adapt easily and well to various weather conditions, including droughts, Globe Arborvitaes need the full force of the sun to retain their color, or else they can turn into an unhealthy-looking brown shade.
Some landscape architects and homeowners plant Globe Arborvitaes in pots, so they can move them around as needed, to give them access to the sun to prevent browning over the course of changing seasons.
Techny Arborvitae is the best variety to plant around your property if you need to grow a full shield in a limited amount of time. They grow to their full form in about 2-3 years, providing privacy, shade, and protection as needed. Quite slender in shape, the Techny Arborvitae has an astounding full height of 20 feet but only a spread of 6 feet. In places where winters are harsh and intense, this is the perfect species of arborvitae to grow.
False arborvitae, also known as Hiba Arborvitae, is an ornamental and timber evergreen tree of the cypress family. These trees are native to Japan, and closely related and even similar to the arborvitae or Thuja genus. However, false arborvitae actually has larger leaves, marked with embossed white bands on the underside. The trees often grow to be about 115 feet tall.
The wood from these trees is yellowish white, soft, elastic, and quite durable. It has been and continues to be used for boatbuilding because of its malleable quality. There are many shrubby and dwarf varieties of the plant that have been curated for ornamental usage.
There are five extant species in the Thuja genus as described below.
Thuja Koraiensis Nakai
Also known as the Korean thuja, is found primarily in the Korean region of Jilin
Thuja Occidentalis L.
Known as the eastern arborvitae or the northern white cedar, is found mainly in Eastern Canadian regions from Manitoba to Nova Scotia, and Eastern United States, primarily the Northeast, near Great Lakes, and in the Appalachians.
Thuja plicata Donn ex D.Don
Known as the western red cedar, is usually found in regions from Alaska to Mendocino County in California.
Known as Japanese thuja, found in certain regions of Japan including Honshu and Shikoku.
It’s almost extinct in the wild. It is known as the Sichuan thuja in China, where it originally came from. Its native region is the Sichuan, Chongqing in China.
Uses of an Arborvitae Tree
New Year’s Celebrations
During New Year’s celebrations in China, the aromatic branches are used as good luck charms.
Arborvitae Essential Oils
Essential oils derived from these plants are used in many ways. Some of the ways the essential oils can be incorporated and used are as follows:
As Household Spray
If you add a few drops of arborvitae essential oil in a spray bottle with water, it can easily be turned into a powerful cleansing and freshening agent. Many allergies can be avoided with its usage and it keeps seasonal threats at bay.
As Bug Repellant Spray
Arborvitae oil is a great addition to your outdoor adventure trip because of chemical components called tropolones. The chemical properties of tropolones make them act as an organic insect repellant that does not leave a bad smell on your skin. For an enjoyable hiking or camping trip, you can choose to apply Arborvitae essential oil to your wrists and ankles, which will keep bugs several feet away
For indoor bug repelling, you can add a few drops of Arborvitae essential oil into a humidifier and let the aroma seep through your house.
For Wood Preservation
Arborvitae essential oil can also act as a natural wood preserver. You can mix four drops of Arborvitae oil with two drops of Lemon essential oil and apply it to the wood you want to preserve. The essential oil mixture can help keep rot away from wood and prolong its life. Woodworkers often use this oil to keep wood healthy and new, preserving it for long-time use.
As Wood Polish
If you want your wooden furniture looking fresh and tidy, you must invest in proper polishing supplies and a good routine. An effective and better way to preserve wood is by using a natural, chemical-free, home-made wood polish. Commercial wood polishes usually contain harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances that can become the cause for irritation or health problems in adults and children alike. Furniture in daily use, such as beds, should especially not be treated with harsh chemicals since we make close contact with it.
Arborvitae essential oil can be added to any DIY polish mix to help protect wood furniture from environmental threats, rotting, and erosion, while also producing a shine in the wood. You can also use arborvitae essential oil to preserve wooden floors and outdoor swings, etc.
As Cologne and for Aromatherapy
The woody, spicy smell of arborvitae can be used as cologne for everyday use. It can be an organic and chemical-free alternative to expensive perfumes. On top of that, the soothing and healing properties of this essential oil can aid in relaxation, and in inspiring peace within your home and body.
Whether you are looking into an affordable and easy-to-plant hedge for your garden or planning on incorporating a tree in your outdoor landscape, arborvitae trees can serve the purpose you need. Their vitality, lush green beauty, and other functional uses make them the perfect addition to your home garden or yard.