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Oriental arborvitae

Foliage of oriental arborvitae.

Oriental arborvitae is similar in appearance to other species of arborvitae. Nurseries usually sell the cultivars of this plant rather than the actual species and those cultivars can vary greatly in appearance. Winter protection may be needed for this plant. Because it is typically short in stature, oriental arborvitae may be planted under utility lines. Also known as Thuja orientalis.

Botanical name:

Platycladus orientalis

All common names:

oriental arborvitae

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Mature Height:

18-25 feet

Mature Width:

10-15 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9,
  • Zone 10,
  • Zone 11

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Pyramidal,
  • Round,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Browsers,
  • Nesting birds,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Foliage tends to discolor in winter. 
Prefers consistent moisture but not wet soil.
Keep mulched to moderate soil temperature swings.
Best growth occurs in full sun to part shade.

Disease, pests, and problems

Can be affected by bagworm, leaf miner, and spider mites.
Susceptible to strong wind, snow, and ice damage.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Less susceptible to deer browsing.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Asia.

Bark color and texture 

Grayish-brown to reddish-brown, with stringy fibers and a network of ridges and shallow furrows.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Needles are soft and green, with spreading flat sprays of overlapping scales at the ends of short, ascending branches.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous, separate male and female flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Tiny oval seed cones mature from yellow to light brown.  When cones open they look like little roses.

Location of Platycladus orientalis (Oriental arborvitae) at the Arboretum