The arborvitae is an evergreen tree or shrub from the cypress family. They are found primarily throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. The arborvitae has scale like leaves that are soft to the touch, rather than prickly. Arborvitae prefers colder climates to warmer ones.
Arborvitae plays an important role in the wild. Its leaves are one of the most popular evergreens eaten by deer and other mammals during the winter. The dense canopy of an arborvitae tree provides cover for birds and mammals year round. An arborvitae, when allowed to, may reach thirty feet tall and ten feet wide.
Arborvitae grows best in moist soils with an alkaline pH level. They are also adaptable to poor soils that are rocky, sterile, dry or wet. An arborvitae will also grow, though not as well, in soils that are neutral or have an acidic pH level. They can be planted anywhere that has full to partial sun, and require minimal aftercare. Found in zones three to seven, the arborvitae plants will not thrive in southern regions.
Arborvitae trees come in many different shapes. Some, like the American arborvitae, are wide, cone shaped. Others, like the pyramidalis, are thinner. The globe arborvitae is rounded. Arborvitae trees can also be pruned into the shape of hedges, and make wonderful year round privacy screens.