American Arborvitae (Thuja Occidentalis (Aurea Group)

Plant: Table of Contents

American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis Aurea Group): A Comprehensive Care Guide

Plants are an essential part of our environment, contributing to the beauty of natural landscapes and the liveliness of our surroundings. As a plant scientist, I have seen the impact that different plant species can have on the environment and how they can enhance human well-being. One such plant that has gained popularity for its versatility and unique characteristics is the American arborvitae, scientifically known as Thuja occidentalis Aurea Group. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various aspects of caring for and cultivating the American arborvitae, from its cultural requirements to its potential uses, while also exploring common diseases and pests that can affect this plant.

What is a Plant: American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis (Aurea Group)

The American arborvitae, a member of the cypress family (Cupressaceae), is a species of Thuja native to eastern Canada and much of the northeastern and north-central United States. It is a tall, narrow, evergreen tree with scale-like leaves and a conical form. The Aurea Group is a cultivar known for its vibrant golden foliage, which adds a unique aesthetic appeal to landscapes and gardens.

Key Takeaways – American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis (Aurea Group)

  • Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis (Aurea Group)
  • Common Name: American arborvitae
  • Family: Cupressaceae
  • Cultivar Group: Aurea Group
  • Foliage Color: Golden
  • Type: Evergreen Tree
  • Growth Habit: Tall and Narrow
  • Hardiness Zones: 3-7

Now, let’s explore the cultural requirements and best practices for caring for this captivating plant.



Proper watering is essential for the health and vitality of American arborvitae, especially during the establishment phase and in periods of drought. Here are some key considerations for watering this plant:

  • Establishment Phase: Newly planted American arborvitae should be watered regularly to ensure adequate moisture for root development.
  • Drought Conditions: During dry periods, provide supplemental watering to prevent the soil from drying out completely.
  • Avoid Overwatering: While consistent moisture is important, it is crucial to avoid waterlogged conditions, as this can lead to root rot and other issues.


American arborvitae thrives in full sun to partial shade. When selecting a planting site, consider the following sunlight requirements:

  • Full Sun: Ideally, choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth and foliage color.
  • Partial Shade: While tolerant of partial shade, excessive shade can lead to sparse growth and reduced vibrancy in the foliage.


Fertilization plays a key role in promoting healthy growth and vibrant foliage in American arborvitae. Here are some important points to consider when fertilizing this plant:

  • Balanced Fertilizer: Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer specially formulated for evergreen trees and shrubs.
  • Application Timing: Apply fertilizer in early spring before new growth emerges to provide essential nutrients for the upcoming growing season.
  • Avoid Overfertilization: Follow the recommended application rates to prevent fertilizer burn and other adverse effects.


The soil requirements of American arborvitae can significantly influence its overall health and growth. Consider the following soil characteristics for optimal cultivation:

  • Well-Drained Soil: Ensure that the planting site has well-drained soil to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root issues.
  • pH Level: American arborvitae thrives in slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0-7.5).
  • Soil Amendments: If the native soil is poor in quality, consider incorporating organic matter or compost when planting to improve soil structure and fertility.


Pruning is an important aspect of American arborvitae maintenance, helping to shape the plant, control its size, and remove any damaged or overgrown branches. Here are some key considerations for pruning this species:

  • Timing: Prune American arborvitae in late winter or early spring before the onset of new growth.
  • Sanitation: Use clean, sharp pruning tools to make precise cuts and prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Shape Maintenance: Regular light pruning can help maintain the desired shape and density of the plant.


Propagating American arborvitae allows for the multiplication of desirable cultivars and the expansion of plantings. The following methods can be employed for propagating this species:

  • Cuttings: Softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings can be used to propagate American arborvitae, with rooting hormone applied to expedite root development.
  • Layering: Air layering or simple layering can be utilized to encourage the formation of roots on branches while still attached to the parent plant.

Container Popularity

American arborvitae, especially the Aurea Group cultivars, are popular choices for container gardening due to their striking foliage and compact growth habit. When selecting containers for growing American arborvitae, be sure to choose ones that provide adequate drainage and space for the roots to expand.

Container Common Diseases

When growing American arborvitae in containers, it is important to be vigilant for potential diseases that can affect the plant. Some common diseases to watch out for in container-grown arborvitae include:

  • Root Rot: Overly moist conditions or poorly drained soil can lead to root rot, causing the plant to exhibit wilting and dieback.
  • Fungal Leaf Spot: This can occur in humid or wet conditions, leading to the development of dark spots on the foliage.

Disease Diagnosis

If you suspect that your container-grown American arborvitae is affected by a disease, it is important to accurately diagnose the issue before implementing any treatment. Look for visible symptoms such as discoloration, wilting, or unusual growth patterns, and consider consulting with a plant health specialist if needed.

Common Pests

Container-grown American arborvitae may also be susceptible to insect pests that can impact their health and appearance. Some common pests to be aware of include:

  • Spider Mites: These tiny pests can cause stippling and discoloration on the foliage, particularly in dry conditions.
  • Scale Insects: Scale insects can attach themselves to the branches of arborvitae, causing damage and reducing plant vigor.

Botanist’s Tips

From a botanist’s perspective, American arborvitae offers a captivating blend of visual appeal, adaptability, and ornamental value. Here are some tips to consider when cultivating and appreciating this species:

  • Varied Uses: American arborvitae can be utilized as a specimen plant, privacy screen, or accent in mixed borders, showcasing its versatility in diverse landscape settings.
  • Year-Round Interest: With its evergreen foliage and conical form, American arborvitae provides year-round interest and structure in the garden, making it a valuable addition to any landscape.
  • Cultural Adaptability: This plant demonstrates resilience in various growing conditions, including urban environments, coastal areas, and suburban landscapes.

Fun Facts

Exploring the unique characteristics and attributes of American arborvitae can provide valuable insights into the rich natural history and significance of this species. Here are some fun facts about this captivating plant:

  • The name “arborvitae” is derived from the Latin phrase meaning “tree of life,” reflecting the historical significance of this species to indigenous cultures.
  • American arborvitae has been used for various purposes throughout history, including in traditional medicine and as a material for crafting wood products.
  • The compact, columnar growth habit of some American arborvitae cultivars makes them well-suited for narrow planting areas and urban landscapes.

Links to External Resources

To further expand your knowledge and understanding of American arborvitae, I recommend exploring the following resources:

  1. University of Florida IFAS Extension – Thuja occidentalis
  2. Missouri Botanical Garden – Thuja occidentalis
  3. The Morton Arboretum – American Arborvitae

In conclusion, American arborvitae, particularly the Aurea Group cultivars, enrich our landscapes and horticultural practices with their striking foliage, adaptability, and ornamental value. By understanding and implementing the recommended cultural practices and care tips, you can ensure that these plants thrive and contribute to the beauty and vitality of their surroundings. Whether used as a focal point in the garden or as a functional privacy screen, American arborvitae exemplifies the enduring allure of evergreen trees and their long-standing importance in horticulture and landscape design.

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.