You can see arborvitae trees used all over in residential and commercial landscapes. They are a favorite of professional landscapers and homeowners across temperate and cold North American climates. Available in different heights, shapes, and colors, it is easy to understand why the low-maintenance arborvitae is a staple of urban, suburban, and rural American landscapes.
Generally, arborvitaes are easy to care for, dense, hardy shrubs or trees. They thrive in most USDA growing zones across the country, and their iconic foliage remains on the plant year-round. Arborvitaes are typically planted closely together to create hedges, but there are many ways to add them to your yard and garden.
9 Different Ways to Landscape With Arborvitae
1. Conceal Your Yard With a Privacy Screen
Arborvitaes quickly grow into dense barriers that are perfect for creating year-round seclusion in your yard. Plant them along the sides of your yard that flank neighboring houses, around a hot tub, or anywhere you want a little extra privacy. Their thick growth absorbs sounds, too, muffling commotion from busy streets or noisy neighbors.
In-ground plantings create a permanent structure and are helpful when covering a large area. If you’re leasing a home and can’t plant anything in-ground, use container plants to build a privacy screen.
2. Block Harsh Breezes With a Windbreak
Some of the reasons arborvitae make such great privacy screens also make them excellent windbreaks. Windbreaks are commonly used in agriculture to protect crops, but you can plant them to protect your yard and house. When grown perpendicular to the prevailing wind in your area, they reduce wind behind them, creating a more pleasant space to enjoy.
The reduced wind also decreases soil erosion and water loss and protects your home from heat and cold. Since the soil dries out slower, you can reduce how often you irrigate or how much water you use. As the arborvitae redirect wind, it can also cut down on the money spent on heating and cooling.
3. Build a Sustainable Living Fence
If you’re looking for a versatile, sustainable alternative to a standard manufactured fence, you can use arborvitaes to create a living wall instead. A living fence is a permanent hedge of trees or shrubs planted closely together. As they grow, they intertwine to create a tight, formidable barrier almost as functional as a metal or vinyl fence.
These living fences also support ecological diversity by providing a habitat for small animals, beneficial insects, and birds. Once established, they require little maintenance compared to a regular fence—no need to replace old hardware or stain planks.
4. Disguise Unattractive Eyesores
Thick arborvitaes are also highly effective at hiding the things you don’t want to see in your yard. Plant them around your patio or deck to conceal the bare open space underneath or around the foundation to cover the drab concrete. You can also use potted or in-ground shrubs to hide your compost pile, garbage bins, or air conditioner.
5. Create Corridors or Walkways
Using landscaping plants like arborvitae is a great way to delineate pathways through your yard and garden. These borders accentuate the walkway, keeping people where you want them. Build a perimeter around your garden using dwarf or globe varieties to prevent heavily shaded areas. Or flank a garden path with tall varieties to create a dreamy, mysterious passage.
6. Soften Fences or Other Hardscaping Elements
Hardscaping elements create beautiful angles and lines within your landscaping, but paths, fences, patios, and retaining walls can also be stark and jarring. Plant pyramidal or globe-shaped arborvitae to soften the look, enhancing the contrasting linear design features. Since plants are evergreen, they provide consistent color, shape, and texture regardless of the time of year.
7. Mix With Other Shrubs For Contrast
One of the many reasons arborvitaes are well-liked is because they come in a range of colors (from deep green to lighter greenish-yellow) and heights. These different varieties make it easy to pair with other shrubs to create an elegant contrast. When creating mixed plantings, you can create the difference in many ways.
- Pair the lacy needle-like leaves of arborvitaes with broadleaf boxwoods to accent the foliage.
- Plant dark green varieties to highlight boldly-colored forsythia or burning bushes.
- Mix shorter plants like inkberry or wintergreen euonymus to create depth in your garden with the different heights.
8. Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Front Entrance
Ornamental plants are a beautiful way to adorn the front of your house, but they can require a fair amount of maintenance. Planting arborvitaes instead gives you instant curb appeal while keeping the maintenance low. Use taller varieties on the porch to create the illusion of columns or set container-grown plants flanking the front door to welcome guests.
9. Keep Common Spaces Tidy
Flowering perennials and even small trees or shrubs make excellent accents along your patio or pool, creating privacy screens. Still, many species are herbaceous and drop their leaves in the fall. Adding arborvitae to these spaces or courtyards offers year-long greenery, shade, and privacy without worrying about cleaning up leaves. Container-grown arborvitaes also grow shorter, allowing you to control their height carefully.