Black American ArborvitaeThuja occidentalis 'Nigra'
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Thuja occidentalis 'Nigra'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Black American Arborvitae is a selected evergreen well-known for its rich, very dark-green foliage. It is reliably green all year round, even in harsh winters, and it doesn’t yellow or bronze. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall in time, with a slender pyramidal shape, just 5 to 10 feet wide. It is perfect for specimens or hedges, trimmed or untrimmed, and it makes an attractive accent among your plants. This bush is very easy to grow and thrives in cold places. Grow it to fill the corners of your yard, cover blank walls and fences, and as a striking accent bush in planters or pots.
Full sun is ideal for the Black American Arborvitae, but it also tolerates a little light shade. It is completely hardy even in zone 3. It grows well in ordinary garden conditions, thriving in all but the driest soils, and growing well in wet ground too. It is normally free of pests or diseases, and once established it will tolerate normal summer drought periods. It can be trimmed from spring to fall, and a little fertilizer will keep it vigorous, lush, and dark, dark green.
There is something deeply satisfying looking at plants with rich, dark green foliage. We are always disturbed by seeing yellowing or browning leaves on our plants – true or not, it makes us automatically think they are sick. In the long winter months that dark green is a reassurance that spring will return, and against black earth or snow it makes a striking contrast. Especially in cooler parts of the country it can be surprisingly difficult to enjoy that color – many evergreens yellow or bronze when exposed to deep cold, and their shabby look only adds to the gloom of winter. You can put all that aside by choosing the Black American Arborvitae for your hedges or specimens. This bush is not only very reliable in colder zones, it is virtually guaranteed to stay rich and green no matter what. It forms a bold column of dark green among your shrubs, or trims into a fantastic hedge, and yes, you get just what it says on the label – dark, dark green.
The Black American Arborvitae is a selected form of the white cedar or eastern arborvitae, and it grows at a moderate rate into a slender pyramidal tree rising 20 feet or more into the air and spreading only 5 to 10 feet wide. It will be about 6 feet tall within 10 years. Regular trimming will keep it much smaller, if you need that, and you can maintain it as a hedge as short as 5 or 6 feet for many years. The tiny leaves are like green scales, clinging tightly to the thin stems in flattened sprays, which grow off the thicker branches. These sprays of lush green live for several years, until hidden by new growth and dropping to the ground inside the tree, forming a natural mulch. Older trees may produce clusters of small, pea-shaped cones that are green and then turn brown in winter. Trimmed plants rarely produce cones. The branches remain green to the ground for many years, but untrimmed plants will eventually become more tree-like, with a strong central trunk covered with an attractive, red-brown, peeling bark.
For a wall of rich dark green, this arborvitae is unbeatable. Plant it as a hedge or screen that will always be rich and lush. Grow it as a specimen on a lawn – alone or in a cluster of 3 or 5 plants – for a striking, bold effect. Grow it in the space between windows around your home or plant a pair to frame a door or gateway. Use it as an accent among shrubs in your borders, or to add height and emphasis to a planting of mixed evergreens. It also looks great in planters and large tubs, as specimens on a terrace, or to give a little privacy in a city garden.
The Black American Arborvitae is amazingly hardy, growing well in zone 3, with winter lows of minus 40. It also grows well in all the warm zones, but not in hot zones 8 and 9, where there are other evergreens that are more suitable. It will survive outdoors in above-ground pots and planters in zone 4.
The Black American Arborvitae grows well in full sun, and unlike many other conifer evergreens it also tolerates a little partial shade, as long as it has sun for most of the day. Afternoon shade can be beneficial in hotter areas, but too much will cause weak, open growth. This easy-care plant grows in almost all garden soils, acid or alkaline, and in clays too. It should not be planted in dry sands, unless there is regular watering available. This plant is one of the few conifer evergreens that grows well in wet soil, so it is ideal for low-lying and damp spots, and for planting alongside streams, ponds and lakes. It even tolerates periodic flooding.
Pests and diseases are rare, and mostly caused by growing in very dry conditions. Water new plants regularly until they are well-established. Fertilize with an evergreen fertilizer in spring and again in early summer, especially if you are trimming your plants frequently. Trim as needed from late spring to early fall – the more you trim the denser and more solid your plants will be. Always trim so that the bottom of the bush or hedge is a little wider than the top, to keep the branches green right to the ground. Do not cut back to bare stems, which cannot re-sprout – there must be some green leaves left for regrowth to be possible. For trimmed hedges, space plants 3 feet apart in a row. For untrimmed screening, space 5 to 8 feet apart, depending on how dense you want it to be. For attractive natural clusters in the corners of your yard, or as features, use an uneven number of plants, and space irregularly, between 5 and 8 feet apart to preserve the individual identity of each tree.
The eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis, is also called American arborvitae and white cedar. It was called ‘arbor-vitae’, which means ‘tree of Life’, after the French explorer Jacques Cartier saw men on his expedition saved from scurvy with a tea given them by native Americans. He took plants back from what was then called New France for the King’s gardens. The foliage of arborvitae has more vitamin C than oranges. This tree grows wild in eastern and central Canada, and down into Illinois, Ohio, New York and in mountain areas to North Carolina. It is often found near water and in swamps and wet-lands. The Black American Arborvitae is a variety called ‘Nigra’, an older, well-established selection of this tree. We don’t know exactly where it came from, but it was first mentioned in a book on conifers written in 1933 by the American botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey, so it probably originated in an American nursery, most likely as a unique seedling tree.
There are many cheap plants of arborvitae available, but they are usually grown from seed, which produces mixed plants with uncertain characteristics. They certainly won’t be the rich, reliable color of the Black American Arborvitae, so why settle for second-rate? This reliable variety is always in high demand, and our stock will soon be gone. Order now and put the days of yellowing plants behind you.