The Sugar and Spice Arborvitae is a smaller form of western red-cedar, that is ideal for accent plants or narrow hedges. Best of all, its light-green, ferny foliage stays bright green all winter long, unlike most other forms of this plant. The last thing you want in a small space is a brown hedge all winter, and with this tree that will never happen. Easily trimmed, or dense enough to look great when grown naturally, you will love the calm look this plant brings, making a graceful accent, or a crisp green backdrop to your garden. It can also be grown in containers and planters successfully for years.
- Slender, upright evergreen for smaller spaces
- Reliably green all winter long
- Perfect for accents or slim hedges
- Can be grown naturally, or trimmed as needed
- Grows well in both sun and partial shade
Areas with cooler, damper summers are perfect for the Sugar and Spice Arborvitae, which thrives in almost any soil, except for very dry ones and very wet ones. Unlike many other evergreens, it will grow equally well in sun or in a significant amount of partial shade. Unlike most other arborvitae, deer usually leave it alone. It has no significant pests or diseases, and it is easy to grow across a large part of the country.
Evergreens come in many varieties, and when planting hedges or specimens it always pays to choose one suited for your climate and conditions. If you garden in areas that are not too hot and dry in summer, or too cold in winter, then Western Red-cedar is a choice evergreen for you, with a good growth rate, rich green foliage, and the added advantage of deer resistance. It does have one fault though – in winter it often turns bronzy brown, looking unattractive at exactly the time when evergreens are most prominent, and most appreciated, in our gardens. The Sugar and Spice Arborvitae is different. It never bronzes in winter, but instead stays rich, bright green all year round. As well, it stays slim and upright, creating natural accents without trimming, or becoming an excellent narrow hedge for restricted spaces. This lovely plant, with its aromatic foliage, is a real winner.
Growing Sugar and Spice Arborvitae Trees
The Sugar and Spice Arborvitae grows at a moderate pace into a slender, upright column of green, reaching 7 to 10 feet in ten years, but staying slim, barely more than 2 feet wide. The foliage is in flattened sprays, with the tiny bright-green leaves growing tightly attached to the surface of the slender branchlets. These stay green for several years before they fall, having by then been replaced by new growth. The growth is much finer than in the parent species, giving this tree an almost fern-like look. The young stems are orange-brown, becoming red-brown on older branches, and the mature bark is fibrous and peels off in long strips. The foliage has a lovely ‘cedar’ aroma when crushed, and most importantly, it remains green all year round, throughout the coldest months, never bronzing or browning, so never becomes unsightly. Older trees may produce small, globular cones of no great significance.
Every garden needs vertical accents, and evergreens easily give us those, all year round. Many of them grow too large for smaller spaces, but the Sugar and Spice Arborvitae is a perfect size – indeed, it is small enough to use for container accents too. Planted as a single plant in a small space, or in groups of three in larger ones, it is the perfect eye-catching accent. Dense enough without clipping to be very low-maintenance, you can also clip it as needed for a tight, more formal look. For a slim hedge, either clipped or unclipped, this plant is perfect. Space 15 to 18 inches apart in a row, and you have great screening and a lovely look in a hedge 6 to 8 feet tall, but barely 2 feet wide.
The Sugar and Spice Arborvitae grows easily in almost any kind of soil. It will grow best in moist and fertile soil, but it must be well-drained, as wet and boggy conditions are not suitable. Neither is very dry, rocky soil, and this plant has only moderate resistance to drought. It is ideal for areas with damper summers that do not become too hot and dry. It grows well in full sun, but also, unlike other arborvitae, it is quite tolerant of partial shade and grows under deciduous trees well. If the shade is a little too deep the growth will be more open, but otherwise still healthy. It is hardy to zone 5, but for colder zones we recommend the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardy to zone 2. For hotter and drier areas, or for a larger screen, consider Thuja Green Giant, and for the driest places, take a look at the Italian Cypress, or some of the upright Junipers, both are very drought resistant. You can find all these plants on our site.
A great advantage to the Sugar and Spice Arborvitae is its resistance to deer, compared to other arborvitae trees. It is generally left alone by them, but of course, those unpredictable animals can never be guaranteed not to take a nibble. Still, if you have deer around you, and want evergreens, this is the best choice evergreen. Other pests or diseases are virtually non-existent, and this tree is very easy to grow in ordinary garden conditions.
History and Origins of Sugar and Spice Arborvitae Trees
The Sugar and Spice Arborvitae is a selected form of the western red-cedar, Thuja plicata. Growing in forests in the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia through Washington State and Oregon, this tree grows to great heights, well over 100 feet tall and approaching 200 feet in the tallest specimens. It is an important lumber tree, but it is also widely grown in America and Europe for hedges. In 1989, in Unden, the Netherlands, Kees de Jong noticed an unusual branch on a plant of Thuja plicata `Gelderland`. These mutated branches, called ‘branch sports’, are the source of many of our unique evergreen varieties, and Kees took pieces from this unique branch and grew plants from it. He found it retained its unusual characteristics, being lighter green, with finer foliage, a narrow habit, and green leaves all winter. He named it ‘De Rakt’, and eventually, in 2009, it was patented in the USA. It was released by Concept Plants, a breeders’ consortium, and it is grown under license by Star Roses and Plants, a division of Balls Horticulture, and Greenleaf Plants. We are excited to have this terrific plant available. We really love the green winter foliage, which makes it so valuable.