Photo by Melody

Growing Thuja From Seeds

By Adina Dosan (adinamitiFebruary 25, 2009

It all began a few years ago, when my husband said it would be nice to have some Thujas in our future garden. I knew they were really expensive at the nursery, so I thought I'd better try and start some from seeds.

Gardening picture

ImageLike all gardeners, I love sowing seeds and seeing the plants pop up. So I took a few seeds from the Thuja hedges in the park and sowed them in a pot. Soon some small, delicate thujas popped out, looking like tiny little laces.




They have been growing in pots until this past summer, when we finally had our long-awaited garden where we could plant them!


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The best time for planting bushes and trees is in late spring or early fall, as many of you already know. I waited until September and decided it was time to plant the thujas.  I love thuja hedges and I already knew how wonderful it feels to come home through a green thuja "tunnel" since I had one in the garden where we lived before.



That helped me decide where to plant my thujas: along the sidewalk in front of our house. First, I measured the ground for the four holes so they would be evenly spaced and symmetrical. The holes were deep enough so the thuja's roots would be covered. I poured water in the holes because it was hot outside, even if it was September. 

Image Image ImageI took the plants from their pots without disturbing the roots.  They needed to be transplanted as their pots were too small, but I couldn't have potted them up earlier because I didn't have enough space for all four thujas in bigger pots in the apartment we lived before.

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Finally, the thujas were planted and looking husband's dream came true! But then I realised I didn't know anything about the thuja, except for the name and their easy growing nature. I started to search for information and this is what I found.


ImageThe complete name of this beautiful conifer is Platycladus orientalis (a synonym is Thuja orientalis).  Platycladus is a distinct genus of evergreen coniferous tree in the cypress family Cupressaceae.  The genus has just the one species, Platycladus orientalis, which is commonly known as Chinese or Eastern arborvitae, Oriental white cedar and Thuja orientalis. The Latin name 'arborvitae'  means 'tree of life', or 'ce bo' in Chinese and it is based on its association with long life and vitality in Buddhist thought. This probably comes from the tree's evergreen nature in the cold dry climate and from its longevity. Some of the larger specimens, such as those planted arround the Buddhist temples in China, are said to be more than 1,000 years old. Ancient writings such as Genesis refer to Thuja orientalis as "arborvitae." King Solomon used stone and thuja wood for building the temple in Jerusalem. In ancient Egypt, some writings are mentioning the arborvitae being worshiped as a sacred tree.

Image Although it is the only species in its genus, some sources have suggested that the closely related species Microbiota decussata could be included in Platycladus along with other close relatives in the Juniperus and Cupressus genera, which are graft-compatible with Platycladus.




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ImageIn the past, Platycladus was usually classified as Thuja, but there are distinct differences between the plants, including cones (Platycladus has cones; Thuja does not); along with Platycladus having wingless seeds and non-aromatic foliage. As with the American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), many varieties of Platycladus have been cultivated, including dwarf forms just 2 to 3 feet tall, to numerous other shapes, heights and colors. Platycladus orientalis is easily recognized by its compact, conical form.  Its lowest branches grow low to the ground, with leafy twigs branching on the edge and flattened vertical sprays of needles.[1]

Thuja is a rather small and slow-growing tree, reaching 50-65 feet (15-20 m) in height, with a trunk about 20 inches (0.5 m) in diameter.  Extremely old trees can reach 100 feet (30 m) in height with a spread of 75-80 inches (approximately 2 m) in diameter and may grow multiple trunks, each up to 6 inches in diameter.  Thujas are symmetrically branched, resinous and with aromatic foliage. Their brown bark is fibrous and "shreddy."[2]




ImageUpclose, Thuja leaves are an oblique, flattened scale, measuring just a quarter-inch wide, with gland dots on the backs.  The cones ripen in pairs of scales that are about 3/8 inch and end in a hooked point.  Thujas have a small blue bloom and a pleasant fragrance when are crushed. The cones split open at maturity, allowing two wingless seeds about 1/8 inch long to fall out. 





Old open cones remain on the tree at least a few months. Platycladus are monoecious, having both male and female cones on the same plant.








Thuja is widely used as an ornamental tree and for hedges and living fences. In China and Korea, the wood is used in Buddhist temples, both for construction and chipped for incense burning.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese used Platycladus orientalis for therapeutical purposes as long as 3000 years ago. Some of its best therapeutical applications are in uterine bleeding and bronchitis.

Now that I know all these facts, it seems I made the perfect choice to sow those Platycladus orientalis seeds for planting it in my garden. You should try it too, it's fun!



Special thanks for sharing their pictures: Growin, Todd_Boland, Xenomorf.


[1] Wikipedia listing for Platycladus orientalis

[2] Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

  About Adina Dosan  
Adina DosanAdina is a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share her experience. Follow her on Google.

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