The Eastern Arborvitae is an extremely common evergreen tree or shrub, used often as a specimen, in hedges, or for privacy.  The name “arborvitae,” meaning “tree of life,” because Native Americans reportedly used the tree for medicinal purposes.  The small cones open up to look like small flowers and appeal to birds.  In the forest, the tree can grow up to 50 feet high, but it rarely is that tall in cultivation. There are many cultivars that vary in height and other characteristics.  Eastern Arborvitae is a conical conifer that has a stately appearance and useful as a specimen plant (used alone as a focal point), as a border planting, or anywhere a conical evergreen is appropriate. There is significant variation within the species. This variation is evident in view of the numerous cultivars (more than 80) that vary in size, form, and color. The species is typically slow-growing and quite tolerant of adverse conditions. Arborvitae tolerates dry, alkaline, and moist soils, although growth will be especially slow under these conditions. In contrast to pines, arborvitaes hold their lower foliage with age. A disadvantage of this species is that the green foliage turns an unsightly yellow/brown-green in the winter.