Description & Overview

Holmstrup Arborvitae is a lovely cultivar of the Wisconsin native Thuja occidentalis (Northern White Cedar) with a more pyramidal form, narrow habit, and shorter height at maturity. The rich green, tufted foliage is arranged in soft, vertical sprays and holds onto its green color throughout the winter. Slow-growing at about 8 to 12 inches per year, Holmstrup Arborvitae will reach a height of 12 to 16 feet with a 2 to 4-foot spread. Versatile in use, Holmstrup is a good option for a mid-height screen or hedge and also looks great singly planted.

Core Characteristics

Category: Conifer

Wisconsin Native: No - Variety of North American Native

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 12-16 feet

Mature Spread: 2-4 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Compact, narrow, pyramidal

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Average, well-drained

Flower: N/A

Bloom Period: N/A

Foliage: Medium green

Fall Color: Medium green

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Abundant 1/3 - ½ inch light brown seed cones

Suggested Uses

For the best growth, Holmstrup Arborvitae should be planted in full sun in well-draining soils. Although it will tolerate part shade, growth will be dramatically diminished and the foliage will become less dense. Heavy clay soils are not detrimental but light and loamy soil allows the roots to spread and take up plenty of nutrients and water. Arborvitae prefers soils that are neutral to alkaline-perfect for southeastern Wisconsin.

Holmstrup Arborvitae is excellent as a privacy hedge in combination with a traditional fence or by itself in a line of multiples. Be cognizant of salt as Arborvitae do not tolerate it very well. With dense foliage, Holmstrup Arborvitae will help block out noisy roads or neighbors; simply line the property with them and you’ll soon realize what you’ve been missing all along!

It can also be used as a windbreak, although, due to its slow growth rate, we recommend getting large plants right off the bat if you’re using them for this purpose.

This cultivar can be used as a low hedge where some privacy or separation is desired, but there’s no need for heights to reach up to a second story. For instance, it would be perfect for outlining your front yard or blocking the view to a swimming pool or patio. Picture a line of Holmstrup leading away from either side of a front gate with an arch. Ah, lovely.

Its dwarf form makes this perfect as a foundation planting. Have a bare-looking entryway? Try one of these on each side of the entrance by the front door to make an elegant statement.

Wildlife Value

A cultivar of the Wisconsin native Northern White Cedar, Holmstrup Arborvitae supports quite a few creatures. While it may not be as beneficial as the native, it does have its merits.

Deer, Snowshoe Hares, and porcupines will heavily browse the foliage, which you may or may not want. If your goal is to feed wildlife, this is a great option. If it’s not, well, there are less palatable choices such as a Star Power Juniper.

Carpenter ants are an associated ‘pest’ for Arborvitae but attract insectivorous birds such as Pileated Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Blackburnian Warblers, Ovenbirds, Northern Parulas, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Winter Wrens, and White-throated Sparrows who enjoy ants as a snack. Supporting our declining songbird population is a good thing!

Arborvitae in general is a host plant for many different insects including the Arborvitae Leafminer moth (Argyresthia thuiella), Brown Angle Shades (Phlogophora periculosa), Chain-dotted Geometer (Cingilia catenaria), Curved-lined Angle (Digrammia continuata), Evergreen Bagworm moth (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis), Juniper Geometer (Patalene olyzonaria), Large Maple Spanworm moth (Prochoerodes lineola), Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata), Pine Measuringworm moth (Hypagyrtis piniata), Cranberry Spanworm moth (Ematurga amitaria), the Joker (Feralia jocosa), and the Variegated Midget (Elaphria versicolor).

The dense foliage provides birds and other animals with cover, habitat, and nesting locations.

Maintenance Tips

Holmstrup Arborvitae is easy to grow and low-maintenance. Thuja occidentalis are tolerant of drought once they are established. It is important to deeply water newly planted Arborvitae to help the roots anchor and stay healthy. Adding mulch around the base of your planting will reduce plant stress and retain soil moisture.

Arborvitae handles pruning and shearing like a champ, but pruning is typically not necessary as they hold their shape well. In those instances where pruning is a must, only trim back the new growth of the current season and remove dieback. Any shearing should be done in early spring before the first flush of new growth.

You shouldn’t need to fertilize your tree, but you can do so before new growth pushes in spring.

Contrary to popular belief, wrapping evergreens in winter is not needed and can hold ice and snow against the needles far longer, causing winter burn and damage. Holmstrup Arborvitae is hardy and cold-tolerant to Zone 3 (most of Wisconsin is Zone 5).


Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Deer love to eat Arborvitae and the soft needles are like candy to our leggy friends. If you have heavy deer pressure in your area, you may want to go with a less palatable option such as a spikier juniper. If you’ve only an occasional snackortunist, you can either accept the nibbling or try using deer fencing or deterrent sprays like Bobbex.

Ensuring your trees are not stressed (proper siting and water application) is also important so the plant has the strength to combat being browsed upon. Note that flooding or higher-than-normal water levels will reduce growth and may eventually kill trees.

Holmstrup Arborvitae has few issues with pests or diseases. Bagworm larvae may sometimes happen, but they can be difficult to spot until they’ve already formed their bags and begun chewing. Inspect your trees in the fall when eggs are laid, and again in May through June when they hatch. The least damaging removal method is hand-picking or cutting the bags from the plants. If this is too difficult (and gross), contact an arborist for assistance.

Spider mites are the other pest that can afflict Arborvitae. They are incredibly tiny and tough to see with the naked eye. An indicator that there is a problem is that foliage begins to turn a dull green. Mites are difficult to treat and require multiple applications of a targeted product to avoid harming beneficial insects. We recommend contacting an arborist for assistance.

The best prevention is appropriate care. Make sure your Arborvitae are watered properly and a mulch ring is applied around the base of the tree to help reduce moisture loss and protect the roots in winter.

Leaf Lore

The genus name Thuja is Greek for “a kind of juniper,” while the specific epithet occidentalis means “from the Western (Occidental) world.” Techny originated as a seedling selected in the 1960s at Mission Gardens in Techny, Illinois, and is the origin of the cultivar name.

The mother plant, Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) reaches ages over 800 years!

Thuja occidentalis in general was used by several Indigenous tribes for many purposes. Arborvitae foliage is rich in vitamin C and was used to treat scurvy. All parts of Northern White Cedar as a cough syrup, a deodorant, a disinfectant to fumigate for smallpox, to treat headaches, and as a smudge to revive unconscious people. Wood was made into canoe ribs, fishing spears, and toboggans, and bark was used for weaving bags.

Leaves have been used in steam baths to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and colds.

Companion Plants

Add diversity to your green screen by combining Holmstrup Arborvitae with Star Power Juniper, Taylor Juniper, Cypress Spruce, Hill Dundee Juniper, Pyramidal Arborvitae, Burkii Juniper, Degroot’s Spire, Eastern White Pine, Norway Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Techny Arborvitae, Mountbatten Juniper, Iowa Juniper, or Emerald Arborvitae.

Use Holmstrup Arborvitae as a backdrop to colorful plants such as Redosier Dogwood, Royal Raindrops Crabapple, Glossy Black Chokeberry, Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, St. John’s Wort, Center Glow Ninebark, American Filbert, or Winterberry.

Holmstrup Arborvitae is a lovely cultivar of the Wisconsin native Thuja occidentalis (Northern White Cedar) with a more pyramidal form, narrow habit, …
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Written by Beth DeLain