Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Golden Elkhorn Cedar



Graceful, open, subtly-colorful:  Too cool for Arborvitae!  Golden Elkhorn Cedar is, indeed, an eyecatcher, making Arborvitae seem as dense and lumpy as bad dumplings.  How exciting that the warmer gold of the foliage tips shows up against the softer green of the mature foliage at the interior.  Arborvitae is so much denser you can't see very far into the interior at all—and it's so shady in there that all you'd see are bare twigs, anyway.


Thujopsis, by contrast, are evergreens with depth in every sense.  It's even interesting upside down: Look at the white underside of each little scale. 




But there are the "buts."  Arborvitae are hardy north of Ottawa but Thujopsis usually aren't hardy north of Hartford.  Arborvitae can handle full sun and neglect but Thujopsis scorch if they don't get the moisture or shade they need. 




On the other hand, any Thujopsis is automatically an achievement, a conversation piece.  Who talks about an Arborvitae?



Here's how to grow this graceful and uncommon evergreen:

Latin Name

Thujopsis dolabrata 'Aurea'

Common Name

Golden Elkhorn Cedar


Cupressaceae, the Cypress family.

What kind of plant is it?

Evergreen coniferous tree.


Zone 6 to 8.


Mounding but eventually broadly upright.

Rate of Growth


Size in ten years

To five or six feet tall and three to four feet across.  Ultimately a tree, though, not a bush.


Thujopsis foliage is noticeably looser, more open, and larger than that of its arborvitae cousins, bringing a feathery texture that's indelibly memorable.  People remember the first time they were introduced to Thujopsis

Grown for

its foliage.  The new growth on 'Aurea' is a soft yellow, in subtly-telling contrast with the darker green foliage of the plant's interior.  The loose and open foliage texture is, happily, perfect for displaying this color gradient. 


its rarity.  Thujopsis have an unusually-narrow hardiness range, from Zone 6 to 8.  Plus, they are slower-growing than arborvitae, and hence more expensive to buy at even moderate size.  Plus they are more fussy about soil and moisture.  No wonder you don't see them often.

Flowering season

The flowers aren't showy; they lead to modest 3/4-inch cones.


Thujopsis need your cooperation to thrive.  Provide rich soil, shelter from sharp Winter wind, and mid-day or afternoon shade if there's a possibility your soil might get dry in the Summer.  It's often easiest to treat Thujopsis as a plant for part-shade all day long; while they'll handle a lot of sun provided they don't lack for water, they fear drought more than shade.  Not an evergreen for a low-humidity climate.

How to handle it

Thujopsis are evergreens to plant well and then let grow ad libitum.  Ideally, site to the north or east sides of high-canopy shade trees like locusts or oaks so the plant is spared hot afternoon sun.


It can be difficult to prune without degrading their distinctive loose and feathery foliage texture.  But if you do need to control overall size, reach into the foliage and cut out entire small branches instead of pruning at the surface, which would only encourage densely-branching new growth.


Although Thujopsis is slow-growing, they're ultimately large trees.  Larger specimens are less suceptible to drought—thank goodness, because they're also harder to grow in shade as they get larger and larger.


Highlight the foliage texture by partnering with large-leaved shade-loving perennials like hostas, shade-loving hydrangeas, and shiny-leaved broadleaved evergreens for shade like rhododendrons, aucubas, and camellias.   


Thujopsis have fairly specific cultural requirements, and if you can't provide them you're out of luck.  Their narrow hardiness range is also limiting.  At least they're free of pests and diseases. 


There are only a few Thujopsis flavors out there, but the species is so subtly graceful that if you can grow it at all, you may well be tempted to grow all of them.  In addition to the softly yellow-leaved Aurea, there's a patchily white-variegated Variegata, as well as an all-green coral-like Cristata.  A mounding Nana is all green and doesn't get taller than three feet.  It's perhaps the easiest long-term choice for providing the part shade Thujopsis enjoys at every age:  Nana will never outgrow the shade-providing tree or shrub you paired it with. 


T. dolabrata 'Hondai' is a bit denser and hardier, but don't get any ideas that it's therefore a tough guy that doesn't need the same thoughtful siting as any other Thujopsis.


On-line as well as, occasionally, at retailers.


By cuttings started in a cool greenhouse in late Fall.  Thujopsis are unusually easy to root.  The seeds, by contrast, are difficult to germinate.

Native habitat

Thujopsis is native to Japan.

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