Foliage tends to discolor in winter. This species is tolerant of shearing. Prefers consistent moisture but not wet soil. Keep mulched to moderate soil temperature swings. Best growth occurs in full sun to part shade.
Unlike the closely related western red-cedar (Thuja plicata), northern white-cedar is only a small or medium-sized tree, growing to a height of 15 m (49 ft) tall with a 0.9 m (3.0 ft) trunk diameter, exceptionally to 38 metres (125 ft) tall and 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) diameter. The tree is often stunted or prostrate in less favorable locations. The bark is red-brown, furrowed and peels in narrow, longitudinal strips. Northern white-cedar, often under the name arborvitae, is widely used as an ornamental tree, particularly for screens and hedges, in gardens, parks and cemeteries.