Microbiota decussata

Russian Arborvitae




  • native to Russia
  • found above the tree line in the mountains
  • zone 3

Habit and Form

  • a low growing spreading conifer
  • evergreen, with an appearance similar to the low growing junipers
  • generally reaching a height of 12" or so
  • can spread to at least 10' wide
  • foliage is soft and feathery
  • shoots arch over with drooping tips

Summer Foliage

  • foliage is scale-like and prickly to the touch
  • color is a bright green
  • looks much like juniper foliage
  • branchlets in flattened sprays

Autumn Foliage

  • foliage is evergreen, but turns a bronzy-purple color with exposure to cold and sun
  • foliage "greens up" in the spring


  • not of any ornamental importance
  • monoecious with male and female flowers


  • not of any ornamental importance
  • a single, naked seed with basal scales


  • reddish-brown, but not of importance because stems are slender


  • an easily grown plant
  • does not appear to be fussy about soil as long as it is well drained
  • initially touted as the "juniper for shade"
  • although it is tolerant of partial shade, it looks at its best in full sun

Landscape Use

  • a top notch evergreen groundcover
  • a good substitute for juniper
  • useful as an evergreen groundcover in partial shade (not full shade)
  • best used in groupings
  • bank stabilization


  • probably not as shade tolerant as initially reported
  • still somewhat uncommon and hard to find
  • some dislike the purple-bronze needle color in the winter
  • a new plant for which little long term information has been collected

ID Features

  • juniper-like foliage
  • foliage is scale-like and feathery
  • low growing habit with drooping shoot tips
  • winter foliage is purple-bronze


  • by cuttings


  • none

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.