Cedars are seriously terrific trees — evergreen, stunning texture and usually fairly easy to grow. Blue atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica) native to north Africa are common in our area. They can grow to be huge specimens, like the one to the right at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. The Chesapeake Bay region has its own magnificent native cedar tree — the Eastern red cedar.
Eastern red cedar (Juniper virginiana), left, has a narrower shape but also can grow to 40′ to 65′ in height. This tree has it all – gorgeous texture with elegant draping year round, beautiful bark on mature trees, tons of blue berries on females, and that aromatic cedar fragrance. The Eastern red cedar is well adapted to clay soils and other local conditions and very easy to grow as long as it isn’t sitting in moisture.
The male and female trees shown above on the left were planted long ago as a screen in our small 1/8 acre garden. They provide great bird habitat in the winter and oodles of berries shown below. We cut branches for winter decorations and they are just really interesting trees year round. Eastern red cedars are also widely sold in a range of sizes. I like to buy the inexpensive smaller ones for containers and once they outgrow the container, plant them in the ground.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Eastern red cedar has the best drought tolerance of any native conifer. They grow well in sun and partial shade. There are also a number of smaller cultivars including shrubs.
Birds love this tree. The Cedar waxwing is actually named after the Eastern red cedar. The tree is also the larval host for the olive butterfly. That’s another thing about natives; they provide certain functions non-native trees can’t, such as hosting the larva of certain insect or butterflies.
Eastern red cedars should not be planted near apple orchards as they can host cedar apple rust. Other than that, it’s hard to go wrong with an Eastern red cedar!
For more information:
Click here for more information from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
For a list of commonly available smaller cultivars, scroll to the bottom of this fact sheet from the Morton Arboretum.