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True cedars are the ancient ones — the trees of legend, mythology, palaces, ships, and medicines. They are also spectacular landscape trees with many interesting and colorful varieties to choose from.
Many trees are called “cedar,” but there are only four species of true cedar. One is native to the Himalayas, and the other three come from the southern and eastern Mediterranean. They are in the Pine family, in the genus Cedrus, and they have whorls of needles along the branches, and fat, upright cones. They were historically the timber of choice of the ancients were used in the palace of King David and the Temple of Solomon of the Bible. The other “cedars” are aromatic, coniferous trees of northern North America and East Asia that are good for fencing and construction, and have moth-repelling, termite- and rot-resistant properties. They are in the Juniperus, Thuja, Chamaecyparis, and Calocedrus genera, and are all in the Cypress family. They mainly have sprays of scaly foliage, and woody, leathery, or berry-like cones.
In their native habitat, cedars can grow well over 100’ tall, but in a garden setting, the maximum size is about 50’. Dwarf cedars grows considerably smaller, and miniature varieties can be tiny, good for rock gardens and even trained as bonsai. The colors range from green to blue-green to powdery blue, and there are even varieties with yellow-gold foliage. True cedars prefer deep, rich soil, but will grow in almost any soil type as long as it is well drained.
SELECTING THE RIGHT CEDAR
Cedars grow best in USDA hardiness zones of 6 to 9, which take in much of the United States, and they prefer full sun to partial shade. If you have a large property, a full-sized cedar would do well as an accent. Dwarf or miniature cedars would be perfect for small gardens, containers, rock gardens, or urban settings. And since there are various colored cedars to choose from, plan your color scheme according to what will stand out against and go with the existing plantings for the best outcome. If you would like a recommendation for a variety of true cedar, let us know, and we’ll help you with your choice.