Eastern Red Cedar in the Landscape

Though many view Eastern Red Cedars, (Juniperus virginiana), as weeds in abandoned sites, we love the native Cedar for its sturdy evergreen structure in the landscape. In our native plant landscape designs, here at  The Natural Garden we use Red Cedars as a dense native hedge or scattered in groups in savanna and meadow plantings. As early successional pioneer species, they grow quite quickly and are greatly adaptable even in poor and dry soils. They thrive in full sun to light shade conditions and can also tolerate occasional flooding and wet conditions– they can grow almost anywhere in Virginia, even happily from a sheer rock quarry cliff! They create great nesting cover for birds and the berries provide food for wildlife.

Cedars create privacy

Dense staggered cedars create a private savannah oasis in the city. Photo: The Natural Garden

The Natural Garden nursery carries the straight, (non-cultivar), Cedar in containers. Red Cedars can vary slightly in character according to the individual genetics of each tree creating thousands of sub-species. By using the straight species, we keep the natural genetic variation that is found in nature. Cultivars such as ‘Burkii,’ which is slightly blue, or ‘Taylor,’ which is very upright, are available at some nurseries and are great if you need them for a specific landscape purpose.

The 'berries' of Juniperus virginiana are actually cones, made up of tiny scales. Photo: Toni Genberg

The ‘berries’ of Juniperus virginiana are actually cones, made up of tiny scales. Photo: Toni Genberg

Red Cedars should be planted in warmer months when they are not in danger of freeze damage. Freeze damage occurs when the needles become desiccated from wind and winter sun, while the tree is not able to replenish moisture because of frozen soil conditions. Planting in warmer months is ideal, though care to water consistently should be taken in midsummer until the trees are established. This could be anywhere from February until October, depending on your area, and gives the trees time to root out before winter.

Cedars grow fast! Be sure to place them at least 4 or 5 feet away from a building space them at least 6 feet apart, but consult with a nursery professional or landscape designer for your specific situation. Cedars can grow anywhere up to 50’ but here in the Shenandoah Valley we typically see them around 25′-35’ unless they have avoided the chainsaw and then can reach the more rare 50′. We’ve used large balled and burlapped trees on projects, but you’ll see a more steady growth when starting with a 1 gallon or 3 gallon tree, and you can use the money saved to buy more native plants!

Featured Red Cedar Project:

 Cedars provide an excellent evergreen backdrop for a riot of color around a native plant pond garden.

Cedars provide an excellent evergreen backdrop for a riot of color around a native plant pond garden. Photo: The Natural Garden

A client wanted full privacy in her backyard and wanted to create a garden that was a bird sanctuary. The large Red Cedars we installed provided instant year round privacy as well as cover for birds. We planted a diversity of flowering perennials and grasses to create a rain garden and a savannah style meadow landscape.

 Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, (Callophrys gryneus), depends completely on Eastern Red Cedar - the only host plant in the east for its caterpillars. Photo: Devin Floyd

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, (Callophrys gryneus), depends completely on Eastern Red Cedar – the only host plant in the east for its caterpillars. Photo: Devin Floyd

By Agustina Hein
Lead Landscape Designer
The Natural Garden, Inc.

Harrisonburg, VA
The Natural Garden

Note: The Natural Garden is our newest addition to the VNPS Native Nursery List. We would love for all of our nurseries to submit helpful articles like this one! Contact the office with “Blog Post” in the subject line.  Send to: vnps.org@gmail.com

 

Comments

  1. Gail Sandifer says:

    I enjoyed seeing the garden created by Augustina and reading her article. It was informative. The garden reminds me of a wood clearing one might come upon on a walk. Hopefully, the owner was appreciative and is enjoying her little bit of heaven!

  2. Marjorie Smith says:

    As a homeowner, I when I found little volunteers of this cedar, Juniperis virginiana, I moved them to a holding area where I could grow them on. After about 2 years, I had 2 declining Leyland Cypresses removed and transplanted 5 of the cedars, now 4 feet high, staggered 5 feet apart in the area. With a front of native perennials, I am looking forward to seeing this bed mature.

    • VNPS Communications says:

      Marjorie, what a delightful story! Thank you for taking the time to tell us about it. Best of luck with your native plantings!

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