How to Grow and Care for Cedar Shrubs (Trees)

Tree Branch

About Growing Cedar Trees in Your Yard

As a member of the evergreen family, Cedar shrubs are hardy and easy to grow. While most of us refer to them as shrubs, they are actually cedar trees. They make great privacy or border hedges when planted in rows. And, we all know that wood from cedar, with its great, aromatic scent, is used for closets and chests to store your clothes.

The most common types of cedar shrubs are Northern White Cedar and Western Red cedar, which originated in North America. They are classified as members of the Cypress family. 

Once planted, these shrubs require little care and maintenance. Annual pruning keeps them healthy and in a desirable shape. Cedar shrubs benefit from providing some winter protection against both deer, and damage from ice and snow. It is also important to plant them at least 3 feet or more from sidewalks and roadways that are salted in winter. High levels of salt, can kill the plants.

You can grow cedar shrubs in pots and containers on your balcony or deck. Select a pot or container big enough for the plant, allowing for growth.

A tree or a shrub? Like its cousin Arborvitae trees, cedar is also classified as a tree. But, it is okay, if you refer to them as shrubs or bushes.

Plant height: These trees grow up to 30 feet tall.

Plant Hardiness Zones: 7 – 9

Botanical Name: Thuja Occindetalis

Cedar Shrubs Propagation

While many homeowners buy shrubs from a nursery, you can grow your own. New cedar shrubs are propagated by seeds or cuttings.

When growing from seed, collect seeds in the fall. Start in peat pots indoors in early spring, or sow directly into a seedbed outdoors in the spring. Transplant seedlings into a garden several weeks later.  

To grow from cuttings, cut a 4-5 inch branch of new growth. Strip away the lower leaves. Plant in coarse, well-draining sand. Keep the soil moist.

About Seed Germination

How to Grow Cedar Shrubs

Established plants will grow and thrive for many years, with only a little pruning and care. While they prefer slightly acidic soil, they will grow in a variety of soils, from clay to sandy loam. The plant grows best in moist, well-draining soil. Grow them in full sun or partial shade.

Cedar shrubs are grown as foundation plants around homes and buildings, as hedgerows, or as a border fences.

Select a location for planting. and dig a wide, deep hole. Mix in generous amounts of compost or peat moss. Place the plant in the hole, and fill it with soil. Tamp down the soil, lightly.

Water well during planting. Keep the soil moist in the first few weeks after transplanting, to promote new root growth.

For vigorous growth, fertilize plants monthly during the growing season, with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Keep plants well-watered.

Add 2-3 inches of mulch around plants to keep weeds down, and help retain soil moisture.

Ideal Soil pH: 4.7- 7.8.

Pruning Cedar Shrubs

Established shrubs will grow for years with little care.

You should prune the plants annually. Prune shrubs in late June to early July, before the plant produces new growth.

  • Start by removing dead branches.

  • Next, cut the top growing branch no further than the “green line”, where green growth begins.

  • Shape the plant, from top to bottom.

  • Leave at least two inches of green growth on each branch.

  • To remove entire branches, cut off as near to the center of the shrub as possible.

  • Cedar shrubs can be pruned into many shapes. Be creative!

Arborvitae Winter Protection

Winter Protection

In cold climates, it’s beneficial to provide winter protection for your shrubs. Snow and ice buildup can damage or break individual branches, or the whole tree. Shrub protection against foraging deer, rabbits and rodents is also important.

Many people use burlap to cover the plants. It’s effective, but unsightly. It can also cause mold and mildew on the plant. Another alternative is heavy duty, multi-strand netting. The netting is made of UV protected material and will last for years. Selecting a green netting results in a barely visible protection against animals, as well as protection from breakage of individual branches. when snow and ice buildup is a problem. 

More on Winter Shrub Protection

Insects and Plant Disease

Several animals will feed on cedar shrubs, especially in the winter months when other food sources are scarce. They include deer, rabbits, mice, and other rodents.

Occasional insect problems can occur from mites and bagworms. Use insecticides only if necessary.

Diseases Affecting Cedar Trees

The most common plant problems are molds and mildew, often caused by cool, damp weather. Mold and mildew can occur when using burlap bags for winter protection.

Drowning of roots can also occur in wet weather.

Cankers and sun scorch are also an occasional problem.

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