With its picturesque crown, Cedar is without doubt one of the most beautiful conifers. Here’s the correct way to plant this giant from the south.
Cedar (Cedrus) forms its own plant genus and belongs to the pine (Pinaceae) family. There are only three species worldwide - two of which, the Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani) and the (Cedrus atlantica), are native to the eastern Mediterranean and the North African Atlas mountains at altitudes of up to 6,560 feet. The Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara) can be found in Hindu Kush, Pakistan and North-West India. Fossils have shown that Cedars were previously victims of climate change: They originally inhabited a continuous area from the Western Mediterranean to the Himalayas. Due to increasing periods of drought, the stocks focused increasingly on the mentioned relic locations in the cool, moist higher locations of various mountains over the course of the millennium.
The Lebanon Cedar in particular, which also adorns the Lebanese national flag with its striking, sweeping crown, is relatively drought resistant in the summer. Its stocks were decimated in ancient times because the high-quality wood was highly sought after in house, ship and furniture construction. Cedar wood is light, durable and is easy to work with. Incidentally, the intensively fragrant red cedar wood is not a real cedar - it is descended from the North American Giant Cedar (Thuja plicata).
Appearance and Growth
The three Cedar species mentioned are sufficiently frost-hardy and can reach a stately height of 98 feet. They are visually very similar and, with age, form a sweeping, extremely relaxed and irregularly structured crown with a continuous central shoot and almost horizontal branch levels. The needles are dark green to steel blue (in the ‘Glauca’ Atlas cedar variety), 0.59 to a good 0.79 inches long and grow predominantly in clusters on short side shoots of the silver-gray branches. The male cones of the monoecious plants are green to pale ochre colored, ovate, around 2 inches tall and stand upright on the branches. The female cones are green to red and significantly smaller at 0.59 inches tall. It takes two to three years to achieve seed maturity. As with fir trees, the woody shafts remain intact after the cones have been shed.
Location and Soil
Cedar loves a sunny location and a balanced, cool to mild climate with sufficient precipitation. It does prefer calciferous, deep soil, but is generally tolerant and also grows in slightly acidic, sandy substrate. It often reacts to low precipitation in the winter with drought damage.
Planting and Care
Plant your Cedar in the spring if possible so that it is already well rooted by the first frosts. If possible, don’t position the tree to closely to a building as, with its extremely flat roots and large crown volume, it is at risk of blowing over. After thoroughly watering the soil you should spread horn shavings over it and then cover with Bark mulch so that it retains moisture well. A tree stake should prevent larger Cedars from tipping over at the first gust of wind after planting. Hammer the tree stake into the earth at an angle and tie the end firmly to the trunk. This will prevent the side branches, which are located right down to the soil, from growing diagonally.
Cedars are generally quite easy-care, however, there area few important measures which you shouldn’t neglect: Give your Cedar water in good time during dry winters. There are hardly any conifers which are not sensitive to winter dryness. Drought damage is generally only visible in the course of the season and then often incorrectly diagnosed. You should avoid working the soil in the root area and ideally remove any weeds which appear by hand.
Restrict pruning measures for cedars to trimming the stems and removing individual, bothersome branches - this is best done in late summer or early spring. Try to avoid larger cuts.
Young, freshly planted cedar in rough locations should be protected against frost damage in the winter with a protective fleece and watered generously when there is low precipitation. The Atlas cedar variety ‘Glauca’ is considered particularly frost-hardy.
Due to their dimensions, cedars are only suitable for solitary placement in larger gardens and parks. The trees were particularly popular in the naturally designed landscape parks of the 19th century. Their expressive crown shape with blue-green needles makes a beautiful contrast to deciduous trees with yellow or red fall foliate such as the ginkgo or Norway maple. They can be superbly combined with various decorative grasses. With their light crown, they are also a perfect living trellis for rambler flowers such as title‘Bobbie James’.
The Cedar seeds are harvested as soon as the lower buds open and are detach from the cones. You should leave them to dry and then ideally store them in screw-cap glasses in the vegetable tray of the refrigerator. In February, lay out the seeds in moist sand and stratify them for a further one to two months in the refrigerator or in a protected, cool spot outside. Then they are sown in boxes, pricked out into pots after they emerge and overwintered for the first winter in an unheated greenhouse.
The garden varieties are grafted in August by side splicing onto Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica) seedlings. The grafts are only held in place with elastic bands and the plants are then further cultivated in the greenhouse.
Diseases and Pests
Cedars are hardly ever infested by diseases or pests at all, however, they are very sensitive to salt. After cold winters and also after planting, the trees often lose a large amount of their needles. This is no cause for concern as the needles reshoot afterwards.