TREES & plants

Eastern red-cedar

Eastern red-cedar is native to eastern North America. These cold-hardy, adaptable evergreen trees serve many purposes in the landscape, especially in sites that are dry, alkaline or windy. The foliage of scale-like needles is attractive but prickly. In late summer and fall, many junipers have blue-green berrylike fruits, actually modified cones, that attract birds. Because they are quite salt-tolerant, they can be used near roads, driveways, and sidewalks. Eastern red cedar is usually a tree, but there are shrub-sized cultivars available.

Botanical name: 
Juniperus virginiana
All Common Names: 
eastern red-cedar, red cedar, eastern redcedar, upright juniper, eastern red cedar juniper
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Foundation
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-50 feet
Mature Width: 
8-20 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Dry soil
  • Sandy soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Prefers
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Showy fruit
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Narrow
  • Pyramidal
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game birds
  • Game mammals
  • Small mammals
  • Songbirds
More Information: 


The species can grow 40 to 50 feet high and 8 to 20 feet wide, but there are a number of cultivars that are smaller.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun with well-drained soil.
Adaptable to high pH (alkaline) soils.
Tolerant of dry, windy conditions once established.
Prune in early spring.

Disease, pests, and problems

Cedar rusts (cedar-apple, cedar-hawthorn and cedar-quince) and bagworm are common.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
East and central North America; often found in sunny,  limestone outcropping, along fencerows and roadsides.

Attracts birds & butterflies

The blue-gray fruits attract many bird species.

Bark color and texture 

Trees often develop exfoliating reddish brown bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Prickly, silvery-blue foliage (needle-like and/or scale-like).
Winter needles often turn a bronzy-green. Some cultivars keep their color all winter.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Male plants produce small, inconspicuous cones resembling catkins that produce pollen.
Female plants produce  berry-like cones that, if pollinated, ripen to a bloomy blue-gray color. Fruit often persist throughout winter.
A favorite for many birds and wildlife.

Cultivars and their differences

Blue Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana 'Glauca'): Narrow, upright, columnar evergreen tree, 20 to 25 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide.  Silver-blue spring foliage turns blue-green in summer. Use as a specimen, in groups, or as an informal hedge.

Blue Mountain (Juniperus virginiana 'Blue Mountain'): Spreading evergreen shrub, 3 to 4 feet high and 5 to 8 feet wide. Blue-green foliage is softer and more needlelike than that of most junipers. Plants of this female cultivar produce berry-shaped cones that, if pollinated, ripen to a bluish color. Use as a foundation plant, in shrub borders, or on slopes.

Canaert (Juniperus virginiana 'Canaertii'): Pyramidal tree, 20 to 35 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide.  Dark green foliage tufted at ends of branches; open crown, attractive bluish-white clusters of fruit; reddish-brown bark exfoliating into long strips. Use as a specimen, in groups, or for informal screening.

Grey Owl (Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl'): A low growing, spreading shrub reaching  3 to 4 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. Silver-grey foliage attractive all year. A female form that develops attractive blue berries.