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.
- Evergreen (foliage year-round)
- Chicago area
- North America
- Zone 3
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Dry sites
- Occasional drought
- Alkaline soil
- Road salt
- Dry soil
- Sandy soil
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Medium tree (25-40 feet)
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Small shrub (3-5 feet)
- Late spring
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
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 favor 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 tall 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 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 and 6 to 8 feet wide. Silver-grey foliage attractive all year. A female form that develops attractive blue berries.