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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): 
Cypress
Family (Botanic): 
Cupressaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Dry sites
  • Occasional drought
  • Alkaline soil
  • Road salt
Soil Preference: 
  • Dry soil
  • Sandy soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Narrow
  • Pyramidal
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Foundation
  • Screen
Time of Year: 
  • Late spring
More Information: 

Size

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 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.