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 berry-like 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.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


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
  • Mixed border
  • Parkway/street
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 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: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Dry soil
  • Moist, well-drained 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: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Mounded
  • Narrow
  • Pyramidal
  • Spreading
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game birds
  • Game mammals
  • Small mammals
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

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.

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 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.