fbpx Eastern red-cedar | The Morton Arboretum

Eastern red-cedar

Close up of the needles of eastern red-cedar.

Eastern red-cedar is native to 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 species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Parkway/street,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Windbreak

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Prefers

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Showy fruit,
  • Attractive bark

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Narrow,
  • Pyramidal,
  • 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


This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

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 Eastern red-cedar (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.

Burk Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana 'Burkii'):  Pyramidal cultivar, 20 to 25 feet high; Good blue color with purple tones in winter; male (no fruit).

Canaert Eastern red-cedar (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.

Hillspire Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana 'Cupressifolia'):  Pyramidal form; grows to 15 feet tall; foliage more cypress-like; female form.

Grey Owl Eastern red-cedar (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.

Taylor Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana 'Taylor'):  Narrow, columnar form; grows 15 to 2o feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide; silvery, blue-green foliage.

Location of Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red-cedar) at the Arboretum