12 Cedar Tree Species to Grow

Weeping blue Atlas cedar.

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True cedars belong to the genus Cedrus (Pinaceae family), consisting of four species. They're evergreen, coniferous trees. Their native range is mountainous areas from the western Himalayas to the Mediterranean. Their fragrant wood is valued for lumber (it resists pests and rot), but they're also used as ornamental trees. An identifying feature is cedar's upright, barrel-shaped cones.

However, "cedar" is also used more loosely to include trees of other genera and even of other plant families. Many are of the Cupressaceae family of evergreen conifers. But while true cedars have short needles that form clusters close to the branch, the foliage of these false cedars consists of longer, scaley leaves that are awl-shaped or form fan-like sprays. Here are 12 species of cedar — real cedar and false cedar — popular for gardens.

  • 01 of 12

    Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

    Deodara cedar with pinecones.

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    We'll begin with the four true cedars, starting with Deodar, a weeping tree used as a specimen. Its needles are bluish-green or grayish-green. Deodar, a Himalayan native, likes deep soil that's evenly moist but well-drained. Acidic loam is ideal. The plant is drought-tolerant once established.

    • Native Area: Western Himalayas
    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Height: 40 to 70 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 02 of 12

    Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

    Cedar of Lebanon tree with other trees in background.

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    Native to the Middle East, cedar of Lebanon tolerates cold better than deodar. Its needles are dark green or gray-green. Plant this slow grower in late fall. It makes a good long-lived shade tree.

    • Native Area: Lebanon
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 40 to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 12

    Cyprus Cedar (Cedrus brevifolia)

    Closeup of branch of Cedrus brevifolia.

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    This slow grower eventually develops an umbrella-shaped crown. It gets its species name (Latin for "with short leaves") from the fact that its needles form short clumps and its branches are shorter than those on other cedars. Its needles are green to bluish-green.

    • Native Area: Cyprus
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 40 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 12

    Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)

    Weeping blue Atlas cedar in landscape.

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    Give Atlas cedar acidic, well-drained soil. When young, the habit of the species plant is loosely pyramidal; it becomes more flat-topped with age. But in landscaping, the weeping cultivar, ‘Glauca Pendula,' is more popular; its maximum height is 12 feet.

    • Native Area: Atlas Mountains, North Africa
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 40 to 60 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

    Closeup of incense cedar with cones.

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    The remaining examples are false cedars, beginning with this plant from the Cupressaceae family. Plant incense cedar in deep, fertile soil that's kept moist but well-drained. A location protected from drying winds is best. When crushed its foliage is aromatic, thus its name.

    • Native Area: Western United States and Mexico
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 30 to 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 06 of 12

    Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

    Closeup of "berries" of Eastern red cedar.

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    There are pros and cons to growing this false cedar. On the plus side, it's fragrant, columnar, has nice reddish-brown bark, and produces bluish, berry-like cones that draw birds. As a bonus, it's salt-tolerant and extremely hardy. On the negative side, this Cupressaceae family member is invasive in some regions.

    • Native Area: Eastern North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9
    • Height: 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 12

    Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)

    Row of arborvitae in front of a fence.

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    Northern white cedars are also commonly called "arborvitaes." They're native to the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. Arborvitaes are very popular landscape plants, especially for hedges. These Cupressaceae family members come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small, globe-shaped oddities to more functional tall and slim types. Cultivars include 'North Pole' and 'Emerald Green.'

    • Native Area: Eastern North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: 12 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 08 of 12

    Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

    Closeup of western arborvitae branch.

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    Western North America, too has a native arborvitae. Grow western red cedar in moist but well-drained soil with good fertility. This Cupressaceae family member tolerates neither drought nor hot summers. Smaller cultivars include 'Can Can,' which is a semi-dwarf tree whose dense foliage is dark green, with golden-white tips.

    • Native Area: Pacific Northwest
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Height: 50 to 70
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)

    Chamaecyparis lawsoniana branch closeup.

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    Grow fragrant Port Orford cedar in moist but well-drained soil of average fertility. This Cupressaceae family member forms a narrow pyramid eventually. Dwarf cultivars are available for small and average-sized landscapes.

    • Native Area: Pacific Northwest
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: Up to 200 feet in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 10 of 12

    Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis)

    Nootka cypress growing with deciduous trees.

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    Also known as "Nootka cypress," this Cupressaceae family member is best known from its 'Pendula' (weeping) and 'Glauca Pendula' (blue weeping) cultivars. Weeping blue Alaskan cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Glauca Pendula') is a small evergreen tree (10 feet tall after five years and 20 feet at maturity). It's sometimes referred to as a "false cypress" because not only is it not a true cedar, it's not a true cypress either. Grow it in well-drained soil.

    • Native Area: Western North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 10 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 11 of 12

    Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)

    Closeup of Japanese cedar.

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    This Cupressaceae family member is Japan's national tree. Many cultivars suitable for the average landscape are available, including compact types like 'Globosa Nana.' The latter is a slow grower that eventually tops out at 4 to 8 feet tall. Water it faithfully.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Height: 4 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • 12 of 12

    Siberian Cedar (Pinus sibirica)

    "Siberian cedar" branch closeup.

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    A member of the pine family and genus, this tree is the most clearly false of the false cedars. It's very hardy and thus a good choice for an evergreen conifer in cold climates. The pine nuts contained in its pinecones are edible. It's best suited to large landscapes.

    • Native Area: Siberia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 1 to 6
    • Height: Over 40 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun