How to Grow Blue Atlas Cedar

Blue atlas cedar tree with drooping twisted branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

If you are looking for a unique, eye-catching tree to grab attention in your landscape, consider planting a blue Atlas cedar. A needled evergreen native to the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa, its drooping, twisted branches are filled with whorls of powdery blue needles, producing only a few small cones in the springtime. It can be trained and shaped as it grows and can be molded into cone, oval, cylinder, or "weeping" shapes.

The blue Atlas cedar is part of the Pinaceae (pine) family as well as the Cedrus genus, and grows slowly (less than a foot a year), eventually reaching heigh maturity after ten or so years. It's best planted in the spring or fall as a container plant (it does not take well to being transplanted) and is generally easy to care for, making it a true favorite of landscape architects and gardeners alike.

Botanical Name Cedrus atlantica
Common Name Blue Atlas cedar, Weeping blue Atlas cedar
Plant Type  Evergreen tree
Mature Size 40–60 ft. tall, 30–40 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type  Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 6–9 (USDA)
Native Area Africa

Blue Atlas Cedar Care

One of the most popular cedar cultivars, the blue Atlas cedar is well-known for its signature blue needs and unique ability to be grown into a variety of jaw-dropping shapes. Planting and caring for the tree is fairly straight-forward, and relies mostly on choosing the right spot for the tree in your yard. Beyond that, the blue Atlas cedar is very adaptable and can thrive in a variety of soil and watering conditions.

Additionally, it's a good idea to stake the blue Atlas cedar until it's established—if you skip this step, it's likely that the tree will end up growing close to the ground. Its roots are considered "established" once a season has passed, and it can be allowed to grow freely at that point, or continue to be staked in a variety of positions to modify its shape.

Blue atlas cedar branch with evergreen needle whorls closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Blue atlas cedar with drooping and twisted branches with evergreen needles

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Blue atlas cedar branches of whorls with evergreen needles closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Blue atlas cedar with whorls and buds of evergreen needles closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

In order for the blue Atlas cedar to thrive, it's best planted in a spot in your lawn or landscape that receives at least six to eight hours of full sun a day. That being said, the tree can withstand a bit more shade when planted in areas of the country that receive warmer weather, though it should never be planted in full shade.

Soil

The blue Atlas cedar does best in well-drained soil that is acidic in nature, though it can also tolerate a more alkaline blend. Keep in mind, the tree should be planted in a spot that boasts a deep and wide swath of soil—its roots run deep, and its branches are quite expansive, so it will need room to grow or its size will suffer. The tree can thrive in a variety of soil mixtures, including loamy, sandy, or clay varietals. However, it's especially important that whatever soil you plant the blue Atlas cedar in doesn't retain too much moisture—the tree hates to have "wet feet."

Water

The blue Atlas cedar requires consistent and deep watering as its roots become established in your garden or landscape, or for at least the first year of its life. Once established, the tree is drought tolerant, though it should still be watered with some frequency if the weather has been particularly hot or dry.

Temperature and Humidity

As long as it's grown in the proper USDA hardiness zones, the blue Atlas cedar can handle a myriad of temperature and humidity conditions and is both heat and cold tolerant. It's a good idea to shelter the tree from exposure to strong winds, which can bend or break its limbs as they become established.

Fertilizer

Though not a necessity for adequate growth, the blue Atlas cedar can benefit from the application of a well-balanced fertilizer at the beginning of its growth season each spring.

Pruning Blue Atlas Cedar

Though the blue Atlas cedar can be pruned slightly to keep it from encroaching on nearby sidewalks or garden plots, it is largely discouraged as it's thought to run the wild, eccentric natural shape of the tree. Prune only to maintain or keep the shape of your blue Atlas cedar tree, and do so in early spring before the new growth starts for the season. Be sure to keep at least a portion of the young growth on the tree, and never removed more than a third of the tree's overall density.

Common Pests and Diseases

Luckily, the blue Atlas cedar tree is considered to be a fairly pest and disease-free varietal, so you won't have to do much to ensure its health and vitality. If it does come down with a pest, it's likely that it will be scale or sapsuckers. Still, it's unlikely that the pests will do serious damage to the tree, and therefore no pest control methods or treatment are necessary.

It's possible that your blue Atlas cedar may experience root rot if its soil is kept too moist. If you notice the branches or needles of your tree turning brown, step back your watering cadence to allow the roots to dry out a bit between waterings.