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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.

  • Family (English) Cypress
  • Family (botanic) Cupressaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet), Large tree (more than 40 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
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season 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 and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Mounded, Narrow, Pyramidal, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 2  This plant is native to east and central North America and is 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:

Foliage is prickly and silvery-blue (needle-like and/or scale-like). Winter needles often turn a bronzy-green and 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 persists throughout winter. A favorite for many birds and wildlife.

Plant care:

This plant grows best in full sun with well-drained soil. It is adaptable to high pH (alkaline) soils and once established is tolerant of dry windy conditions. This plant should be pruned in early spring.

Pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Cedar rusts (cedar-apple, cedar-hawthorn and cedar-quince) and bagworm are common problems for this plant.

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’):

This narrow, upright, columnar evergreen tree grows 20 to 25 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide.  Its silver-blue spring foliage turns blue-green in summer and can be used as a specimen, in groups, or as an informal hedge.

Blue Mountain Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Blue Mountain’):

This spreading evergreen shrub reaches 3 to 4 feet high and 5 to 8 feet wide. Its 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. It can be used as a foundation plant, in shrub borders, or on slopes.

Burk Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Burkii’): 

This variety is a pyramidal cultivar that reaches 20 to 25 feet high. Its leaves are a good blue color with purple tones in winter and since it is male, it produces no fruit.

Canaert Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Canaertii’):

This variety forms a pyramidal tree that grows  20 to 35 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide.  Its dark green foliage tufted at the ends of branches and has an open crown,  attractive bluish-white clusters of fruit, and reddish-brown bark that exfoliates into long strips. It can be used as a specimen, in groups, or for informal screening.

Hillspire Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Cupressifolia’):  

Grows in a pyramidal form up to 15 feet tall. Its foliage is more cypress-like and this tree is female.

Grey Owl Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’):

This low growing and low spreading shrub reaching  3 to 4 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. Its silver-grey foliage is attractive all year and is a female form that develops attractive blue berries.

Taylor Eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’): 

This variety grows in a narrow, columnar form that reaches 15 to 20 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. It has silvery, blue-green foliage.

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