Different Types of Cedar Trees (True & Faux Varieties) With Pictures

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by Max - last update on January 24, 2020, 1:28 am
Types of Cedar Trees

There are four types of true cedar trees; in other words, trees that belong to the Cedrus genus. All of these trees are evergreen and coniferous and are found growing natively in mountainous regions around the world. They belong to the Pinaceae family, more commonly known as the Pine family, and produce a strong, reliable wood that is usually a shade of red.

Cedar trees are large trees that typically reach great heights. They have needle-like foliage that can vary in color depending on the species and often emit an aromatic scent. Cedar trees require well-draining soil as they are natively found in areas with high rainfall but do not cope well with wet roots. However, as long as the soil is well-draining, then cedars will thrive in a variety of soil types, including clay or poor soil.

True Cedar Trees

The four types of true cedar trees include the following.

1. Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)

Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)

Mature Size: Up to 115 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 6-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Drought tolerant once mature

Soil: Well-draining, loamy

Special Features: Blue-green needle-like foliage

This cedar tree is named after the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria, where it is found growing natively. In the mountainous regions of North Africa, the Atlanta Cedar occupies vast areas of land where it creates dense forests. In these conditions, the trees reach up to 115 feet tall, but when used as an ornamental, the Atlanta Cedar is more likely to grow to around 60 feet in height with a spread of 40 feet.

This tree is popularly used as an ornamental in temperate climates because it is more tolerant of hot and dry weather than most other cedars. In fact, though this tree requires plenty of water when it is young, it will be drought tolerant once mature.

Aside from ensuring the tree has adequate space to grow, the Atlanta Cedar is fairly low-maintenance. Like all cedars, this tree is coniferous with needle-like leaves. It forms a conical shape, though other cultivars are available that take slightly different forms.

The most common Atlanta Cedar used for planting in home gardens or in town landscaping is the Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’), sometimes also referred to as ‘Glauca.’ The leaves of this tree are green-blue, and it makes an impressive statement in a large back yard. It can be planted in full sun or partial shade and requires plenty of room to stretch out its branches. Atlas Cedars don’t do well in restricted space, so you will need a generously sized piece of land to grow one of these majestic trees.

Another popular cultivar is the Glauca Pendula (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’), which has pendulous limbs that form a weeping specimen. These Atlas Cedars are much smaller, with an expected height of around 10 feet and a spread of around 20 feet. Both of these cultivars have achieved the coveted Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

2. Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

Mature Size: Up to 160 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 7-11

Light: Full sun

Water: Moderate moisture

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Special Features: Fast-growing

This cedar tree hails from the Himalayan Mountains and is accordingly sometimes referred to as the Himalayan Cedar. It is found growing natively in Nepal, Tibet, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The tree is sacred in Hinduism, and the name Deodar is derived from a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘timber of the Gods’.

In its native habitat, the tree can be expected to grow to a height of around 160 feet tall typically, but when grown as an ornamental tree, it is more likely to reach heights of 50 feet with a 30-foot spread. Of all true cedar trees, the Deodar Cedar is the best able to cope with high levels of heat and humidity, making it a popular choice in warmer climates.

It will thrive in a variety of soil types, though it cannot survive in soggy soil, so a well-draining soil is essential. When young, this tree needs plenty of moisture to grow, though once mature it can survive periods of drought. It would, however, prefer to be kept in moist soil, and will not tolerate long dry spells.

The Deodar Cedar is the fastest-growing of all true cedars and requires ample space to grow. It grows into a pyramid shape, with branches that have a drooping habit. The stiff needles measure around 2 inches in length, and depending on the cultivar will be blue-green or green-gray. This is a low-maintenance tree that does not need to be pruned and is popularly used to line streets or to create shaded spots in parks.

There are several cultivars of the Deodar Cedar, including Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea,’ which has golden colored needles, and Cedrus deodara ‘Kashmir,’ which can survive cold temperatures of below zero. If you’re a fan of the Deodar Cedar but lack the appropriate space to grow such a large tree, take a look at Cedrus deodara ‘Golden Horizon,’ which only grows to 10 feet tall and features golden needles that transform to green in the summer.

3. Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

Mature Size: Up to 130 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Cold tolerant

This cedar tree is native to the mountainous regions of Eastern Mediterranean, including Lebanon, where the tree is the country’s national emblem. In its native home, the tree can reach up to 130 feet tall, but when planted in cultivation, it typically stands at heights of between 40 and 80 feet, with a spread of 30 to 70 feet.

As the cedar tree that is most tolerant of cold temperatures, this tree is popular in climates that experience cold winters. It is a very slow-growing tree that can take many years to reach its ultimate height. As it grows, it takes on a pyramid shape, though as it gets more mature, the uppermost branches will stem out to create an open flat top.

Like all true cedars, the Cedar of Lebanon is an evergreen conifer. It typically has an exceptionally large trunk and dark green needle-like foliage. When this tree reaches four decades in age, it will start to produce cones. These usually appear during the month of September at different points depending on whether they are male or female cones, with male cones usually arriving first.

4. Cyprian Cedar (Cedrus Brevifolia)

Cyprian Cedar (Cedrus Brevifolia)

Mature Size: Up to 80 feet

Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Petite attractive foliage

As you would expect from the name, this cedar tree is native to Cyprus, in particular, the mountain ranges of Pophos, Tripylos, and Troodes (American Conifer Society). The fact that it is only native to a relatively small region makes it quite a rare species, and it is certainly the least commonly found tree among the true cedars.

It is very similar in terms of looks to the Cedar of Lebanon, except that it is smaller in every regard. It has smaller needles, a smaller stature, and smaller pine cones, which is reflected in its name as ‘brevifolia’ means small foliage. The color of the foliage is a dark blue-green, and it maintains a neat and compact form. It needs to be grown in a position of full sun, and while it doesn’t require a space as big as other cedar trees, it is still a medium to large-sized tree and therefore needs substantial space to grow.

In its native habitat, it will reach heights of up to 80 feet, but as an ornamental tree is more likely to have a maximum height of 50 feet. It is tolerant of a variety of soil types, so long as they are well-draining. This cedar tree likes to be watered occasionally, though it can tolerate short periods of dry soil.

Faux Cedar Trees

There are several other trees that are known as cedar trees. However, they are not in the Cedrus genus and therefore are not considered to be true cedar trees. They do bear many resemblances to true cedar trees, and it’s easy to see why these gained the common name of cedar. They are all evergreen coniferous trees with needle-like foliage, much like true cedar trees.

Trees outside of the Cedrus genus that are commonly known as cedars include the following.

5. Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

Mature Size: Up to 230 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Very tall

This tree is native to the northwest of Canada and the United States, and it is technically a cypress tree, belonging to the Cupressaceae family. It is sometimes known as the Pacific Cedar, as it is one of the most common trees found across the Pacific Northwest.

It is exceptionally large, able to reach over 200 feet in height. It is also a very long-lived tree, with some examples of this cedar being 1,000 years old. The foliage of this tree is bright green, and if you crush it between your fingers, it will release a fragrance that is reminiscent of pineapple. The wood of this tree is commonly cultivated for use in outdoor construction, as it is naturally resistant to decay. It is widely used to build fences, posts, sheds, siding, and decking.

6. Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Mature Size: Up to 60 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Juniper berries attract birds

This tree is native to North America, where in some regions, it is known to be an invasive species. It is a slow-growing tree, with mature specimens ranging from just 15 feet up to 60 feet. In some cases, the Eastern Red Cedar will never grow into a full tree and will take on more of a shrub-like appearance.

The wood of this tree is light and has several useful characteristics. It is resistant to rot and therefore is commonly used for posts and fences. It is also moth-resistant, which makes it highly desirable for use in furniture, for drawers, and chests where clothes will be stored.

7. Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)

Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)

Mature Size: Up to 50 feet

Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Fragrant foliage

This tree forms a narrow pyramid shape, with dense branches that cover the trunk and an abundance of glossy green foliage. The needle-like foliage is highly fragrant, with an earthy woody scent. The tree grows slowly and is tolerant of a variety of soil types, though it prefers moist, well-draining soil. It is native to North America but has been introduced to many other areas, including Europe (Friends of the Wildflower Garden).

8. Spanish Cedar (Cedrela Odorata)

Spanish Cedar (Cedrela Odorata)

Credit to David J. Stang

Mature Size: Up to 100 feet

Hardiness Zone: 9-11

Light: Full sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Heat tolerant

This tree is native to tropical and sub-tropical forests throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. It thrives in moist, humid conditions, and requires well-draining soil. It is a medium-sized tree, ranging in maximum height from around 30 feet to 100 feet.

The wood of this tree is produced commercially for use in furniture making. Its wood is similar to mahogany and is naturally resistant to rot, insects, and termites, making it ideal for use in home furniture.

9. Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis)

Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis)

Credit to mauroguanandi

Mature Size: Up to 130 feet

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Produces fine timber

This cypress tree is native to coastal areas of North America. It is slow-growing, with drooping branches from that dark green foliage grows. The wood of this tree was once considered among the finest in the world and was used for high-end flooring and shipbuilding. It is still considered to be a coveted timber, as it is hard, resistant to weather, insects, and splintering.

It is more expensive than many other types of wood because of its slow-growing nature and therefore is mostly used for finishing carpentry, including cabinet-making, paneling, and flooring.


Different Types of Cedar Trees (True & Faux Varieties) With Pictures

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