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Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’
Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’

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Zones vary by species.
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Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal


Evergreen, Trees

From the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Himalayas. These, the true cedars, are among the most widely grown conifers in Western gardens. Cedars bear needles in tufted clusters. Cone scales, like those of firs (Abies), fall from the tree, leaving a spiky core behind. Male catkins produce prodigious amounts of pollen that may cover you with yellow dust on a windy day.

Plant in deep, well-drained soil. All species are deep rooted and drought-tolerant once established. Some botanists contend that the several Mediterranean species are just geographic variants of a single species.

Cedrus atlantica ‘Atlas Cedar’
Cedrus atlantica ‘Atlas Cedar’

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Cedrus atlantica

Native to North Africa. Slow to moderate growth to 60 ft. or taller. Open, angular growth in youth. Branches usually get too long and heavy on young trees unless tips are pinched out or cut back; branches of any age tend to break in heavy snows. Growth is naturally less open with age. Less spreading than other true cedars, but still needs a 30-ft. circle. Needles, less than 1 in. long, are bluish green.

Cedrus brevifolia

Native to Cyprus. Resembles C. libani but is smaller (to 50 ft. tall and 40 ft. wide) with shorter needles (1/4–1/2 in.) and smaller cones. Sometimes considered a variety of C. libani. Very slow growing.

Cedrus deodara
Cedrus deodara

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Cedrus deodara

Native to the Himalayas. Fast growing to 80 ft., with 40-ft. spread at ground level. Lower branches sweep down to the ground, then upward. Upper branches are openly spaced, graceful. The nodding tip identifies this tree in the skyline. Softer, lighter texture than other cedars.

Planted in a small lawn, it soon overpowers the area. You can control spread of the tree by cutting new growth of side branches halfway back in late spring. This kind of pruning also makes the tree denser.

Although deodars sold by nurseries are very similar in overall form, many variations occur within a group of seedlings  from scarecrow-like types to low, compact shrubs. Needles, to 2 in. long, may be green or have a blue, gray, or yellow cast.

Cedrus libani

Native Lebanon to Turkey. Eventually grows to 80 ft., but is slow growing—to 15 ft. in 15 years. Variable in growth habit. Usually a dense, narrow pyramid in youth. In young trees, needles, less than 1 in. long, are brightest green of the cedars; in old ones, they are dark gray-green. Spreads picturesquely as it matures to become a majestic skyline tree with long horizontal limbs and an irregular shape; the tree is ultimately about as broad as high. Rather scarce and expensive because of the time required to reach saleable size. Routine garden care. No pruning needed.

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