Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) are magnificent evergreen trees that can beautify your home’s landscape. Their enchanting foliage coloration adds warmth to barren winter landscapes. Eastern red cedar cultivars come in a wide variety of sizes, from 3′ tall shrubs to 40′ tall trees. This diversity makes them useful for many interesting landscaping ideas.
Juniperus virginiana is also a desirable landscape plant because it is ultra-low-maintenance. They tend to look best when you simply leave them alone and let them grow. Whether you use them as accent plants in your front yard flower beds or to create a backyard privacy screen, you’ll appreciate the self-sufficiency of these regal conifers.
Requirements For Growing
Since Eastern red cedars are native to North America, they tend to thrive here without much effort on your part. They can be planted from USDA hardiness zone 2A to 9B. They should be planted in well-draining soil where they will receive at least 6 hours of full sun every day.
Unless you’re turning your Juniperus virginiana into a topiary, it’s best to prune them as little as possible. Make sure you select a cultivar that will fit the location you’re planting it when it reaches its mature size. This will limit the need to prune it. These fast-growing trees also benefit from annual fertilizing. Apply a 16-4-8 slow-release fertilizer in early spring for the best results.
Luckily, Eastern redcedars don’t have any serious pest and disease issues when planted correctly. If the soil holds too much moisture, they can develop root rot. Trees that don’t have enough space to grow are more likely to have rust and blight disease issues.
6 Landscaping Ideas and Uses
1. Line Long Driveways
Eastern red cedar trees can reach a height of up to 40 feet and a width of 20 feet. These large conifers can be limbed up to look more like trees as seen above. They can be used to line a long driveway where they provide an idyllic scene as visitors approach your home. When planted on both sides of the drive, they’ll form a whimsical canopy of evergreen foliage over the road.
You’re probably used to seeing hardwood trees like maples lining long driveways. However, Eastern red cedars provide the same benefits as hardwoods without all of the mess. Hardwoods lose their leaves in fall which you’ll have to clean up when they begin to fall. You won’t have to worry about that with Eastern red cedars. These glorious trees hang on to their dark blue-green foliage year round so you won’t have to do an annual clean-up.
2. Use for Borders along Front Yard Sidewalks
If you don’t have a long driveway to line, why not line the sidewalk in your front yard with Eastern Redcedars? They’ll give you a little privacy and can help reduce road noise if you live on a busy street. Lining the front of your property with trees can also help deter pedestrians from wandering onto your property. The pyramid shape of Eastern Redcedars also prevents your entire home from being blocked, so your home will still have some curb appeal from the street.
3. Create Living Privacy Screens
Like many evergreen conifers, Eastern red cedars work very well as privacy screens and windbreaks. Privacy screens are a fabulous addition to backyards, turning your space into a secluded oasis. You can also install all the way down your property line, from the front yard to the back to delineate your property from your neighbors. You’ll want to space them out enough that they have room to reach their mature size which can be up to 20 feet wide. That means it may take many years before you have a true privacy screen.
When using Eastern Redcedars trees, you’ll want to think about which cultivar you prefer. Juniperus virginiana ‘Canaertii’ (shown above) develops a more open, branched form as it matures. This allows them to retain a more natural, unkempt aesthetic. On the other hand, cultivars like Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’ (shown below) have a narrow, dense form which makes them look more formal in the landscape.
4. Create Landscape Focal Points with Narrow Form Cultivars
Narrow form Eastern redcedar cultivars mature into tall, skinny trees with a pyramid or conical shape. They are the perfect tree to add height to your front yard landscape without taking up much space horizontally. You can use them on the corners of your two-story house to soften its appearance. Narrow form Juniperus virginiana trees are also great for framing grand entryways since they won’t encroach on walkways as they grow taller.
The cultivar ‘Skyrocket’ (shown above) is a popular narrow form Eastern redcedar with its silvery blue-green foliage. They only grow to about 2 feet wide but can grow up to 15 feet tall.
TIP: You may see Skyrocket sold under the species name Juniperus scopulorum. It has been reclassified as Juniperus virginiana though many nurseries still sell it as J. scopulorum.
5. Use Medium Sized Eastern Redcedar As Accent Bushes
Not all Eastern red cedars grow into tall trees. There are several cultivars that reach less than 12 feet tall. For instance, Juniperus virginiana ‘Glauca Compacta’ (shown above) only grows to about 10 feet tall by 5 feet wide. Eastern red cedar ‘Grey Owl’ (shown below) stays around 3 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Both of these species have blue-green foliage that pairs really well with golden or burgundy hues in the landscape.
You can use these smaller Eastern red cedar shrubs as accents in your front yard flower bed or backyard garden. Their evergreen foliage will provide color to your landscape during the winter months when many landscaping plants lose their leaves. Consider mixing a variety of evergreens in your landscape design to provide additional color and interest to your yard all year long.
6. Transform Eastern Red Cedars into Stunning Topiaries
If you’re feeling creative, and a bit daring, you can turn an Eastern red cedar into a work of art. While not very common, Eastern red cedars can be pruned and trained into abstract topiaries. It takes some skill and patients to achieve a well-balanced topiary with these trees.
In the photo above, you can see how they’ve used concrete blocks on strings to help train the branches to keep their desired form. Eventually, the branches will hold their shape on their own. The topiaries look amazing in either a rock garden or a Zen garden in the backyard.
Breen, P. (n.d.). Juniperus virginiana. Landscape Plants, Oregon State University.
Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. Juniperus virginiana: Eastern Redcedar. University of Florida, IFAS Extension.
North Carolina Extension Gardener Tool Box. (n.d.). Juniperus virginiana. North Carolina State University Extension.