Learning which trees are really and truly a “cedar” can be a bit confusing. Some trees have a cedar in their name but are not true cedars. Western red cedar is really an arborvitae and the Eastern Red Cedar is really a juniper. I cover both of those trees in their proper sections. Here we are discussing the true cedars, plants that are certainly wonderful candidates for the home landscape. The only conifers that bloom in the fall, cedars are a always an elegant, dominant landscape feature.
The Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) is commonly used for ornamental purposes, especially in the West and Southwest. It has a stately pyramidal habit that is a real asset in a residential landscape. Deodar is the most graceful cedar, with a weeping growth habit and long cones. It needs plenty of room to mature because it grows to well over 100 feet. Deep rooted and drought resistant, these trees may live to be 300 to 400 years old.
Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) is one of the most popular of the true cedars. It has an elegant pyramidal shape that makes it eminently suitable for residential yards.
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is a really great tree that is not used much in American landscapes. This plant is native to Asia Minor and has been cultivated since ancient times with historic stands occurring in Lebanon. Referenced in the Bible, this tree was used in the Temple built by Solomon. The Egyptians used its resin to mummify their dead, and thus called it the “life of death”.
Throughout history, cedar wood, and such byproducts as cedar oil, have proven to be worth far more money than living trees, however beautiful they were. Huge forests of cedars existed in early times to be cut down to build ships right up into the early 20th century to be used as firewood for trains. Very few natural cedar stands exist today because in all the centuries of cutting down cedars, there were few efforts to replant them.