Cedrus, or Cedar, is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae. These trees are native to the western Himalayan mountains and the Mediterranean region, and are commonly found at elevated altitudes. An important source for high-quality timber, cedar is now cultivated in regions where the winter temperatures are above -13°F. To enjoy this tree and its strong woody fragrance, one need not be a cultivator; just following some basic care tips will do the trick.
Identifying the type of cedar definitely requires an experienced eye as the different species of cedars come with their own different features in terms of height, crown spread and diameter, leaf and cone size, habitat, adaptation, etc. Cedars are evergreen trees that can grow between 30 to 70 meters in height depending upon the species. The leaves of this tree are needle-shaped and soft, and are borne in dense overlapping clusters on short shoots. They come in shades of green, with some also having a tinge of blue. These short leaves are arranged on longer shoots in an open-spiral manner. The bark of a young cedar is generally green and soft, but turns thick and hard on maturing. It also develops cracks and turns dark brown in color. The bark and leaves of cedar emit a spicy, resinous aroma. Cedar cones are barrel-shaped and contain winged seeds that are released on maturing.
How to Care for a Cedar Tree
Cedars can be propagated through cuttings and also through seeds. Cuttings are generally preferred over seeds as they have a better chance of survival, plus they are quick to develop into healthy plants. Take a healthy, semi-woody (neither too soft, nor too hard) cutting in summer and clear the leaves on the lower part of it. Dip it in a rooting solution and plant it in a well-drained moist medium. For seeds, collect cones that are brown and not completely open. Gently force open the cone and quickly collect the seeds before they get dispersed, as they are winged and tend to fly away. Seeds of some species, like the white cedar, require a couple of hours of pre-soaking before sowing them. Place them in a location that receives partial sunlight. One can sow seeds individually in Styrofoam cups too. Once the seedling becomes 6-12 inches tall, it is ready for transplantation.
- Planting and Weeding:
Choose a location bearing in mind the eventual size of the tree, either in full or partial sunlight. The area should not be prone to water logging or flooding. If you plan to plant more than one seedling, then space them apart by at least 4-6 feet. Dig a hole about 6 inches in diameter and about a feet or two deep. The planting soil should include part organic compost. Plant the seedling and compact the soil tightly around the roots. Build a berm around the young cedar tree and fill it with water. One must ensure that the soil does not dry out for the first couple of months, but water cautiously as too much of it will cause the roots to start rotting. Weed well around the cedar; the roots of this tree are vulnerable to disturbances, so make sure they do not get hit or jerked while weeding or tilling around its soil. The cedar does not require much fertilizing; just once in a year is sufficient.
The young cedar needs to be protected from livestock, as the leaves and twigs are tender. Build a mesh around it to keep animals from eating it. Prune your cedar in the spring, either to downsize or to shape it. Damaged or broken branches must be sawed with sharp cuts, as jagged ones will damage the plant. Never prune after July, as the next season's growth in the form of buds has already started then. Cedar is a fast grower and most of its species grow several inches annually, so keep in mind the size you want your tree to achieve and prune accordingly.
Although hardy, cedar trees are susceptible to Armillaria root rot, white fungal bark infections, discolored foliage, etc. Excess watering and fertilizing too can kill your tree. Most of these problems can be handled with proper care though. An established cedar tree does not require much maintenance, just admiration!