The eastern red cedar isn't a cedar, but a 50-foot-tall juniper tree botanically known as Juniperus virginiana. This evergreen appears as male or female and cross-pollination is necessary for the female plant to produce the blue juniper berries. Planted in a group, several of these trees side by side form a shapely wind or privacy screen, and if the berries are available, they also attract a number of birds to your garden. This plant is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture regions 2A to 9B. If you intend to plant a seedling, first confirm your local climate is right.
Schedule to plant your eastern red cedar tree at the start of spring or beginning of fall. Find out from your nursery whether you can get a sapling that's just about 1 foot tall. It's easier to handle and it also gets the tree developing in its permanent location from a young age. The larger this tree, the worse it does at recovering from transplanting.
Take stock of your garden to decide where you can best fit a tree that spreads 15 feet and grows 40 to 50 feet. Look for a place where the tree's shadow won't kill any of your other prized plants. Look up to verify there are no above-ground cables and wires. Picture how the fully-grown tree will affect structures. Don't plant the sapling under a window, for instance, to prevent the tree from blocking the view eventually. Of the possible planting sites you identify, choose the one that receives the most sun.
Test the soil's drainage, as eastern red cedar adapts to any soil type as long as the water flows freely underground. Dig an 8-inch-deep hole and fill it with water. If the water disappears within 24 hours, the site has adequate soil drainage.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree's root system. Make it deep enough for the branch collar, the transition area from the trunk to the roots, to stay at surface level.
Place the tree in the centre of the hole and spread its roots with your hands. Back fill the hole with the topsoil you dug out. Don't add fertiliser to the hole to prevent it from burning the roots.
Walk around your sapling or tap around the base with your hands to firm the soil and remove air pockets.
Irrigate your eastern red cedar to the root zone at planting. Give it 1 inch of water weekly through its first growing season. After the tree becomes established, irrigate it only when the soil becomes dry. As the University of Florida Extension recommends, "water until well-established and then forget about the tree."
Things you need
- 1-foot tall sapling