Eastern White Cedar

Eastern white cedar branch

Beauty in Your Yard All Year

Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is a cone-shaped tree that stays green all year, adding colour and life to your yard even in the depth of winter. Peeling red-brown bark adorns thin trunks, but is hidden by flat, scaley foliage that releases it’s fresh, lively scent when you brush past. Small, cone-like flowers appear in the spring, developing into brown cones in the fall.

Eastern white cedar grows best in moist, well-draining, loamy soils, but can tolerate a variety of conditions, including occasional droughts. Plant in a sunny or partly shady area away from hard surfaces where salt may be applied in winter. In forests this tree may grow up to 18 metres tall, but it typically grows to six to nine metres in most urban areas.

The dense branching provides year-round shelter for birds and other wildlife. Some winters, flocks of redpolls and other winter finches will join our common backyard birds like chickadees and juncos in feasting on the nutritious seeds. Eastern white cedar is a host plant to many beneficial insects including the beautiful io moth and the very small arborvitae leafminer who can only feed on Thuja species.

Plant alone, with other evergreens such as eastern white pine (in sun) or balsam fir (in shade), or with a mix of shrubs such as mountain maple, red-osier dogwood or Canada fly-honeysuckle to create a focal point in your garden. Alternatively, plant along a fence or property line to create privacy or a windbreak.

Some of the oldest known trees in Ontario are white cedars that grow on cliff faces of the Niagara Escarpment. Facing harsh conditions, they grow only a few metres tall, although some of these trees are more than a thousand years old.

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