What Is Atlantic White Cedar: Learn About Atlantic White Cedar Care


What is Atlantic white cedar? Also known as swamp cedar or post cedar, Atlantic white cedar is an impressive, spire-like evergreen tree that reaches heights of 80 to 115 feet (24-35 m.). This swamp-dwelling tree has a fascinating place in American history. Growing Atlantic white cedar isn’t difficult and, once established, this attractive tree requires very little maintenance. Read on for more Atlantic white cedar info.

Atlantic White Cedar Information

At one time, Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) was found growing profusely in swampy areas and bogs of eastern North America, primarily from Long Island to Mississippi and Florida.

Atlantic white cedar was widely used by early settlers, and the light, close-grained wood was valuable for ship building. The wood was also used for cabins, fence posts, piers, shingles, furniture, buckets, barrels, and even duck decoys and organ pipes. Not surprisingly, great stands of the tree were removed and Atlantic white cedar was scarce by the nineteenth century.

As for appearance, the tiny, scale-like, bluish-green leaves cover graceful, drooping twigs, and the thin, scaly bark is light reddish brown, turning ashy gray as the tree matures. The short, horizontal branches of Atlantic white cedar give the tree a narrow, conical shape. In fact, the tops of the trees often intertwine, making them difficult to cut down.

How to Grow Atlantic White Cedar

Growing Atlantic white cedar isn’t difficult, but finding young trees may prove challenging. You’ll most likely need to look at specialty nurseries. If you don’t need a 100-foot tree, you may find dwarf varieties that top out at 4 to 5 feet. (1.5 m.).

If you have seeds, you can plant the tree outdoors in autumn, or start them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. If you want to plant seeds indoors, stratify them first.

Growing Atlantic white cedar is suitable in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. A swampy or boggy area isn’t a requirement, but the tree will thrive in a water garden or damp area of your landscape. Full sunlight and rich, acidic soil is best.

Atlantic White Cedar Care

Atlantic white cedar has high water requirements, so never allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

Otherwise, this hardy tree is disease and pest resistant, and Atlantic white cedar care is minimal. No pruning or fertilization is required.


Atlantic White-Cedar — The Tree That’s Only Slightly Out Of Place

In the fields of biology and ecology, a specific word is used to describe a living organism that no longer inhabits a particular area: extirpated.

An extirpated tree, for instance, grows in other regions of the world, but it no longer exists in a particular place that it formerly occupied.

An appropriate example is the Atlantic White-Cedar tree (Chamaecyparis thyoides). This coniferous tree formerly inhabited the state of Pennsylvania, though by the early 19th century all wild populations had been logged. Atlantic White-Cedar is not extinct, however, because its range currently spans the Atlantic coastline. Instead, this tree is considered to be extirpated from Pennsylvania because wild populations no longer grow here.

This past weekend, I encountered something fascinating: a healthy population of Atlantic White-Cedar in Pennsylvania. This population was located within a beautiful bog containing typical bog specialists including cranberry, huckleberry, pitcher plant, sundew, and dozens of other plants.

Interestingly, ecologists and botanists are well aware of these Pennsylvanian Atlantic White-Cedar trees, and even though this population of Atlantic White-Cedar seems to be thriving, the tree is still considered to be extirpated from the state.

In the following video, I discuss the topic and address a few pertinent questions. If you are unfamiliar with the beautiful and majestic Atlantic White-Cedar tree, check it out!


How to Plant White Cedar Trees

White cedar tree or Thuja occidentalis was introduced in Europe in the 16th century. The slow-growing evergreen is popular in landscapes because of its ability to form hedges. The species does very well in different climates and growing conditions. White cedar can achieve heights of 25 to 40 feet. The trees spread about 10 to 12 feet, so they should be spaced accordingly. They prefer moist or wet soil in high humidity.

Grow white cedar trees in USDA plant hardiness zones 2 through 7. Prepare to plant the tree after the danger of frost has passed.

  • White cedar tree or Thuja occidentalis was introduced in Europe in the 16th century.
  • The slow-growing evergreen is popular in landscapes because of its ability to form hedges.

Choose a planting location that has partial shade to full sun. The white cedar isn't fussy about its sunlight requirement. The soil can be sandy, loamy or clay.

Plant several white cedar trees as a natural fence line or screen. They also work well in landscapes when planted at the corner of a building to soften the appearance of harsh angles.

Dig a hole that is twice as wide and 1 1/2 times as deep as the container the tree came in. Scrape the sides of the hole with the shovel to loosen the soil. This allows for better root spread.

  • Choose a planting location that has partial shade to full sun.
  • Scrape the sides of the hole with the shovel to loosen the soil.

Take the white cedar tree out of its pot and place it in the hole. Fill in around the roots with soil, until the hole is halfway full.

Add water to the hole to eliminate air pockets. Fill the rest of the hole with the removed soil. Water the tree again until moist.

Water the white cedar tree at least once a week until it becomes established. The goal is to keep it moist. To give the water time to sink into the ground, lay a garden hose on the ground and let it run slowly for 20 minutes.

  • Take the white cedar tree out of its pot and place it in the hole.
  • Fill in around the roots with soil, until the hole is halfway full.

Decrease watering to every two weeks once the tree becomes established.

Apply a time-release fertilizer once a year. Use one that is made for evergreen trees. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Prune damaged or diseased limbs as soon as you notice them. Cut them where they meet healthy wood.

Lay down 1 to 2 inches of mulch, such as bark chips, around the base of the white cedar to retain soil moisture.

Do not overfertilize your white cedar tree. Fertilizing too much or too often can burn or kill your white cedar.

Leaf blight causes brown spots on the leaves in late spring. The affected foliage appears scorched, then drops.


Chamaecyparis thyoides

Previously known as:

  • Chamaecyparis henryae
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides var. henryae
  • Cupressus thyoides L.
  • Cupressus thyoides L. ssp. henryae

Atlantic White Cedar is an evergreen tree in the cypress family that may grow 60 to 80 feet tall with a diameter of 2 ft. The foliage is scale-like and green to blue/green in color. The bark is fibrous with intersected flat ridges, which sometimes spiral along the stem. In NC it is found in the coastal plain along bogs, streams, swamps and other wet sites. They tend to be the dominant species in wet forests.

The Atlantic White Cedar prefers sandy, peaty, moist to wet soil in full sun to part shade and tends to grow on small mounds, with water pooling in the depressions surrounding them. Use this plant in wet areas with poor drainage along ponds, streams or boggy sites.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: With the Atlantic White Cedar there are no serious insect or disease problems. It does have some susceptibility to juniper blight, root rot and certain insect pests such as bagworms. This tree is frequently damaged by white tailed deer.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video: See this plant in the following landscape: Cultivars / Varieties:

  • 'Barton'
  • 'Ericoides'
    6-8 feet tall, leaves red-purple in winter'Heatherbun'
    Persistent juvenile pale blue-green foliage that turns plum-purple in winter
  • 'Rariflora'
    'Rubicon'
    a.k.a. 'Red Star''Shiva'
    Feathery blue-green to gray-green foliage that acquires coppery-brown tones in wintervar. thyoides
'Barton', 'Ericoides', 'Heatherbun', 'Rariflora', 'Rubicon', 'Shiva', var. thyoides Tags: #evergreen#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#wetlands#playground#ncemgva2018#highly beneficial coastal plants#fire#NC native#children's garden#edible garden#larval host plant#food source winter#cover#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#hessel’s hairstreak butterfly

Form F. D. Richards CC BY-SA 4.0 Form Daderot CC0 1.0 Bark Duane Burdick CC BY 4.0 Seed cones, stem, leaves John B CC BY 2.0 'Ericoides' form David J. Stang CC BY-SA 4.0 Pollen cones Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz CC BY-SA 4.0 Seed cones S. Rae CC BY 2.0

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Barton'
  • 'Ericoides'
    6-8 feet tall, leaves red-purple in winter'Heatherbun'
    Persistent juvenile pale blue-green foliage that turns plum-purple in winter
  • 'Rariflora'
    'Rubicon'
    a.k.a. 'Red Star''Shiva'
    Feathery blue-green to gray-green foliage that acquires coppery-brown tones in wintervar. thyoides
'Barton', 'Ericoides', 'Heatherbun', 'Rariflora', 'Rubicon', 'Shiva', var. thyoides Tags: #evergreen#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#wetlands#playground#ncemgva2018#highly beneficial coastal plants#fire#NC native#children's garden#edible garden#larval host plant#food source winter#cover#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#hessel’s hairstreak butterfly

Watch the video: Milling STUNNING white cedar


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