The Red Cedar is not really a Cedar but is actually a juniper. It has a medium growth rate of 12-24” per year with sticky foliage that is a dull green
from spring to fall, and in the winter can turn brown or purple. In the open its branches extend to the ground giving excellent protection. It is native to most of the US from Canada to Florida and Texas. Plant trees that come from your native area if possible for best survival.
It normally grows 30 or more ft tall with some specimens reaching over 80 ft and 30 ft wide. It can live a very long life with some specimens in Iowa are over 500 years old on rocky high spots. Wind and ice storms sometimes damage its small root system and weak wood. Deer will
usually not eat this species, have seen some damage by rabbits in a very bad winter. The female plants have a large number of berries that many kinds of birds eat.
It will grow in hardiness zones from 2-9 with the shape being variable from columnar to pyramidal, in the north it tends to be the latter. Will grow in the poorest of soils and does not prefer the better or moist soils. It seems the higher the soil PH the better this plant likes it and will “grow in the middle of a gravel road” and be happy. Likes an airy site and should not be planted in the middle but on the outside of windbreaks for longest life.
This species will tolerate hot, dry weather better than any evergreen here in
Iowa. The red Cedar when planted in windbreaks can be effected by a serious fungal disease called phonopsis
that usually starts at the bottom of the tree and spreads up the tree. On wet
years it can be worse and on dry years seems to disappear. Should not be planted in low areas or in high moisture areas along water areas to reduce this problem. The red cedar also carries a fungus (a gooey glob of orange tentacles on its branches) that causes a leaf and fruit spot on apple trees, so if you want to grow some apple trees also consider this problem. Excellent plant for dry sandy areas where other species would not survive.
A 2ft-potted tree can be over 8 ft tall in 5 years in well-drained soil, low moisture, and weed and grass control at the base of the tree. Spacing- Single row 10 ft apart, Double row 14 ft apart between rows and plants, multiple rows 20 ft between rows and plants.
The Red Cedar is a recommended windbreak tree but consider all the conditions above when selecting this tree. It is highly recommended for a single row windbreak.