Home Trees Eastern Red Cedar: The Versatile Tree with Many Uses

Eastern Red Cedar: The Versatile Tree with Many Uses

by Gregory
4 minutes read

Eastern Red Cedar: The Tree of Many Uses


Eastern red cedars are beautiful evergreen trees that are native to the eastern United States. They are known for their distinctive pyramid or column shape and their attractive blue-green to green foliage. Red cedars are also known for their hardiness and adaptability, making them a popular choice for landscaping and wildlife habitat.


Eastern red cedars are medium-sized trees that typically grow to a height of 20-50 feet. They have grayish to reddish-brown bark that peels in long strips. The foliage is needle-like and arranged in opposite pairs. Red cedars are dioecious, meaning that male and female cones are borne on separate trees. The female cones are small and blue, while the male cones are tiny and tan.

Habitat and Range

Eastern red cedars are found primarily in the eastern United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. They are most common in open woodlands, fields, and along roadsides. Red cedars are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and can even grow in poor soils.

Wildlife Value

Red cedars provide important habitat for a variety of birds and mammals. The dense foliage provides shelter from the elements, and the berries are a valuable food source for many species. Some of the animals that rely on red cedars include:

  • Birds: juncos, waxwings, sparrows, cardinals, blue jays
  • Mammals: deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, opossums

Medicinal Uses

Native Americans have used red cedar for centuries for medicinal purposes. The berries, leaves, and bark have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including:

  • Colds
  • Coughs
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Tonsillitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis

Red cedar has also been used as a diuretic and to promote childbirth.

Other Uses

In addition to their medicinal and wildlife value, red cedars are also used for a variety of other purposes, including:

  • Landscaping: Red cedars are popular ornamental trees due to their attractive appearance and hardiness. They are often used in windbreaks, privacy screens, and as specimen trees.
  • Woodworking: Red cedar wood is prized for its durability and resistance to rot. It is often used in furniture, paneling, fence posts, and other outdoor applications.
  • Novelties: Red cedar is also used to make a variety of novelty items, such as souvenirs, carvings, and jewelry.

Planting and Care

Red cedars are relatively easy to grow and care for. They prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Red cedars are drought tolerant and can survive in poor soils.

To plant a red cedar, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Place the tree in the hole and backfill with soil, tamping down gently to remove any air pockets. Water the tree deeply and mulch around the base to retain moisture.


Red cedars can be propagated by seed or by cuttings.

To propagate by seed, sow the seeds in the fall or spring in a well-drained seedbed. Keep the seeds moist and in a warm place. The seeds will germinate in 2-4 weeks. Once the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, they can be transplanted into individual pots or into the garden.

To propagate by cuttings, take cuttings from softwood branches in the spring or summer. The cuttings should be 4-6 inches long and have at least 2-3 sets of leaves. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the cuttings and dip them in rooting hormone. Plant the cuttings in a well-drained potting mix and keep them moist and in a warm place. The cuttings will root in 4-6 weeks. Once the cuttings have rooted, they can be transplanted into individual pots or into the garden.


Eastern red cedars are beautiful, versatile trees that offer a variety of benefits. They are a valuable resource for wildlife, and they can also be used for landscaping, woodworking, and other purposes. With their hardiness and adaptability, red cedars are a great choice for gardeners of all levels.

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