Questions on: Cedar

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: We have mature cedar trees planted on our property line. If we trim the branches back to the property line, will we end up with stubs or will the branches fill in to make a hedge? I would appreciate any ideas you have on this subject. (e-mail reference)

A: If you trim the trees back to bare stubs with no green leaf tissue remaining, they will not fill in and remain branch stubs.


Q: How do cedar and lodgepole pine grow in North Dakota? (e-mail reference)

A: Selecting the plants based on their seed ancestry is important. Lodgepole pine typically is hardy to zone 5, but with the zonal changes now being re-established, it would be bumped up to zone 4, which would incorporate a large area of North Dakota. Research indicates that seed selected from the northern provinces of Canada or higher elevations will survive better than seed selected from more southern locations or lower elevations. The same would apply to the cedars.


Q: There is a 50-foot cedar that I would like to save from the dozers. Do you think it's possible? If so, what time of year and how deep do you think the root system is? Any information would be of great help. My house mover, who moves a lot of trees, says he can do it. What are the chances? (e-mail reference)

A: That certainly is a tree worth trying to save because it is a beauty! If your house mover has the experience moving such large trees, have him do so. Move the tree in early spring while the tree is dormant. If properly done, the tree will have to be hand-dug and moved like a house. The chances that the tree will survive are better than 50 percent. I've seen it successfully done once, but that was 25 years ago. It was moved by someone who also moved houses in Ohio. Traffic control/diversion was an added challenge, so don't overlook that or the local law enforcement folks might not take too kindly to your actions, no matter how noble. Get all the details taken care of well ahead of moving the tree.


Q: Iím going to plant some eastern red cedar on my property as part of a larger wildlife planting. I also have several apple trees of various varieties on my land. The apple trees would be a quarter-mile from the cedars. Do you think I should be concerned about cedar apple rust? The cedars would be southeast of the apples. There are very few cedars in our area. (e-mail reference)

A: It shouldnít be a problem. If a breakout of cedar apple rust does occur, it easily could be controlled because you would know the source of the innoculum. It is controlled by picking the fruiting bodies off the junipers.


Q: We planted four cedar trees but one now has yellow and brown branches but still some green. Is the tree beyond hope or can it be saved? (E-mail reference)

A: It depends on the extent of damage and whether or not it is caused by a biotic organism or by environmental conditions. If most of the tree has dead foliage, it isn't worth saving. If just a few snippets are brown, then prune them out, fertilize and keep the tree evenly moist but not soggy.


Q: We have some land two hours north of Montreal, Canada. The area undergoes the regular four seasons. We are right next to a river where cedars usually grow. We must have 20 or more cedar trees, 30 feet high or more, within 3 to 25 feet of the water. Two years ago, in the fall, all the leaves on one cedar turned brown. The same thing has now happed to two others and they look completely dead. Do you have any idea what may be happening or what I need to look for? I have not seen many other trees affected in our area however some neighbors say that it has happened to other trees. We get some flooding in the spring for about two weeks but the trees have always been exposed to it for the last 30-40 years. There are no other outward signs. (E-mail reference)

A: First I need to get the name straight. By "cedar" do you mean arborvitae, juniper, or true cedar - Cedrus spp? Generally plants that turn completely brown are being hit from the roots through anaerobic conditions, a change in the water table, or a root rot organism is spreading through root grafting. If the latter is the case, there is little you can do except to remove the affected plants when they show the symptoms, being sure to get roots and all.


Q: I have access to hundreds of pasture grown 3- to 6-foot cedar trees. I would like to use a tree transplanter to dig many up and replant them in our yard. When is the best time to do this? I would like to do it now if its not to late. Also, how much water should I initially give them upon first planting? (Kimball, S.D.)

A: By cedar trees I assume you mean junipers, as I am sure that true "cedars" (Cedrus spp.) do not grow in either of our states. Success depends on a lot of things: How far the trees are going to be transported, how skilled the tree spade operator is in positioning the trees, the age/size of the trees, soil compatibility, and your access to a dependable water supply. The best time to move them is in early spring -- March or April -- or in the fall -- late September. They should receive a total soaking at first planting. This is accomplished by filling the hole the spade creates for the tree with water and allowing it to enter the surrounding soil. Once the tree is in place, lay a hose at the base of the tree and allow it to soak into the rootball. Repeat this soaking weekly through the growing season or as long as the soil is not frozen and the rainfall is inadequate to wet the soil completely. Whenever you do move the trees -- now, in the spring or in the fall -- it would be a good idea to spray the trees with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf to cut down on moisture loss that takes place when the trees are moved and the roots severed.


Q: I am looking for information on how to seed a cedar tree. I have watched birds do so on our land along our shelterbelt, and I would like to try it myself. (Academy, S.D.)

A: I am delighted to have your question as it lends credence to a recent book purchase of mine on seeds! "Cedar," unfortunately, is a common parlance given to three distinctly different genera of evergreen woody plants: "true" cedarsCedrus spp, arborvitae; Thuja spp, northern white cedar and western red cedar, depending on the species; and Juniperus spp, usually rocky mountain red cedar, which I believe is the one you are making reference to.

What you are seeing are the female "cones" or berries. Both those on the ground and on the trees can be grown. To substitute for bird digestive juices, take the pulpy berry and soak it in lye-enriched water solution for two days to soften the pulp. Then macerate the seeds and place on a screen for rinsing. The actual seeds are hard and will go undamaged for the most part. Dry the seeds completely.

Stratification of seed is necessary for 30 to 120 days at about 40 F. A vegetable crisper in the refrigerator works best for this. Plant outdoors this spring and hopefully something will come up!

For my time limitations, asexual propagationtaking cuttingsis a heck of a lot easier!


Q: Can you tell me what this is that I dug up when I was planting my fall bulbs near the trunk of a cedar tree? It seems to have a really strange smell. I'd appreciate your help with this mystery! (Orient, S.D.)

A: Strange smell indeed! What you sent me were the fruiting bodies of basidomycetes, known as basidiocorps. They are rotting fungi, which in this case are feeding on the remains of the tree trunk. This is simply a way of mother nature doing her thing—recycling!


Q: This branch is from my cedar. There are several galls on it, some bigger than these. What are they and what should I do about them? (Wildrose, N.D.)

A: Your tree has cedar-apple rust fungus. This is a disease that needs an alternate host to complete its life cycle—which in this case is an apple or a member of the apple family (hawthorn, Juneberry, mountain ash, etc.).

You did the correct first step in control—cutting the galls off the tree. Try to get them all, if possible, and then spray with Ferbam in August to prevent new infections from developing from the alternate host.


Q: I have this cedar tree in my yard. I am sending you the things that are growing all over the tree. Please let me know what they are and how to prevent them. (Havere, S.D.)

A: Those growths are the fruiting bodies of the cedar-apple rust fungi.

Your junipers are acting as the alternate host to re-infest an apple, crabapple, Juneberry or mountain Ash. The pest control is what you just did—pick them off. That interupts the life cycle of the disease.

Once broken, the disease is no longer a problem. Another alternative that isn't very likely is to remove all the junipers or members of the apple family, to break the cycle.


Q: When is the best time to transplant blue spruce and red cedar trees? These trees are anywhere from 2 inches to 1 foot tall. Are there any other hints to get them growing where I want them to grow? (Northville, S.D., e-mail)

A: When the trees are about 1 foot high seems to be the best time. They are large enough and are easily handled. You can, of course, plant them larger, as it is done successfully all the time. But if you know now where you want them to be permanently, the longer they can sit undisturbed in that site, the better the overall growth will most likely be. The timing is either early spring (March/April) or early fall (September/October).


Q: Enclosed are some pictures of my cedar trees. The trees are planted in pretty low ground and have tiny bugs eating on them. I was told to use Orthene, but that didnít do anything. Is there something that I should spray them with? Should I remove the infected trees? I have noticed that the bugs prefer the light green cedars over the dark green. (Winner, S.D.)

A: From studying the photos you enclosed I note the grass and deciduous trees in the area to be either dormant or dead. If the pictures were taken in the spring before leaf-out then that is the reason; if they were taken in the last 4-6 weeks, then the problem is likely a rising water table slowly killing the trees - or a sump area where water collects. The insects are attacking the trees because they (the trees, that is!) are stressed. I would remove the infested trees so the insects donít have the convenience of simply moving to the healthier ones once they get done with their current victims. Sevin or malathion are better insecticides to use. 


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