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

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

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.

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