When you first look at Whipcord western red cedars (Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’), you might think you’re seeing a variety of ornamental grass. It’s hard to imagine Whipcord cedar is a cultivar of the arborvitae. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see its scale-like leaves are similar, but Whipcord western red cedar trees lack the conical shape so often associated with other arborvitae varieties. In fact, calling the Whipcord a tree is a bit of an overstatement.
What is a Whipcord Cedar?
Barbara Hupp, co-owner of Drake Cross Nursery in Silverton Oregon, is credited with the discovery of the Whipcord cultivar in 1986. Unlike other arborvitae, Whipcord western red cedars grow as a compact, rounded shrub. It’s very slow growing and will eventually reach 4 to 5 feet tall (1.2 to 1.5 m.). This is dwarf-like in comparison to the 50- to 70-foot (15 to 21 m.) mature height of the giant arborvitae.
The Whipcord cedar also lacks the fern-like limbs found on other arborvitae varieties. Instead, it has graceful, weeping branches with snug-fitting leaves that, indeed, resemble the texture of whipcord rope. Because of its unusual fountain-like appearance, Whipcord western red cedars make excellent specimen plants for landscapes and rock gardens.
Whipcord Cedar Care
As a native American plant from the Pacific Northwest, Whipcord western red cedars perform best in climates with cool summers and regular precipitation. Select an area of the garden which receives full or partial sun, ideally with a little afternoon shade during the heat of the day.
Whipcord cedars prefer fertile, well-draining soil that retains moisture. Intolerant of drought conditions, routine Whipcord cedar care involves regular watering should rainfall amounts prove insufficient to keep the soil damp.
No major pest or disease issues are reported for Whipcord cedar. Pruning new growth to control size and to remove dead areas is the only maintenance these shrubs require. Whipcord cedars are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7.
Due to their slow-growing nature and unusual appearance, Whipcord western red cedar trees make excellent foundation plants. They are long lived, lasting 50 years or more. During their first ten years, they stay compact, rarely exceeding 2 feet (60 cm.) in height. And unlike some varieties of arborvitae, Whipcord cedars retain a pleasant bronze color throughout the winter for that year-round landscaping appeal.