There are many different types of cedar trees you can grow in Missouri.
Most so-called cedars are not even related to true cedars. As a result, the types of cedars and their growing conditions vary as much as the beautiful Missouri landscape with its rolling hills, prairies, plateaus, and mountains.
Fortunately, the diverse growing conditions and MO landscapes mean you can find beautiful cedar trees to grow no matter which Missouri growing zone you are in.
Let’s take a look at seven of the different types of cedar trees you can grow in MO.
7 Types of Cedar Trees That Will Grow and Thrive in Missouri
1. Eastern Red Cedar – Juniperus virginiana
Eastern Red Cedar is native throughout much of Missouri, particularly the southern half. They are far more common, particularly in the prairies, than they used to be due to fire suppression that used to control their spread.
They are also often grown ornamentally for their extreme cold hardiness and adaptability to poor, acidic, wet, alkaline, and dry soil types. It also has low water requirements and makes a perfect xeriscape tree for growing in MO without water once established.
Eastern Red Cedars are popular in hedges, borders, as specimen trees, or to fill in gaps between larger trees where they tolerate partial shade, although they prefer and grow faster in full sun.
Despite its common name, Eastern Red Cedar is actually a juniper tree, but it gets its name because it resembles a false cedar more than most junipers.
For more information, check out how to identify Eastern Red Cedar.
Other Common Names: Aromatic Cedar, Red Cedar, Virginian Juniper, Eastern Juniper, Red Juniper, Pencil Cedar, Carolina Cedar, Red Savin, Baton Rouge
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 40 ft (to 65 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones on male trees mature in spring; female trees produce berry-like seed cones in late summer of the same year
2. Northern White Cedar – Thuja occidentalis
While not native to Missouri, these trees would grow well anywhere in the state since the climate is just right, and they tolerate both acidic and alkaline soil. They can be grown in wet and well-drained soils, but the soil should be rich and moist. Full sun is best; although partial shade is tolerated, the trees will become lanky and less attractive.
Northern White Cedar makes a gorgeous ornamental tree with its attractive fibrous reddish-brown bark and windswept branches of rich green scale-like leaves. It is often used as a windbreak because of its ability to tolerate harsh conditions where it may grow more shrub-like, often dividing into multiple tops.
For more information, check out how to identify Northern White Cedar.
Other Common Names: Eastern White Cedar, Arborvitae, Swamp Cedar, American Arbor Vitae, Arbor Vitae, Eastern Arbor Vitae
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 25 – 40 ft (to 125 ft) tall, 10 – 15 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous pollen cones mature from December to March; seed cones mature in August
3. Western Red Cedar – Thuja plicata
Western Red Cedar is a massive evergreen tree with a conical crown and a huge, often buttressed trunk (widened at the base).
In its native Pacific Northwest environment, old-growth forms can reach 230 ft tall with a 23 ft wide trunk. However, they seldom exceed 80 feet tall in cultivation and can be kept even shorter with pruning, where they are frequently trained into hedges and privacy screens.
Western Red Cedars grow naturally in cool, moist forests and valley bottoms in full sun or partial shade in moist soil with acidic to neutral pH. While they can tolerate mild drought, they perform best if the soil is consistently moist. You can mulch around the root zone to help retain moisture.
They are shallow-rooted trees and should not be planted too close to driveways or other structures.
You can also check out how to identify Western Red Cedar.
Other Common Names: Giant Red Cedar, Giant Cedar, Pacific Redcedar, Giant Arborvitae, Western Arborvitae, Cedar, Shinglewood
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 230 ft) tall, 15 – 25 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous pollen cones mature from March to April; seed cones mature in late summer or early fall 2 – 3 years later
4. Japanese Cedar – Cryptomeria japonica
Japanese Cedar is yet another cedar that is not a true cedar, although they are related to the false cedars of North America.
These tall trees have conical crowns, slender trunks with reddish-brown to dark-gray fibrous bark, mostly pendulous twigs with needle-like leaves, and attractive rounded rosette-like seed cones that make them a lovely specimen, accent, or border tree.
Japanese Cedars are best grown in rich, moist, mildly acidic soil in full sun. They will tolerate partial shade; however, they will grow more slowly.
These trees are not overly cold-hardy but would do very well in the southern ¾ of Missouri. If given a sheltered location and mulched around the root zone, they should also perform fairly well in the northernmost parts of MO or higher in the St. Francois or Ozark mountains.
You can also learn how to identify Japanese Cedar.
Other Common Names: Sugi, Japanese Redwood, Japanese Red Cedar
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8 (9 with afternoon shade)
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 125 ft) tall, 20 – 30 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones mature in early April; seed cones mature in September of the following year (two-year cycle)
5. Cedar of Lebanon – Cedrus libani
Cedar of Lebanon is one of three true cedars worldwide and the most cold-hardy of all, suitable for growing anywhere in Missouri. However, those in the most northern parts of MO or higher in the mountains at their USDA Planting Zone limit should plant them in a sheltered location and mulch them to protect them during particularly harsh winters.
These trees are closely related to and resemble pine trees more than the false cedars we see in North America. They have attractive, needle-like, glaucous green leaves in whorl-like clusters, massive trunks, and horizontally spreading crowns. Their unique appearance makes them excellent specimen trees.
Cedar of Lebanon grows best in full sun in deep, moist, acidic, loamy, well-drained soils. They will grow in clay loams and tolerate mildly alkaline soils but are intolerant of wet or poorly drained soils.
You can also learn how to identify Cedar of Lebanon.
Other Common Names: Lebanese Cedar, Lebanon Cedar
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 100 ft (to 130 ft) tall, 30 – 80 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones mature from summer to fall; seed cones mature 18 months after pollination
6. Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar – Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar is a unique weeping cultivar of another true cedar tree that has wide-spreading pendulous branches of eye-catching glaucous blue-green needle-like leaves that make a great focal point for almost any yard since it only grows to about 15 feet tall and wide.
This tree grows best in full sun in well-drained acidic to mildly alkaline soil. Once they are established, they have excellent drought tolerance and can be grown without any irrigation in Missouri in all but the most extreme droughts.
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar is not very cold-hardy, however, and should be grown in a sheltered location and mulched around the root zone in the winter in all but the most extreme southwest corner of MO. Those zone pushers in northern MO who choose to risk it can try planting them in an exceptionally well-protected area and mulch heavily in winter.
Other Common Names: Weeping Atlas Cedar
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 15 ft tall, 15 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones mature in the fall; seed cones mature in the fall two years after pollination
7. Whipcord Western Red Cedar – Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’
Whipcord Western Red Cedar is a unique dwarf cultivar of the massive Western Red Cedar that only reaches 5 feet tall and has unique scale-like leaves arranged in long, rounded, threadlike tendrils that give it its common name.
Because this tree is so small, it is a fantastic choice for even the tiniest of small gardens, where it can be planted in rock beds or used to fill gaps between larger specimens.
The already unique foliage also changes from its usual glossy green to bronze-green for additional winter interest.
Whipcord Western Red Cedars grow best in full sun to light shade in any moist, fertile, well-drained soil. It will tolerate clay soil as long as it is somewhat fertile. If you live in the extreme southwestern corner of Missouri or in an area with particularly hot summers, it will do best in a location with some afternoon shade.
Other Common Names: N/A
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 4 – 5 ft tall, 4 – 5 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Unlikely to produce pollen or seed cones
Available at: Nature Hills
Cedar Trees That Grow and Thrive in Missouri
You are lucky if you like cedar trees and live in Missouri because the diverse environments there mean that you will have no problem finding a cedar that will work for you.
The growing conditions of cedar trees vary as much as their taxonomy, with true cedars tending to prefer drier soils, while false cedars may prefer moist or dry, and some may even tolerate wet soils.
Most cedar trees, true and false, do not tolerate overly alkaline soil. If you have mildly alkaline soil, you can add sulfur and a mulch of pine needles to help acidify it. If you have highly alkaline soil, it is best not to fight it and grow the Eastern Red Cedar that will tolerate it, although sulfur and pine needle mulch are still recommended to ensure a healthy tree.
Doing your research before buying a cedar tree is important to ensure it will be successfully established in your yard. You can also check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard for more information on choosing the right tree for the right spot in your yard.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about some of the beautiful cedar trees you can grow in your Missouri garden!
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Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.