Juniperus virginiana, commonly called Eastern red cedar, is native to eastern North America, from Canada to Florida. It typically occurs on limestone bluffs and glades, wood margins, fields, pastures and fence rows. It is a broadly conical, sometimes columnar, dense, evergreen conifer with horizontal branching that typically grows to 30-65’ tall. Gray to reddish-brown bark exfoliates in thin shreddy strips on mature trees. Trunks are often fluted at the base. Heartwood is light brown and aromatic, and is commonly used for cedar chests. Dark blue green scale-like foliage. Foliage may turn brown-green in winter. Cultivars of this species often retain better foliage color in winter. This is a dioecious species (separate male and female trees). Female trees produce round, gray to blackish-green berry-like cones (1/4” diameter) that ripen in fall the first year. Berry-like cones are attractive to many birds. Easily grown in average, dry to moist, well-drained soils in full sun. The berries are used to make gin. The heartwood is light brown and aromatic, contrasted by the white sapwood, and is commonly used for cedar chests. It is used to make pencils and so it is also called the pencil cedar. The wood is also often used to make fence posts and rails as it is naturally rot resistant. It also repels insects, lending to its appeal for use in clothing storage and pet bedding. The Eastern red cedar is easily grown in average, dry to moist, well-drained soils in full sun. It will tolerate a wide range of soils and growing conditions, from swamps to dry rocky glades and is tolerant of sandy soils and saline soils. It can even grow on seemingly barren soils that few other plants can tolerate. It prefers moist soils. It has the best drought resistance of any conifer native to the eastern U.S.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy.
- Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for two months.
- Fill a pot with potting soil. Use a pot that has drainage holes in the base.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the container and leave it to drain.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.