Blue Atlas CedarCedrus atlantica
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The Blue Atlas Cedar is the most popular blue-foliage evergreen available for warmer gardens. It grows rapidly to 15 feet within 10 years, ultimately reaching 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide, and even more in its maturity. The short needles grow in clusters along the branches, and they are a vibrant, striking blue-silver color. Younger trees have an upright, conical crown, becoming more spreading and forming a broad pyramid, as it develops. This is the perfect specimen for a large lawn, screening or an avenue. Allow enough room for the maturity of this long-lived tree. Grows well in planters for many years, and it is also a popular subject for bonsai training.
Full sun is best for your Blue Atlas Cedar, which is hardy down to 0o degrees (zone 6). Plant it in any well-drained soil, acid or alkaline. It is normally pest and disease-free, safe from deer and very drought resistant once established. Allow it to develop a single central trunk when young, otherwise no special care is needed.
For a spectacular, large, specimen evergreen tree, you won’t find anything better than the Blue Atlas Cedar. Old trees are mind-blowingly beautiful, with dramatic sweeping branches, but this fast-growing tree is also beautiful and striking after just a few years in your garden, so you will have a great tree before you know it. Ultimately forming a graceful pyramid, and shimmering with gorgeous silver-blue coloring, this is a tree for a large lawn, where it can mature over the years with plenty of space. Of course, if you have a small garden, this is also a tree that looks great in a planter for many years, and it’s a popular bonsai tree too, if you really don’t have much space at all. Adored by everyone who sees it, it turns from cute baby into a striking pyramidal tree in just a few years, adding as much as 2 feet of growth every year when it is young. It’s also tough, reliable, drought-resistant and trouble-free, so if you are looking for something special, you just found it.
The Blue Atlas Cedar is an evergreen tree that adds 12 to 24 inches a year in growth after a year or two to become established. Within 10 years it will be 12 to 15 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, with branches that grow upwards, giving it a dense conical shape. As it matures the lower branches spread outwards and become horizontal, and in time slightly drooping, forming a broad pyramid. Older trees are about 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide, and very old trees could be almost double those dimensions. There is typically a single central trunk rising up, with strong side branches. In older trees, the smaller side branches are often slightly descending, and the graceful elegance of this tree is sure to please everyone. The bark on older trees is dark gray, with deep cracks and fissures. The needles are carried in dense clusters along the branches, and they are short, less than 1 inch in length, creating a tufted look to the smaller shoots. The needles are a bold silver-blue color, giving the whole tree a spectacular shimmering blue look – certainly one of the most attractive of all the blue evergreens.
Older trees may develop clusters of rounded cones that sit upright on the branches. They are between 2 and 3 inches tall, shiny light brown, and look their best between June and September. In fall they break up, shedding seeds.
This tree is very popular, and it is one of the most striking specimen evergreens, perfect for planting on a large lawn. When choosing a planting spot it is important to take some measurements and allow enough room for its mature growth. It would be a shame to have such a majestic old tree cut down because it outgrew its space. Don’t plant underneath overhead wires, and allow at least 30 feet distance from buildings, walls, hedges and property lines.
It can also be grown as a beautiful screen, planting trees perhaps 10 feet apart, or as an avenue on a larger property along a driveway, spacing the trees 30 to 40 feet apart. It also grows well in a large planter box for many years, and could grace a pool area or a terrace. Bonsai lovers find it great for making a miniature tree, since the small needles look in scale, and the flexible branches are easy to wire and shape.
The Blue Atlas Cedar is hardy to 0o Fahrenheit, and it grows well from zone 6 all through zone 9, thriving in dry states as well as in areas with more summer rainfall.
For the best growth and needle color, plant in full sun. The Blue Atlas Cedar will grow well in almost any well-drained soil, either acid or alkaline, and it will grow most vigorously in fertile, richer soils. Water regularly when young, but once more mature this tree is very drought tolerant. Remember though, that survival is not growth, and regular watering gives the most rapid development. Avoid low-lying areas and wet soils – good drainage is essential.
Prepare the planting area with plenty of organic materials like composts or rotted manures, and mulch over the root zone of young trees. This tree is generally free of pests or diseases, resistant to deer, and it is easy to grow. Maintain a single central stem for as long as possible, by shortening back all but one of any multiple leading stems that might develop. Remove any over-crowded or rubbing branches when young, to avoid scarring the trunk. Besides watering when young, no special or detailed care is needed.
The true cedars, called Cedrus, are a small group of trees found across North Africa and through the Middle East. The Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica, is found growing in Morocco and Algeria, in the Atlas and the Rif mountains. It typically grows in forests entirely made up of Atlas cedars, between 3,200 and 6,500 feet up into the mountains. It is different from the Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani, which is mentioned in the Bible, because the needles of the Atlas cedar are shorter.
Wild trees vary in the color of their needles, and the variety we call ‘Glauca’ was probably collected in the wild, from an exceptional tree. Morocco was once a French colony, so it isn’t surprising that this tree is first mentioned as growing in France around 1860. Since then it has been spread around the world, and the Blue Atlas Cedar is one of the most popular specimen trees in all warmer places.
Our trees of the Blue Atlas Cedar are grown by attaching stem pieces of perfect specimens to roots of seedlings, by grafting. They are not seedling trees, which will always have a poorer color and be more green, even if they are cheaper. Always plant the best, especially with a tree that is going to live for more than 100 years. If you want that perfect lawn specimen, or a beautiful bonsai, order now, because this popular tree always sells out quickly.