Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata, is a big, vigorous, evergreen conifer with flaky bark when it is mature and rich green aromatic leaves. It can be clipped and used for formal hedging, or grown as tall screening. Mature trees tend to be slender and straight, with slightly droopy, lush, leafy branches down to ground level unless they are in a shady forest situation, where they will drop their lower branches.
Growing Western Red Cedar Trees
This tree is tolerant of shade and will grow on chalky soils.
In Britain, this tree will reach about 30m. The largest Red Cedar alive today is 55 metres, but there was a tree that was destroyed by fire in 1972 that was 71 metres tall - that tree was about 700 years old.
Red Cedar Hedging: Only use this plant as a hedge if you know that you will clip it every year, without fail. It cannot be hard pruned if it gets overgrown (well, it can, but the resulting bald patches are not desireable!). As a mature hedge, trim it twice a year for best results, in June and again in September.
While it is gaining height, you can clip it once a year in September, but you must remember to clip it! If you don't clip it as it is growing, you will end up with a loose hedge that cannot be made thick again, whatever you do. We don't want to give you the wrong impression, Western Red Cedar is a lovely hedge plant, but if you are a low maintenance lover and don't want too much responsibility, use Yew instead.
The rot resistant wood of the Western Red cedar has been used for a wide range of purposes from garden sheds to Native American canoes. Mature wood contains a powerful fungicide called Thujaplicin, which makes the timber so durable. Red Cedars were of huge importance to the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast of America and felling a tree using only stone tools and controlled fires would take them a couple of weeks. The fibrous bark was very useful for essential products like rope, clothes and baskets.