These conifers, the true cedars, are stately specimen trees that look best when given plenty of room. Needles are borne in tufted clusters. Cone scales, like those of firs (Abies), fall from the tree, leaving a spiky core behind. Male catkins produce prodigious amounts of pollen that may cover you with yellow dust on a windy day. Plant in deep, well-drained soil. All species are deep rooted and drought tolerant once established.
C. atlantica (C. libani atlantica). ATLAS CEDAR. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From North Africa. Slow to moderate growth to 60 ft. or more. Open and angular in youth; branches usually get too long and heavy on young trees unless tips are pinched or cut back. Growth naturally less open with age. Less spreading than other true cedars, but still needs a 30-ft. circle. Needles are bluish green, less than 1 in. long.
Selections include 'Aurea', needles with yellowish tint; 'Fastigiata', upright, with blue-green needles; 'Glauca', silvery blue; 'Glauca Pendula', weeping form with blue needles; 'Pendula', vertically drooping branches. Untrained, spreading, informally branching plants are sold as rustics. All types stand up well to hot, humid weather.
C. deodara. DEODAR CEDAR. Zones US (some), MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to the Himalayas. Fast growing to 80 ft., with 40-ft. spread at ground level; planted in a small lawn, it soon overpowers the area. Lower branches sweep down to ground, then upward. Upper branches openly spaced, graceful. Nodding tip identifies it in skyline. Has a softer, lighter texture than other cedars. To control this tree's spread, cut new growth of side branches halfway back in late spring. Such pruning also makes tree more dense. It can also be pruned to grow as a spreading low or high shrub. Annual pruning in late spring will keep it to the shape you want. This is the best species for hot, humid climates.
Although deodars sold by garden centers are very similar in form, many variations occur in a group of seedlingsfrom scarecrowlike forms to compact, low shrubs. Needles, to 2 in. long, may be green or have a blue, gray, or yellow cast. Seed-grown 'Shalimar', an extra-hardy selection that has survived to 15F, has good blue-green color and is the best choice for the Upper South. The following three variations are propagated by cuttings or grafting: 'Aurea', with yellow new foliage turning golden green in summer; 'Descanso Dwarf' ('Compacta'), a slow-growing form reaching 15 ft. in 20 years; and 'Pendula' ('Prostrata'), which grows flat on the ground or will drape over rocks or walls. Other popular low-growing forms include 'Feelin' Blue' (2 ft. high, 6 ft. wide), 'Prostrate Beauty' (2 ft. high, 8 ft. wide), and 'White Imp' (3 ft. high and wide, with white new growth.)
C. libani. CEDAR OF LEBANON. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Asia Minor. To 80 ft., but slowto 15 ft. in 15 years. Variable in habit. Usually a dense, narrow pyramid in youth. Spreads picturesquely as it matures to become a majestic skyline tree with long horizontal branches and irregular crown. Needles, less than 1 in. long, are brightest green of any cedar on young trees; on old trees, they are dark gray-green. Rather scarce and expensive because of time it requires to reach marketable size. Routine garden care. No pruning needed. 'Sargentii' grows even more slowly, has a short trunk and crowded, pendulous branches; choice container or rock garden plant. 'Pendula' is a weeping form.