The weeping blue atlas cedar is a very majestic ornamental specimen to have as part of your landscape design. The sculptural form of lightly cascading branches make a very eye-catching display, and the bluish-gray coloring on the foliage is also very unique. It’s a perfect specimen plant to add a dramatic focal point to your yard or garden, and the weeping atlas cedar is also a decently beginner-friendly plant to grow. We’re going to introduce you to this pretty plant and outline how to successfully grow it below.
Defining the Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
First, you should know a little about the parent of this pretty weeping tree. Known as the atlas cedar, it’s an upright tree with a pyramidal growth habit. The ancient Egyptians used this tree’s oils throughout the embalming process, and they also added the oil to cosmetics and incense. While it’s not common to use this tree for these purposes today, it’s still a nice addition to many landscapes.
The cultivar known as the blue atlas cedar also grows in an upright form with an interesting pyramidal shape. Both of these are lovely specimens that can be worth your time growing, but they get between 60 and 100 feet tall at full maturity, so they don’t make great additions to small spaces. The tree we’re going to focus on is the weeping blue atlas cedar or Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’. This is a cultivated specimen of the parent selection that has a weeping growth habit instead of being upright.
Unlike the huge growth potential of the parent forms, the weeping blue atlas cedar will only get 10 to 15 feet high at full maturity and spread 15 to 20 feet wide. It has the shape more of a droopy blob than a pyramid, and it’s a very slow grower that will take years to reach the mature size.
The needles on this tree are a pretty dusty blue, and they top out at roughly an inch long. You’ll get very dense clusters of needles along the tree’s branches. The controted growth habit this specimen offers means that each tree has a unique look, so when you pick one from the nursery, you want to carefully examine the structure of the plant and pick one that appeals to your taste. Sometimes, weeping blue atlas cedars have a serpentine, curvy shape while others will have less structure and be more wild looking.
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar – Quick Overview
|Botanical Name:||Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’|
|Common Names:||Atlas cedar, Blue atlas cedar|
|Hardiness Zones:||Six to nine|
|Mature Size:||10 to 15 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure:||Full or partial|
How to Grow Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars
Planting and caring for your weeping blue atlas cedar is straightforward, and the care will heavily depend on picking the right spot for the tree in the yard. You’ll want an open area that has space around it with no competition from shrubs or trees. Outside of this, weeping blue atlas cedars are very adaptable, and they can thrive in a range of watering and soil conditions.
It’s a good idea to stake your weeping blue atlas cedar until it establishes a strong root system. If you choose to skip this step, it’s likely that the tree will bend over and grow close to the ground. The roots are considered to be established once the first season passes, and you can then allow the tree to grow freely at this point. You can also keep it staked to help modify its shape.
When to Plant Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars
Like most trees, the best time to plant your weeping blue atlas cedar is in the spring or fall months. You may find it easier to find this specimen from a local nursery or online if you start searching in the spring, but they’re also relatively easy to locate in the fall too.
Personally, we recommend planting trees in the autumn when the air temperatures start to cool down but the soil is still warm. These conditions are great for helping to generate new root growth, and you won’t have to worry about watering your newly planted tree quite as often as you would if you planted it in the spring because rainfall is generally more consistent this time of year. Fall planting also allows for your weeping blue atlas cedar to have fall and winter as cool seasons before new growth in the spring starts. This gives the tree’s root system time to establish before the tree has to start putting out new growth.
Where to Plant Weeping Blue Cedars
Now that you know when you plant your weeping blue atlas cedar to give it the best start possible, you need to know where to plant it to set it up for success. Ideally, you’ll plant it in your yard as a specimen tree while making sure you leave ample room for it to spread out the blue, feathery boughs. Your tree won’t be happy if you box it into a corner too close to a structure like your home or a fence as it needs at least 15 to 20 feet to spread out. Giving it room will ensure it gets the elegant weeping habit.
This is also a tree that you should avoid planting close to the house or along a walkway as it’ll quickly outgrow the space. You may rarely find someone training this tree to grow as a two-dimensional espalier tree that you can put flat against a fence. While this is a viable way to use the weeping blue atlas cedar, it doesn’t do it justice. You’ll also need to dedicate a lot of time pruning your tree to keep it two dimensional and out of the fence.
For the best look, we suggest picking out a site that gets full or partial sun. The soil should drain very well each time it gets wet, and it’ll be okay in average garden soil too. Don’t plant your weeping blue atlas cedar in a poorly drained or waterlogged area because good drainage is essential to this tree surviving.
Fertilizer isn’t necessary for your tree to take off and start growing, but weeping blue atlas cedars are a tree that can benefit from applying a balanced fertilizer at the start of the growing season early in the spring. You should follow the package instructions to figure out how much to use, and make sure to fertilize out from the tree to get to all of the roots.
In order for your weeping blue atlas cedar to take hold and grow, you should plant it in a spot in your lawn or yard that gets between six and eight hours of sun every day. This being said, this tree is hardy enough to withstand growing in slightly more shaded conditions if the weather is warmer. You should never plant this tree in full shade as it won’t grow well.
The weeping blue atlas cedar does best when you plant it in a somewhat acidic, well-drained soil, but it can easily tolerate slightly alkaline or neutral soil conditions too. Keep in mind that you should plant this tree in a spot that has a wide and deep soil swath because the tree’s roots will go deep into the ground. The branches can be quite extensive, so you’ll need to give it plenty of room to grow or the roots will suffer. This tree will grow strong in a variety of soil mixtures, including clay, sandy, and loam as long as the soil doesn’t retain much moisture. Also, the tree hates to have wet roots.
Temperature and Humidity
This tree is pickier about the climate, and it’s only suitable to grow in zones six to nine. Inside of this range, weeping blue atlas cedar can handle a range of humidity and temperature conditions without a problem. It’s a good idea to create a shelter for your younger trees to prevent strong wind exposure as it can break or bend the structure.
Weeping blue atlas cedars require deep and consistent watering as the roots start to establish in your landscape or garden, or for roughly the first year after you plant it. Once the tree establishes, it’s more drought-tolerant. However, you should still plan on watering it with some frequency if the weather is particularly dry or hot.
Training a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
It’s very common to train your weeping blue atlas cedar trees or stake them to get an upright growth habit when they are very young. Since this tree is naturally pendulous, it doesn’t always have a central leader or main trunk to it. Some nurseries will force a leader to grow by staking the plant upright and training it to grow in a specific form. This also allows the nursery to control how spaced the trees are to allow for good airflow, and it helps prevent the trees from toppling over under the weight of a potentially lopsided, top-heavy specimen. But, once the tree is old enough to get sold and moved into your yard or garden, you shouldn’t have to worry about it much.
While you can keep them, we recommend removing any stakes when you plant the tree and allow it to develop the arching, natural form. You’ll get a very dramatic and stunning look if you leave it grow like this.
Pruning a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
When it comes to pruning your weeping blue atlas cedar tree, you shouldn’t have to worry about it unless you want that two-dimensional look. It’s very difficult to prune this tree without messing up the natural form in one way or another. You can prune away any dead growth or broken branches, but don’t try to limb up the tree so none of the branches brush the ground. Just leave it growing.
The only instance where it may be necessary to prune this tree is if you planted it too close to a structure or walkway in your yard and it’s now encroaching because it doesn’t have enough room to spread out. If you have to remove a few branches to clear the area, prune the tree in the winter or very early in the spring when your tree is dormant. If it’s not too large, you can dig it up and transplant it in a new location with plenty of room.
Mature Size of Weeping Blue Atlas Trees
Unlike the giant heights of the parent forms, the weeping blue atlas cedar stops growing at 10 to 15 feet high with a 15 to 20 foot spread. The trees are monoecious conifers, and this means that each plant will produce separate female and male cones. The male cones will produce pollen in the fall that fertilizes the female cones. The female cones will usually take roughly two years to mature and start dispersing seeds. It’s also very rare to see cones on the weeping specimen, except when it’s several years old.
Propagating Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
Due to the fact that this tree is very challenging to propagate using vegetative means, the most common method people use is by harvesting the seeds from the dried cones and planting them. To do so, you’ll:
- In the fall months, go around and collect some ripened cones from the mature trees. The cones you pick should be full bodied but not brown in color yet. Just as the scales start to open up, freeze them. Shake the cones over a sheet of paper and collect any seeds that fall out. Before you plant them, you’ll soak the seeds overnight in water.
- Plant your seeds ½-inch deep in a flat, large tray filled with a sandy seed starter mix. Set the tray outside in a sheltered location to germinate. Your seeds will germinate much better if they get a winter stratification period that is roughly a month where the temperatures dip below 50°F.
- Keep your potting mix lightly moist but not saturated until your seedlings sprout. When you can safely handle the seedlings because they’re large enough, transplant them into individual pots filled with a mixture of sand and potting soil.
- Grow the potted seedlings in a protected spot for the first two winters like in a cold frame.
- Plant the seedlings into your yard or garden in the spring after it spends two winters in a container.
Overwintering Blue Atlas Cedars
Inside the hardiness range for this tree, weeping blue atlas cedars don’t require any cold protection. If you have sparse, young trees, you may need to provide wind protection, and you can do this using screens or tents made from burlap and stakes to hold it up. Younger trees are also prone to issues with breakage from winter snow, so, make a point to brush the snow from the branches after heavy snowfalls. Deer can also heavily browse younger trees, so a sturdy wire fence or tall cage around them is a good idea to help protect them from the deer.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Luckily for you, the weeping blue atlas cedar is fairly disease-free and pest-resistant, so you won’t have to do a lot to ensure that it stays healthy. If it does encounter problems with a pest, it’s likely that sapsuckers or scale insects can damage the tree in search for insects. Still, it’s very unlikely that these pests will present a threat to the tree, so it’s rare that you’ll have to treat it with pesticides.
However, it’s possible that your weeping blue atlas cedar may experience a problem with root rot if you keep the soil too moist. If you notice the needles or branches are starting to turn brown, step back from watering and allow the roots to dry out more between watering sessions.
Tip blight is a rare fungal disease that several different fungi cause that can be a problem for the weeping blue atlas cedar. It causes the branches to die back, starting at the tips. Shake the branches to dislodge any affected needles, and carefully rake up and remove the debris to remove any fungal spores. Tip blight normally burns itself out in roughly a year, but spraying with a fungicide that has copper hydroxide, mancozeb, or azoxystrobin can help prevent infections. It’s best to apply these fungicides in the spring as new growth appears.
Common Problems with Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars
Planted in the right soil conditions and location, weeping blue atlas cedar is a very carefree specimen. The most common complaint people have is that the trees are fairly messy looking and sparse when they’re young. This is completely natural, so you should avoid the temptation to prune the tree to get a more uniform look. If you live it alone, it’ll grow to look much fuller in a few years.
FAQ About Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars
Even though these trees are relatively easy to grow, it’s common to have a few questions about them. The most common questions and answers are below. Weeping Cedar FAQs by dogtooth77 / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
1. How long does weeping blue atlas cedar live?
This tree is longer lived, and they can easily survive up to 150 years or more under the correct conditions.
2. Does this tree appeal to wildlife?
Dense, mature weeping blue atlas cedars offer a lot of nesting sites and cover for various songbirds. Unfortunately, deer also find the bitter-tasting branches and needles attractive, so if you live in an area with a higher deer population, you’ll have to take steps to protect the young trees from browsing deer.
3. How should you use weeping blue atlas cedar in the yard?
This tree’s unique look makes it a very nice specimen plant as long as you give it a wide-open space to grow and spread without competition.
4. Is there a similar tree that is appropriate for my colder growing zones?
Most true cedar trees are best suited for moderately warm climates, and they won’t do well in zones below five or six. However, there are several false cedars that include species that survive in zones three to five. One good option is the Hinoki falsecypress or Chamaecyparis obtusa. It has a similar growth habit but is hardy up to zone four.
The weeping blue atlas cedar is a pretty specimen plant that does well in warmer climates, and it’s a fairly low-maintenance choice for novice gardeners. Once you get it in the ground, it’ll grow in a unique mounding habit that looks full and lush all year-round.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.