Posted by shane - December 23, 2014 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Shrubs - No Comments

Thuja occidentalis cultivars

Brandon cedars formally shaped along the front of a house in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Brandon cedars formally shaped along the front of a house in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Cedars are very useful shrubs and columnar trees on the Prairies.  The provide year-round colour and add accent to buildings and shrub bed plantings.  They are available in a variety of forms and sizes.

Thirty to fourty years ago, it was the style to plant tall cedars in front of the house.  Unfortunately, a lot of people planted them directly against the house, under the eaves, and never thought to shape them until they were poking into the soffits.  Needless to say, we get a lot of work trimming cedars as a result.

The dwarf varieties ‘Little Giant’ and ‘Globe’ are useful as shrub bed accents.


Full sun to part shade.  Cedars grow best in protected sites with moist, well-drained soil.  They will grow along the north sides of buildings, and are some of the only plants that can tolerate a lot of shade.

Pruning Time

Mid-summer onward, after the annual growth flush.


Cedar requires very little maintenance.  If properly positioned in the landscape, it will require almost no pruning.  That said, cedar makes a nice topiary if it is regularly trimmed.  Light annual shearing also thickens the foliage and allows the shrub to withstand snow loading better than it would if left alone.  In the fall, red, dying inner foliage can be gently pulled out by hand.

Hard pruning can be carried out on very tall specimens, but use caution or you will ruin the look of these trees.  To properly reduce height, make sure you cut out the middle of the shrub, leaving the sides high with green foliage all around.  Next, carefully shape the remaining outside foliage to a natural curve that complements the shape of the rest of the tree.  Doing so will hide the large cuts made to the centre of the cedar, while effectively reducing the height by up to several feet.  This is a difficult procedure to properly pull-off, and requires a lot of practice and patience.  I see way too many cedars that look mutilated because the pruners did not properly understand how to shape the tops, and instead cut the trees straight across as if they were trimming a hedge.  Take your time.

Shaping cedars in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Shaping cedars in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Storm Damage Repair

Tie back snow-damaged branches to a strong trunk with long zip-ties.  I buy 3′ ties at a local industrial supply store.

(c) 2014 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB