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How to Plant and Grow Cedars and Shrubs Right in Your Yard

backyard deck area with cedars
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Now that summer has arrived, your garden and yard projects should be in full swing — or at least in the planning stages. Is it time to add some statement plants to your yard? Perhaps planting cedar trees around the property? Maybe your neighbours are annoying, and you’re thinking about planting a cedar hedge for privacy. Or you’re considering planting shrubs (basically any woody plant under 3m) of different varieties.

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Related: 10 Backyard Landscaping Trends for the Perfect Summer Space

person moving potted cedar trees
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Our handy guide will focus on cedars primarily because of their many benefits: They’re low maintenance, their extensive root system prevents erosion, they add colour and fragrance year-round and they grow well across much of the country.

From finding the right site to plant to ongoing maintenance, several key steps are involved in planting and growing cedars and shrubs to ensure healthy growth.

Cedar Options

The first decision is to decide what you want to add to your property. Do you want a stand-alone cedar as a main feature? A privacy hedge? Or do you want potted cedars arranged around your deck or patio? Once you know the scope of your planting project, research the best varieties for your growing zone. Your local garden centre can be an invaluable resource for this.

cedar transplant
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Location

Selecting the right location is essential for the well-being of your cedars. When picking a spot, consider the plant’s mature size so it has enough room to grow. Make sure the area receives lots of sunlight, and avoid planting cedars under other trees, near power lines or in damp or flood-prone areas.

For privacy hedges, choose plants that will grow to the right height to be effective. Space the plants 50-100 cm apart for shorter hedges and 1-2 metres apart for taller screens (depending on the variety).

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If you’re planting in a container, look for smaller cedars that grow to about two metres. The pot will limit growth.

cedar with a shovel in the background
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Planting

Plant cedars in early spring after the soil thaws or in fall, avoiding late summer heat. Dig a hole a bit deeper than the root ball and at least twice as wide, placing the cedar in the centre with the top of the root ball, even with the soil surface. Fill in around the root ball with the dug-up soil, compacting it firmly. Add compost or fresh topsoil if needed.

Water the young cedar slowly for about an hour weekly, ensuring the soil is moist but not saturated.

Related: 55 Beautiful Backyard Ideas

watering potted cedars
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Cedar Care

Proper care is essential for maintaining cedars. It’s important to water whenever the soil surface feels dry, allowing the soil to dry a little between waterings. This encourages deep root growth and helps the plant handle dry periods. Overwatering saturates the soil, depriving roots of oxygen and can lead to root rot.

Related: Listing Your Home This Summer? Here Are the Best Investments to Make Outdoors

Mulching is also important. Applying a 7-10 cm layer of organic mulch (bark chips, compost or pine needles) helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation and moderating soil temperature. It also improves soil quality as it decomposes. But take care to keep the mulch away from the cedar’s trunk to prevent rot and pest infestations.

Fertilizing, if required, is typically done in the spring to support new growth. Check with your garden store about what you should use and when.

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cedars in a row
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Prune your cedars in the mid- to late summer, once spring growth has slowed. At the same time, remove any dead or damaged growth to help keep the plant healthy. If you have a hedge, shape it so that the top is narrower than the bottom, ensuring that sunlight can reach all parts of the cedar. This will promote growth and good health.

In the winter, ensure you protect your cedars from heavy snow loads. You can do this by brushing off any accumulated snow. It’s also a good idea to wrap the lower trunks with burlap or tree wrap to prevent frost damage.

Related: These Power and Garden Tools Are a Must for Summer

Cedars and cedar hedges grow slowly, so it may take up to 10 years for a newly planted hedge to mature and fully reach its desired height and thickness. With patience and proper maintenance, you’ll have a beautiful addition to your property.



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