What people think of as cedar in the United States is actually a member of the juniper family. Eastern red cedar, the most common cedar in the country, grows well in all soil types throughout the United States from the Great Plains to the eastern seaboard. To the west, Rocky Mountain cedar is a more common variety. Both trees are known for fine evergreen needles, fragrant wood stringy bark and producing seed in dark blue berries instead of cones. Because of the wide distribution of cedar cultivators across the United States, you can find cedar trees in many garden centers.
Determine which cultivator of cedar tree that you wish to purchase. Consider which tree features you prefer in a cedar as well as your climate zone, location in the country and weather conditions before purchasing a cedar tree. Tree varieties such as eastern red cedar will grow from southern Canada through the southern United States in any soil type, while Rocky Mountain cedar prefers higher elevations and bears larger fruit than eastern red cedar.
Contact your local tree nurseries to ensure that they carry cedar trees. Whenever possible, purchase locally grown trees. Locally grown trees are typically better adapted to your USDA Hardiness zone and micro-climate as well as local insects and diseases, such as cedar apple rust. Consider purchasing cedar trees by mail, phone or over the Internet only if you cannot find cedar trees locally.
Examine the bark of cedar trees before purchase. Most cedar has long, stringy bark that peels off in strips. This is normal for cedar trees. If a tree is scored down to the pitch below the bark it may be damaged beyond healing. Also look for signs of sunscald that occur when a tree’s trunk is sunburned. Sunscalded bark will seem unusually red, white or mottled in one part of the trunk. Sunscald can cause a tree to shed its bark and decline in health.
Unwrap a tree’s root covering or pull the tree’s root ball partially free of its container to look over the roots. Roots should appear succulent and white. If roots appear woody, brown or dry, the cedar is damaged and may not recover.
Look over the tree’s canopy for signs of rough handling. Broken limbs are an indication of rough handling. A cedar tree can weaken and become a haven for bugs or disease thanks to rough handling and broken limbs.
Purchase only cedars that do not show signs of water stress or rough handling. If you purchase cedar trees by mail and the trees arrive in poor condition, contact the nursery where you purchased them and send the trees back.