The white cedar, a relatively slow growing conifer tree, reaches a height of 40 feet with a conical shape. Its width averages 12 feet. Once the tree grew naturally throughout much of the United States but most strands have been logged out and few remain in their natural habitat. The tree grows well as a screen or hedge in a landscape setting. More than 120 cultivars of white cedar exist, according to Gymnosperm Database.
An evergreen, the white cedar produces dark green, scale like needles that overlap slightly. The needles toward the middle for the tree brown and drop the ground. This forms a carpet of needles beneath the tree that works as a natural mulch. During the winter months in areas that receive extremely cold weather the needles of the white cedar often turn brown but once the warm spring days return the needles regain their green colors.
The white cedar tree grows best in moist soil with full sunlight. The tree enjoys a high humidity but will tolerate low or virtually non-existent humidity. Once established the white cedar is exceptionally hardy and will withstand drought, high heat, cold winters and pollution. The white cedar grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 2 to 8, according to Ohio State University.
Cones appear small and green. They average 1/3 inches in length. During the fall months the cones turn dark brown and spread their scales to release tiny seeds.
The white cedar does not tolerate pruning well. Remove the tree's lower branches will often result in its death. The branches surrounding the pruning area often lose their needles and begin to die making the entire tree appear unsightly.
Bagworms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) pose a serious problem for the white cedar. The tiny caterpillars produce silken, bag-like webs on the trees branches. The larvae feed on the new growth of the white cedar. The feeding produces large bare spots to occur on the tree where there is a lack of needles. Excessive defoliation quickly results. Control can be gained from a combination of handpicking and chemical applications.