Cedar trees are often confused with other trees, especially junipers, but true cedars (Cedrus) are native to the mountains around the Mediterranean and in western Himalaya. These large trees--up to 120 feet tall in the wild--are best known for their fragrant wood. There are four species of true cedar trees; three of which have cultivated varieties.
Atlas Cedar Varieties (Cedrus atlantica)
The Atlas cedar can be grown in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 6 though 9. This tree grows in full sun or part shade and tolerates a wide variety of soils but prefers moist, well-draining soil. The Atlas cedar is a slow-growing tree that can grow up to 40 feet tall and has distinctive, bluish-green needles. The Atlas cedar is not tolerant of cold temperatures and does better in the southern part of the United States.
The "Glauca" variety is one of the smaller types of this tree, growing to only 20 feet. The "Glauca Pendula" is probably the most popular variety. This variety features long, gracefully drooping branches and usually only grows about 12 feet tall before bending over. "Fastigiata" is a slim variety that averages only 8 feet across, with a height of 15 to 18 feet.
Deodar Cedar Varieties (Cedrus deodora )
Deodar cedar trees grow best in USDA zones 7 and 8. These trees are faster growing than the Atlas cedar species, and enjoy drier soil. Like the Atlas, they can grow in either full sun or partial shade. Deodar cedars are tall, reaching 70 feet in height, and pyramidal in shape. They do not tolerate cold winds.
"Curly Locks" is a smaller variety of Deodar cedar, growing to a height of only 20 feet. This unusual variety features curling foliage on drooping branches. "Roman Gold" is another shorter, bushy tree that has golden needles. "Emerald Falls Pendula" is a weeping form of this cedar that is very attractive, with bright green foliage. It will only grow as tall as it is staked before bending over.
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
Cedrus libani grows in USDA zones 5 through 7. Like the other species, this cedar enjoys full sun or partial shade and moist but well-draining soil. It has a very thick trunk and foliage that is so dark green as to almost look black. This tree grows to 60 feet tall and has upright pine cones that can be as tall as 5 inches. The Lebanon cedar is the most cold hardy of all the species.
"Green Prince" is a dwarf variety of this tree. In fact, it is more like a shrub, growing only 2 feet tall at maximum height. "Stenocoma" is a much taller variety with a more open canopy and needles that are bluish-green rather than greenish-black.
Cedar of Cyprus (Cedrus brevifolia)
This very rare cedar tree is native to the small island of Cyprus and is not cultivated. The tree is very similar in looks to the Cedar of Lebanon but is smaller, and the sharp needles are more of a true green color. The bark of the tree is an unusual silvery-gray color, and lined with fissures when mature. The canopy of the Cyprus cedar is open. The tree can grow to heights of 80 feet or more.